OREGON COAST — The choice registered voters in Oregon Senate District 5 have before them during the General Election is similar to many local, state and national races for elected seats playing out across the country.
Two drastically opposed candidates are vying to fill the senate seat being vacated by Democrat Arnie Roblan. He isn’t running this fall after serving two complete terms following his 2012 election. Senate District 5 is comprised of all of Lincoln County and portions of Coos, Douglas, Lane, Polk, Tillamook and Yamhill counties.
Coming from the right side of the political aisle is 70-year-old Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson, a Republican retiree who fell to Roblan in his initial run for SD 5 by a 48.2 to 47.6 percent margin (fewer than 350 votes) during the 2016 General Election.
Anderson served as Lincoln City mayor from 2011-2014 and was re-elected to the mayor’s seat he currently holds in November 2018.
He says aside from the inability to stump door-to-door due to the pandemic and the rising cost to run a campaign due to inflation, the major difference between this year’s campaign and Anderson’s near miss four years ago is that he’s not running against a sitting state senator this go-around.
“The biggest difference between 2016 and 2020 for me is that I’m not going against an incumbent, and frankly it’s all the much more difficult facing an incumbent because they hold all the cards,” Anderson told the News-Times on Monday.
Representing the left end of the spectrum is 48-year-old Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins, a Democrat attorney making her first run at the state legislature. Cribbins says that although she and Anderson come from different camps, both want what’s in the best interest of the coastal residents of Senate District 5.
“I generally believe we want the same things,” Cribbins said. “We all want the coast to have a healthy, prosperous economy for our residents, good jobs, for our kids to be able to move back here and be able to make a living and a healthy environment. We both want the same things, the difference is in our approaches of to how to get there.”
Lakeside City Councilor Shauleen Higgins, a Green Party nominee, is also running for Senate District 5.
The race has piqued interest throughout the state as an Anderson victory could shift the balance of the state senate’s 18-12 Democratic grip.
“This has the potential of breaking that supermajority hold the Democrats have, and that means that if they want to pass new taxes they’d have to have at least one Republican vote,” Anderson said. “I’m not saying that won’t happen, I can say that it won’t be my vote, but what it does (breaking the supermajority) is it forces a serious conversation, something that’s been lacking for years.”
There’s no shortage of funding being poured into battle for the SD 5 seat from a variety of sources, including each major candidate’s political party. As of Tuesday morning, Anderson’s campaign received $744,230.99 in contributions, while Cribbins had raised $630,444.03. That’s according to campaign finance reports posted to the website of Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno (sos.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx).
“I think this race has gotten a lot of attention because is an open seat coming up, and it’s been targeted by the Republicans who see it as a chance to pick up a seat, while the Democrats are trying to hold on to that seat,” Cribbins said.
Both candidates believe righting the economy is the state legislature’s highest priority for the upcoming session.
Cribbins is running on a platform intent on promoting workers’ rights, expanding the reach of affordable health care and protecting reproductive rights, boosting public education funding and coastal economies and finding answers to affordable housing shortages and homelessness.
She’s endorsed by the Oregon State Police Officers Association, the National Organization for Women (Oregon Chapter), Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon, the Oregon State Firefighters Council, Oregon AFL-CIO and the Coquille Indian Tribe. Cribbins also received endorsements from Lincoln County Commissioner Doug Hunt, Waldport City Councilor Greg Holland and U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
“I’m proud of all my endorsements of course, but I’m particularly proud of the endorsements of my colleagues, especially those from across party lines,” Cribbins said. “What that potentially could cost someone from another party, I think that speaks to the work I’ve done across party lines, being able to work with others from day to day and month to month speaks to the quality of my work and the relationships I’ve built.”
Anderson’s campaign is focused on providing the Oregon coast a stronger voice in Salem. He’s a staunch backer of law enforcement and the Second Amendment right to bear arms — with endorsements from the National Rifle Association and Oregon Firearms Federation — who believes the Democrat majority in the state senate is hurting SD 5 with potential new taxation.
“The real issue at the state legislature will be, you can see from past experience they want to solve all our problems by taxing us more and more. That seems to be their solution to all our problems,” Anderson said. “As for me, I don’t feel comfortable that our citizenry can handle more taxes.”
Groups endorsing Anderson include Timber Unity PAC, the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, the Oregon Outdoor Council Sportsmen’s Defense Fund and the Oregon Small Business Association PAC. Individuals endorsing Anderson include Elgin Mayor Allan Duffy, Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, former Lincoln City mayors Smokey Aschenbrenner and Al Hation and Toledo Mayor Rod Cross.
On his campaign website (andersonforthecoast.com), Anderson states that Cribbins “is supported by radicals and Portland politicians that will continue to forget the coast and fund urban policies first.”
Cribbins chuckled when asked to respond to that allegation.
“I’m 48 years old, I don’t even think I know a radical anymore,” Cribbins said. “I’ve seen (Anderson’s) claims on his website, and there are no citations on specifics of what he’s talking about.”
Anderson explained further.
“I would put (Cribbins) right up there next to the governor in that she seems to have an agenda,” Anderson said. “You look at the (state) House, they don’t want to follow science when it comes to fire management, then they allow science to dictate how we respond to COVID, sort of. It’s that kind of inconsistency that we’ve been getting, the one-way, my-way approach, and I’ll tell you, one streamlined policy does not fit this entire state well.”