There’s a lot of news lately about conservative challengers to Republican “establishment” candidates. This week, Indiana Senator Dick Lugar lost to a Tea Party backed opponent.
But it’s not just a Republican phenomenon. In next week’s Oregon primary election, a Democratic state representative is facing a serious challenge after frequently riling members of his own party. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.
State Representative Mike Schaufler isn't known for mincing words. Here he is last year during a hearing about wolves.
Schaufler: "In my humble opinion, if your cattle, your pets, your family, your property is threatened, you should be able to shoot any varmint that's making that threat, even if it's the last one on Earth."
That sentiment may be popular among eastern Oregon ranchers. But it's one of many Schaufler positions that's raised eyebrows in traditional Democratic strongholds like his district southeast of Portland. And it's one reason why high school teacher and former high-tech worker Jeff Reardon entered the race to unseat Schaufler in the Democratic primary.
"His values just are not consistent with what we need or deserve in this community," Reardon says.
Reardon served ten years on his local school board. Now, he's making his case to be state representative doorstep by doorstep.
Reardon's campaign against Schaufler has enjoyed the backing of organizations upset about Schaufler's votes on some environmental issues. Schaufler also angered liberals when he voted against a pair of budget-balancing tax hikes on corporations and upper income earners.
Schaufler is still out-raising Reardon, but the challenger says support from Democratic constituencies has made a big difference in his campaign.
"All of these people that came together just gave me all the encouragement and support that a person could ever ask for because they realize what… I'll just say it: what a bad Democrat Schaufler is," Reardon says.
For his part, Schaufler says he takes votes that are unpopular with his Democratic colleagues when he thinks the proposals are bad for business.
"The best thing we can do for children in this state is make sure their parents have a job. Then they'll be paying taxes." Schaufler says. "If everybody has a job in the state that wants a job, we will have the revenue to provide the services at a level we need."
But Schaufler also lost some supporters and clout in Salem after an incident last year at a labor convention. The Democrat was accused of groping a lobbyist when he placed a campaign sticker on her chest. Schaufler downplayed it as "innocent horseplay" but legislative leaders stripped him of a committee leadership role.
And a dozen of his Democratic colleagues in the legislature have taken the unusual step of endorsing his opponent. Schaufler says if he steps on some toes, so be it.
"I wasn't elected to go along to get along," Schaufler says. "I was elected to go down there and do my job, and do what I think is best for our community. And that's exactly what I've done. And if someone wants to challenge me on that, that's fine. It's America."
Schaufler isn't the only Oregon legislative incumbent facing a serious challenger in the primary this year. Bend Republican Chris Telfer is fighting to keep her seat against fellow GOP candidate and former state lawmaker Tim Knopp.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network