Tax issue key in some legislative races

Opponents took aim at lawmakers who backed an income tax increase in several contests in which legislators drew challengers from their own party in Tuesday’s primary election.

In a race seen as a key test of the issue, three-term Rep. Vic Backlund of Keizer was in a pitched battle with Keizer businesswoman Kim Thatcher.

Backlund was among the Republicans who supported the $800 million tax boost in the 2003 Legislature to avert more cuts in education and social services.

In southern Oregon, Republican Rep. Susan Morgan of Myrtle Creek also was tarred for voting for the tax measure by GOP primary foe Carol Malmay, a Canyonville shop owner.

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Voters crushed the tax measure by 59-41 percent on Feb. 3.

Citizens for a Sound Economy, which led the petition drive that referred the tax increase to the ballot voters, gave cash and other help to Thatcher’s campaign in the effort to unseat Backlund.

The moderate lawmaker who has easily won his past elections in the district just north of Salem north bought advertising protesting that he was being “smeared” as a big spender.

Citizens for a Sound Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates lower taxes and less government and has emerged as a major anti-tax player in the state’s politics.

Its Oregon director is Russ Walker, who lives in Keizer.

In all, 11 legislators faced opponents in the primary, all of them House member. All 60 House members and 17 of the 30 senators are up for election this year.

No senators face primary election opponents, but there will be lots of action in the fall.

Because the chamber stands at a 15-15 partisan tie, both parties will mount heavy campaigns in efforts to gain control in the November general election.

Republicans currently hold a 35-25 advantage in the House, giving Democrats a stiff chore of trying to switch control of at least six seats to gain the reins.

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