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Teachers union won't back candidates who voted for PERS reforms

SALEM — A third Oregon union says it won’t endorse or contribute to primary campaigns for candidates who voted for reforms to Oregon’s costly public pension system earlier this year.

The announcement by the Oregon Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, on Wednesday followed similar withdrawals this fall by Oregon AFSCME and the Oregon AFL-CIO.

That may put dozens of Democratic incumbents, many of whom receive a high share of donations from unions, in a tricky spot.

Labor groups gave about $3.67 million to Oregon legislative candidates in the two years leading up to the 2018 election, according to the National Institute on Money in Politics, which tracks campaign donations. Overall, state house and senate candidates raised nearly $29 million in that election cycle.

Democrats will try to maintain their grip on their large majority of legislative seats they secured last year, that, in theory, allows them to pass tax increases without any Republican votes.

In a statement, Rebecca Levison, the chair of the education association’s political action committee, said that Senate Bill 1049 cut “hard-earned benefits for tens of thousands of educators.”

“Lawmakers must answer for their votes,” said Levison, who teaches English as a second language in Portland. “Educators work hard for our benefits and still make 22% less than folks in the private sector with similar education. We won’t spend our hard-earned dollars to reelect people in the primary who don’t understand that.”

There is no race for governor next year, but there will be an election for state treasurer as well as for the secretary of state.

Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and 2018 Democratic candidate for Congress, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, have announced they’ll run for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, making that a competitive primary.

Both Hass and Williamson voted for the pension reforms, which were aimed at saving the state money on employee retirement benefits while it wrestles with billions in pension debt.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: cwithycombe@eomediagroup.com or 971-304-4148.

A view of the Oregon Capitol in Salem. AP PHOTO.