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Capital Chatter: Democrats drop out of two races

Democrats can select replacement candidates but establishing momentum will be difficult.

My aim today is two-fold: First, catch you up on items that I didn't have a chance to include in recent columns. Second, give urban and rural residents alike a glimpse of what is happening in other parts of the state.

• Republicans heading for re-election: The Democratic candidates have dropped out of two legislative races, citing the stress of campaigning. Paul Diller was running against Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, in Senate District 13. Ryan Spiker was challenging Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, in House District 26.

Democrats will meet July 28 in Wilsonville to choose replacement candidates but establishing momentum will be difficult.

• Going after Trump: The Oregon Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, has filed 17 lawsuits against the Trump administration so far. Among them, Oregon joined a federal lawsuit filed in Seattle that challenged the administration's policy of forced family separation on the U.S.-Mexico border.

By the way, Willamette University law professor Warren Binford has emerged as one of the national leaders striving to reunite the separated immigrant children with their parents. What she and other volunteers are doing is amazing. Traveling between Texas, California and Oregon, she has spent intense hours working not only on legal issues but helping develop a searchable website to link parents with their children.

• Asking for dollars: Before winning the Republican gubernatorial primary, Bend Rep. Knute Buehler was a bit of a recluse on the campaign trail. Since then, he's made prominent public appearances while also reminding voters to support him financially.

On June 27, he told supporters his campaign had $282,000 on hand compared with $4 million for Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.

Buehler recently put together a survey for his supporters. Among the questions:

• Do you agree that it is an outrage that Oregon schools are ranked 48th in the nation in graduation rates?

• Do you agree with Knute Buehler that Oregon is in desperate need of PERS reform?

• Do you believe that Kate Brown has failed to address the issues facing Oregonians?

• Do you support Knute Buehler's call for 10 gubernatorial debates so that Oregonians can hear from the candidates?

• Making payments: Former Gov. John Kitzhaber is making payments on his $20,000 fine imposed by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, the commission's staff continues to talk with the legal team for his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Any settlement reached with Hayes would come to the commission for action. Hayes filed for bankruptcy protection this week.

• Read a patriotic classic: In his Fourth of July newsletter, state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, quoted a Washington Post article saying the time Americans spend reading for pleasure has dropped to an all-time low. They average 17 minutes a day.

I loved his suggestion: Up that number by reading the Declaration of Independence to your family.

• Non-political cows: Gov. Brown and state Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, were among the speakers at the June 19 opening of the Tillamook County Creamery Association's new visitor center.

Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, wrote about the event in his newsletter this week: "Arnie repeated one of my favorite observations. The Creamery is actually in Senator [Betsy] Johnson's district. But all the cows are in our district!

He also said, "More people visit the Creamery each year than Seattle's Space Needle."

I didn't know that.

• Concrete education: I thought this was pretty cool when I read about it in the Oregon Construction Contractors Board newsletter.

Concrete benches at Bend's Laurel Pocket Park have deteriorated. Contractor Wayne Schatz had the bright idea of refurbishing the benches by putting together a class for fellow contractors on how to fix the concrete. The city of Bend tracked the contractors' volunteer hours, and the Construction Contractors Board granted them continuing education credits.

• Not a great state for business: WalletHub, a personal finance site, ranked the 50 states on being good for starting and growing a business. WalletHub ranked the states on 25 key indicators, using — by my count — at least 20 sources of data.

The best states for launching and sustain a business: Texas, 1; Utah, 2; Georgia, 3; Montana, 4; Oklahoma, 5; Florida, 6; North Dakota, 7; California, 8; Arizona, 9; and Colorado, 10..

Oregon? No. 23, just behind Mississippi and Kentucky. Among our neighboring states, Nevada was 11, Washington, 13; Idaho, 14; and, as I mentioned, California was 8.

In case you're interested, the bottom five: Pennsylvania, 46; Vermont, 47; Rhode Island, 48; New Hampshire, 49; and Hawaii, 50.

• Wild horses: On the west side of the Cascades, Oregonians dislike the federal Bureau of Land Management for its (mis-)management of the so-called O&C timber lands, which were to provide revenue for 18 counties.

East of the Cascades, the BLM has a host of other environmental and economic challenges. One is how to deal with increasing number of wild horses on rangelands. Working with Colorado State University and the U.S. Geological Service, the BLM is proposing to study the effectiveness of spaying some wild mares. The research would be conducted at the BLM's Wild Horse Corral Facility near Hines.

The public has until July 30 to comment on the draft environmental assessment for the project.

• Speaking of horses: State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said he again would be a "pooper scooper" for Yoncalla's Fourth of July parade. He called it "a fitting task given the world of politics" and said he also would be cleaning up after horses in the Bohemia Mining Days parade on July 21 in Cottage Grove.

• Slight increase in unemployment benefits: Starting this month, Oregonians who successfully file new unemployment claims can receive $146 to $624 in weekly benefits. The previous range was $141 to $604.

The benefits went up because they are based on the average weekly wage paid to Oregonians, which rose more than 3 percent last year. The minimum benefit is set at 15 percent of the average wage; the maximum is 64 percent.

• Still recovering from Eagle Creek Fire: July 31 is the deadline for businesses to apply for Small Business Administration loans to cover their economic losses due to the Eagle Creek Fire.

SBA Disaster Loans are available to businesses in Hood River, Multnomah, Wasco, Clackamas, Gilliam, Jefferson, Multnomah, Marion, Sherman and Wheeler counties, as well as Klickitat and Skamania counties in Washington state.

The SBA includes contiguous counties as well as the primary counties affected; in this case, Hood River and Wasco.

Aug. 16 deadlines apply for the Chetco Bar Fire and the Milli and Nash fires.

• Have your say on Jordan Cove: The state Department of Environmental Quality now has given Oregonians until Aug. 20 to comment on the water quality application for the Jordan Cove Energy Project.

The project would include a liquefied natural gas facility on the North Spit of Coos Bay near North Bend and a connecting pipeline of roughly 230 miles from Malin to the facility. The pipeline would cross Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties.

DEQ officials said they received many requests to extend the public comment period, which had been scheduled to close on July 21.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Hughesisms.com/Facebook, YouTube.com/DickHughes or @DickHughes on Twitter.