When I ran for the legislature in 1988, I was convinced I had a fighting chance for the endorsement of the Oregon Education Association.
Oregon Republicans had a long tradition of supporting public education (in all of its forms). And I had made education reform a personal project -- even before I had decided to run for the legislature.
And I had a trump card. Literally.
I was the only candidate in the race who was a card-carrying union member. In the summer between my first and second year of law school, I pulled veneer on the dry belt at Roseburg Lumber Company.
Oregon is a closed shop state. And Roseburg Lumber was a union shop. To work there, I was required to join local 2949 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
Unions were part of my background. My father had been a member of the Teamsters. A union with a bit more clout than my wood shop clan.
But it was a union. I was a member. And I had the chops to show it.
When I walked into the PAC committee meeting, I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. The attorney for the group was a friend from law school. The stars were lining up in my favor.
I launched into my presentation about education reform, the importance of making K-12 a budget priority, and laid my card on the table. No one was interested in the card.
In fact, no one was interested in my reform package. The only questions the PAC board members asked were about job benefits for teachers.
I admire teachers. We give them a very difficult task in teaching our children to be critical-thinking citizens of the republic.
But I saw none of that concern in the PAC endorsement meeting. In fact, I cannot recall the word "student" being mentioned once.
That meeting was far too representative of the other PAC meetings during the election. Somewhere the interests of the community seemed to wander away from the special interests.
And now that I look at the union card I slapped on the table, I am glad no one picked it up. It shows that I was a member of the union, but that I had withdrawn in 1977.
Perhaps in more ways than the card would indicate.