Backlund’s integrity deserves area support

Keizer’s Vic Backlund was one of 11 House Republicans who courageously stepped up last summer to vote for a compromise budget-balancing plan. For his pains, he has gotten a primary fight that wrongfully brands him as tax-happy.

His opponent in the May election, Kim Thatcher of Keizer, says she made up her own mind to run and only then consulted with Russ Walker of Citizens for a Sound Economy. That may be so, but Thatcher’s arguments sound a lot like the folks behind the anti-Measure 30 campaign.

Backlund should not necessarily get a free pass to keep representing District 25, which covers Keizer and parts of Marion and Yamhill counties. But when voters become accomplices to a grudge match — as is happening in several legislative districts — they hurt themselves. They send the message that politicians who stand up for principles do so at great risk.

Backlund is the stronger Republican to face Democrat Roger Pike in the November general election. That almost goes without saying.

More important, Backlund is the epitome of the citizen lawmaker on whom Oregon’s political system was crafted.

After a short stint in pro baseball, he spent nearly four decades in education, mostly as a teacher and coach at McNary High School. Since retiring, he has served three terms in the House.

Backlund put his experience to use as chairman of the House Education Committee in 2001 and 2003. He is familiar with a wide range of legislative matters, from reforming the tax system to reining in the Public Employees Retirement System. He arrives at work early, answers virtually every call and e-mail, and speaks at community events from voter forums to flagpole dedications.

His constituents appreciate his service; his colleagues respect it.

Considering the brain drain caused by talented legislators who exited after Oregon’s longest legislative session, Backlund’s skills are needed more than ever. So is his willingness to work for the good of Oregon instead of wallowing in destructive partisanship.

Thatcher owns a company that provides flaggers and other services for road-building. She hammers away at a few basic points: She claims that she would be a “better fit” with District 25 because she would not have voted for the budget package; she would save “millions” by eliminating the certificate of initial mastery from high schools; she would treat taxpayers’ money as if it were her own.

Get beyond those well-honed points, however, and her spiel falters.

Thatcher’s business acumen and conservative values may someday be an asset to the Legislature. However, she doesn’t come close to making a convincing argument for ousting a highly respected lawmaker.

Throughout Oregon’s economic woes, the Statesman Journal editorial board called for legislators to make tough decisions — to stand up for public education, public safety and public services — even when it meant risking their political careers.

Backlund did that. Even if you don’t agree with his vote on one budget plan, you have to respect his integrity, his honesty and his commitment to serving his constituents.

Vic Backlund has made Oregonians proud. He deserves his party’s support in House District 25.

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