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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow Oregon’s political divide

Oregon’s political divide

Much has been made of the east-west divide in Oregon politics. The battle of philosophies, to paint with a broad brush, pits eastside conservative ranchers versus westside liberal cosmopolitans, and since the ranchers are outnumbered, they lose clout in Salem, the reasoning goes.

Little has been said about the east-west divide in District 58. The district includes most of Umatilla County and all of Union and Wallowa counties. A large geographical barrier — the Blue Mountains — separates Umatilla County on the west from Union and Wallowa counties on the east. 

The Oregon House primary race to fill the seat being vacated by longtime representative Bob Jenson matches Cove businessman Greg Barreto and former Blue Mountain Community College President John Turner of Pendleton. Drive through Union County and you’ll see a forest of signs for Barreto. Drive through Umatilla County and you’ll see a forest of signs for Turner.

An observer not knowing a political race was under way would come away after driving through the west side or the east side thinking it is a one-horse race. 

Not hardly.

The candidates are running a spirited race, at least near their homes. Barreto, a Cove resident and head of the Union County-based Barreto Manufacturing, will face Turner in the Republican primary May 20.

Democrat Heidi Van Schoonhoven, a La Grande business owner and Cove resident, has also filed to run for the seat.

Barreto said in a recent report in The Observer that he’s hitting all the counties hard, not just focusing on the hometown vote, and here’s hoping Turner is doing the same, especially now that the election is nearing.

You might call it the Balkanization of Northeast Oregon. It’s enough to give voters the ballot box blues. Candidates need to be accountable to their whole districts, not just to the parts of which they are most familiar. They need to get out regularly, travel and meet the voters.

In the coming month, let’s hope the candidates redouble their efforts to practice peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich politics and get around to all areas of the district to spread the word face to face on their political views. Let’s hope more signs spring up in Umatilla County for Barreto and in Union and Wallowa counties for Turner. Voters who are hiring someone to represent the district deserve a chance to see that it is a two-horse race and to interview them face to face and hear in person their views on the issues.

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