Monday, October 16, 2006

Meeting David Edwards: Part I

I met David Edwards at his campaign office which is situated in the quaint downtown Main Street area of Hillsboro. The cracker box sized location is crammed with some desks and a bunch of campaign stuff--along with two staffers who comb through emails and answer phones during my stay.

I was warmly welcomed as I waited for David (I was a little early for our meeting). David came in to join us almost exactly on time--which I found interesting. I've rarely interviewed a candidate who isn't at least a wee bit behind schedule. Especially given that our interview was just a few days after the Oregonian's bizarre reversal of their endorsement for David to his opponent, David seemed steady and unfazed by the brouhaha.

First impressions are often lasting. David's for me was like that of the brainy, kinda nerdy boy in high school that I had a crush on when I was younger. Smart, articulate and well studied across the board--David comes across as a quiet and affable man who knows his stuff.

Edwards says that he has a list of "chief aims" on his agenda when he's elected. First, he wants to bring good paying jobs to the constituents in Washington County, to make common sense investments in public schools, reduce health care costs and to make government more accountable.

I found the "more accountable" idea worth digging into. David reminded me that he used to work as a legislative analyst. He reviewed proposed state laws to see which would grow the economy and which would save money. And as a small business owner, David has worked with some of the world's top high tech companies. Edwards says he would like to see state agencies adopt more flexible and innovative management practices.

His proposal is to develop an independent, non-profit commission to conduct performance reviews of state agencies. This work could also be done by a private firm such as Policy Works, which has done this work in other states. Their job is to identify millions of dollars in savings. And its not just eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.

Edwards noted that the State of Oregon has undergone drastic budget cuts in the last 16 years as a result of Measure 5. There's very little obvious fat in the state budget. But these firms/commissions identify different ways to deliver services for less cost. "Its about changing the culture", Edwards says. "Turning it into a permanent culture of reinvention."

These firms also work with front line agency staff in the process of identifying cuts or alternatives to providing services. This helps the agencies buy into the recommendations and makes them more eager to participate.

Our conversation then moved from Edwards' priorities in the legislature to his opponent, Edward Curry. I asked him what he believes are the main, fundamental differences between himself and Mr. Curry:

There are a number of differences. I am the only candidate in the race with a significant background in public policy. I have a record of accomplishment in this community. I have proven small business experience as the owner of a 17-person high tech market research firm.

I also have considerable bipartisan support because of my involvement in the community over the years. I have experience as a business person. I have received the endorsement of the last 3 mayors of Hillsboro: a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent. I've also been endorsed by a number of Hillsboro School Board members, a majority of the Hillsboro City Council and various members of the Chamber of Commerce including several past presidents and a former Executive Director. And a number of former Republican legislators including former State Senator Jeannette Hamby.

Considering the general conservative leanings of this region of Hillsboro, it makes sense that a moderate Democrat would be a good fit. But is David really a moderate? The Hillsboro Argus casts him as "more conservative" than his opponent, Edward Curry.

I'll be covering this and other material from our interview in part II, which will (hopefully) run here at LO tomorrow.