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Capital Chatter: Second Dem-backed candidate for Beuhler's seat falls

Democrats have twice failed to field a plausible candidate to take his legislative seat in Bend.

Not only is Republican Knute Buehler vexing Democrats with his competitive campaign for governor, but Democrats have twice failed to field a plausible candidate to take his legislative seat in Bend.

House Democrats and other groups wisely ran from candidate No. 1, Dr. Nathan Boddie, after he was accused of sexual harassment (he has denied the allegations). Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkley and others unwisely then jumped on the House District 54 bandwagon of Amanda La Bell. A Democrat and relatively recent transplant to Oregon, she became the candidate of the Working Families Party.

Among questions about her past, it turns out that her Voter's Pamphlet statement says she has a bachelor's degree, which is not true.

In a subsequent letter to the community, La Bell said she had felt guilt and shame for not having a college degree: "It is this sense of shame that led me, many years ago, to write on my LinkedIn profile that I had received a Bachelors [sic] of Arts from Valdosta State University. This was then picked up and repeated on my online work profile. This was again repeated in my Voter's Pamphlet Statement. Neither my campaign nor I knowingly made false claims in the Voter's Pamphlet Statement."

Hmm, I spy the passive voice in writing, as in "Mistakes were made," instead of saying who made the mistakes.

Mistruths ultimately have a way of catching up with politicians, whether Democrats or Republicans … or third-party candidates. Brown and Merkley were among those rescinding their backing of La Bell.

La Bell has now dropped out of the race, although her name will remain on the ballot along with those of Democrat Boddie and Republican Cheri Helt.

Thou shalt not lie – or overfeed: It's potentially a Class C felony to make a false statement in the Oregon Voter's Pamphlet. On Tuesday, the Promote Oregon Leadership PAC — the campaign arm of the House Republicans — asked the state Elections Division to investigate La Bell's statement in the pamphlet.

Meanwhile, as the Oregon Capital Insider reported, Democrats on Wednesday filed their own complaint against a Republican candidate. FuturePAC contends that Justin Hwang, a Republican candidate for Oregon House District 49, offered free food to encourage people to attend his campaign events. Hwang owns the Joy Teriyaki restaurants. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, currently represents the district.

Refreshments are allowed under state law if they are incidental to the event and not the main attraction. That's why, for example, Buehler could provide food and drink at a McMenamins pub in Wilsonville for an election night party to watch the results of the May primary election. Participants got to hear Buehler's victory speech, which presumably was the main attraction.

Waiting for Cylvia: Former first lady Cylvia Hayes does not appear on the agenda for Friday's meeting of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. The commission previously made preliminary findings that Hayes, the girlfriend of then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, violated state ethics laws.

At the commission's Aug. 10 meeting, Executive Director Ron Bersin said settlement discussions were continuing with Hayes despite her filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Her filing might actually accelerate a settlement, because the U.S. Bankruptcy Court wants to know how much she faces in commission fines.

Side note: Vicki Walker, director of the Department of State Lands, faces a $10 fine for inadvertently being late in filing her second-quarter lobbyist expenditure report with the ethics commission. Emily McLain, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon and previously of the Oregon Education Association, faces a $40 fine in a similar situation. The commission on Friday will decide whether to uphold, reduce or cancel the fines.

Various similar cases are on the agenda; I picked two. Much of the commission's work involves letters of education and/or small fines for first-time, accidental violators.

Better late than never?: The state Department of Aviation wants legislators to retroactively approve the agency's $37 million grant request to the Federal Aviation Administration for extending the runway at Aurora State Airport.

The airport expansion is controversial, pitting some local officials against each other and drawing staunch opposition from Friends of French Prairie. The Legislative Fiscal Office has recommended that the Emergency Board next week postpone action on the request until December and instruct the agency to "coordinate with local government stakeholders and seek public input on the runway extension project."

Changing of the tax, budget guards: House Speaker Tina Kotek has appointed Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, to chair the House Revenue Committee and Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee. Nathanson had been the Ways & Means co-chair. Now she will succeed retiring Rep. Phil Barnhart, a fellow Eugene Democrat, as head of the House tax committee.

The press release from Kotek's office said, "Solving the state's perennial challenges to funding essential services is slated to be a top priority for the incoming legislature next year."

More taxes, anyone?

It's good to be in Oregon: An incident last weekend in Tacoma, Wash., reaffirmed my appreciation for the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State Police.

A hit-and-run driver crashed through lane-dividing pylons, sideswiped our vehicle and sent us into a jersey barrier on Interstate 5. It could have been much worse, if not for the swift reactions of my wife, who was driving. It was as if her late father, a truck driver who taught her to drive, took over. We and the car have a few dings, but we're OK.

I've often heard that crashes seem to happen in slow motion. This one didn't.

Kudos to a worker from the Washington State Department of Transportation who stopped to help us.

Without going into details about our incident, let me just say that it reaffirmed my appreciation for the professionalism and courtesy of Oregon emergency dispatchers.

As someone who drives quite a bit, I have called 911 a few times. Several days ago, I reported a suspected drunken driver to dispatchers. An OSP trooper called me back to verify the location and description of the vehicle. That evening, he called to let me know he had arrested the driver.

As for ODOT, I'm undoubtedly biased but I think their construction zones and detours are better marked than in adjacent states. Freeway construction in the Tacoma area, where I have family and where I spent part of my formative years, has been going on for years. It remains a confusing mess. The signs and routings undoubtedly make sense to the people who created them, but not necessarily to the driving public. I'd rather drive in L.A.

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