After Tuesday night’s resounding defeat of Portland’s fluoridation measure, Oregon State Rep. Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro) must still be licking his wounds.
As a career political operative, Unger has grown quite used to being on the winning side of campaigns.
His campaign website lists these achievements, starting with his election as student body vice-president at the University of Oregon and continuing with the Yes on Measure 49 campaign in 2007, former Oregon Attorney General John Kroger’s 2008 campaign and his own legislative race last year.
So one can only imagine Unger’s disappointment with the result of Tuesday night’s loss. He was, after all, paid as a consultant by promoters of the measure, with checks going to his company and himself. This has been confirmed by multiple press accounts in the weeks leading up to the May 21 election.
In fact, Unger believed so much in the cause that he even donated to it.
What isn’t known at this point is the extent to which Unger’s consulting duties on this losing effort conflicted with the demands of his position in the Legislature. It raises the question: Did his constituents know that Unger would continue consulting for campaigns while serving them at the state level? Would they have voted differently if they knew that he would be devoting his efforts to the promotion of mandatory fluoridation instead of performing the constituent services that he was elected to do? And will we see more of this in the future, where Unger puts the needs of his clients ahead of the people of House District 29?
To add further intrigue to the situation, there are rumors circulating that Democrats may seek to thwart the will of voters on this matter. House Bill 3082 has a broad relating-to clause of “dental care for children.” The speculation is that amendments may be offered to this bill to pre-empt local control on the fluoridation issue and give it to the state.
Some people, like Ben Unger, are so committed to pushing their agenda that they just can’t take “no” for an answer…even when it’s overwhelming, like it was Tuesday night.
Rep. Ben Unger