Bipartisan team of Smith and Metsger win the day

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

November 11, 2006

Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, and Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, credit their bipartisan teamwork for wins in their respective races on Tuesday.

“I think the voters want people in office who work across party lines to find solutions and get the job done. Sen. Metsger and I have clearly shown that ability and its benefits to our districts,” said Smith.

She and Metsger both felt subjected to a spate of negative campaign ads from their opponents — and they believe that strategy backfired. The two incumbents stayed determinedly positive in spite of what they felt were “distortions” of their respective voting records.

They believe not getting into the fray gained Metsger the District 26 seat and Smith the District 52 position.

“I think the results of this election demonstrated that you are not going to win the favor of voters by simply downgrading your appointment. People are fed up with attack ads and are looking for real solutions,” said Metsger.

He admitted to feeling a “little beat up” after months in a hotly contested race with Republican opponent Carol York, a Hood River County Commissioner.

“From a personal standpoint I would like to say that Carol worked harder than any opponent I’ve ever had and I give her a lot of credit for that,” he said.

Metsger, who captured almost 65 percent of the local vote, said he is “extremely pleased and humbled” by having so many ballots marked in his favor.

He plans to take a few days off and then get back to work fulfilling his campaign pledges. His goal is to put more Oregon State Police troopers back on the road, expand early education programs, and overhaul the state’s troubled health care system.

“When this session is over, I’m going to be able to say we got it done,” said Metsger.

Smith garnered 51.4 percent of the county’s votes in her runoff with Democratic challenger Suzanne VanOrman. She gained an 11 point advantage in Clackamas County and felt the election results were a notable achievement in an anti-Republican political climate.

Because of her proven ability to find common ground with people from varied viewpoints, Smith is not worried about having Democrats now in control of the House, as well as the Senate and governor’s office.

“I work in a bipartisan manner so I should do just fine,” she said.

Her first order of business will be working next week with the Joint Emergency Preparedness Committee on legislative concepts. She said the recent flooding in several areas of the state have underscored the importance of equipping emergency responders for disaster relief.

Then, Smith will join Metsger in crafting a bill to lift regulations that currently impede the Hood River County School District from siting a new facility where it is most affordable.

“There are a lot of issues that we need to address so it’s time to get back to work,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, York is preparing to step down from her District 1 role on the county board at the end of the year. She said, after 10 years of public service, it is time to pursue some of her other interests, such as studying foreign languages, skiing — and even settling down in front of the fire place with a good book.

York does plan to remain on the board of directors for both the Columbia Gorge Community College Foundation and Adventure Cycling.

“It was a terrific experience and I learned so much about the people in the district; their stories, interests and concerns. It was just amazing,” said York.

She said the focus of her campaign was not to be negative, but to point out the differences between Metsger and herself on key issues, such as taxes.

“I think talking straight on the record is fair. Nobody sees eye to eye on every issue and I think we all in public service need to ask questions and get the best information to make a decision,” said York.

While knocking on hundreds of doors across the district, York said she conquered her life-long fear of dogs — one bite and two scratches later. She considers that a “huge benefit” of her run at the state office.

On Election Day, VanOrman received a bouquet of flowers from her son, Justin, and a note that told her to “focus on the journey and not on the destiny” because the best lessons in life happened along the way.

Although she did not win her race, VanOrman said the biggest lesson of her political journey was one of gratitude. She said the tireless dedication of Jim Greenleaf, her campaign manager, and a small army of helpers was “heartwarming.”

“In terms of long-term friendships I’m a winner. It’s just been wonderful,” she said. In her follow-up interview, VanOrman did not choose to dwell on details of the campaign season. She did congratulate Patti Smith on her victory and reiterate her thankfulness for the efforts made by her supporters. Since retiring earlier this year from duties as director of Mid-Columbia Head Start, VanOrman has been busy with politics. She is now looking forward to not having deadlines to meet for the first time in her adult life. “It’s going to be a real pleasure to wake up in the morning and wonder, ‘What am I going to do today?’” said VanOrman.

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