Politics is like poker here as the Credit Union Association of Oregon holds its cards-and its PAC money-close to the chest after the state's Supreme Court upheld a decision to strike down term limits.
Prior to the decision, the league was preparing for as many as 26 new state legislators to replace those termed out, while at the same time dealing with recent redistricting that pitted candidates from the same parties against each other.
It's a mess, Pamela Leavitt, vice president of government affairs and public relations for the CUAO, told The Credit Union Journal. Leavitt, who has worked at the league's government affairs department since 1994, said she has never seen a campaign cycle like this before.
"We have a lot of incumbents who are now looking at running again for their seats and the caucuses have already recruited people to run for those seats," Leavitt said. "We don't have the whole landscape yet.We don't know if certain candidates will pull out. I don't know which incumbents are running or not."
And the league won't be allowed to keep a low profile until the winning hand is dealt thanks to its hefty war chest. Credit unions in the state amassed $200,000 in PAC funds for this year, making them highly sought after by candidates, Leavitt said.
"We are really hanging on to our PAC money," Leavitt related. "We've given to some friends post-legislative session and handed out a little bit of money sporadically for events, but no big huge checks yet and I don't think we will until close to the primary."
The league's position is a sticky one, Leavitt continued, created not only by the term limit reversal and redistricting, but by the fact that politicians with a history of working with the league on credit union issues expect the same support regardless of whom they are running against.
"We've got two friends, two house Democrats, running for the same senate seat against each other," she explained. "You've got all these people who are potentially friends, on both sides. It's just really difficult."
Grassroots efforts by the league also make the issue more sensitive due to its focus on close relationships with politicians.
"We've got the legislators coming to events, we've got them visiting credit unions and getting to know key contacts personally," Leavitt said. "When they call us they feel like we have a much stronger relationship than just another association or organization. We're going to hang tight and come in and be a strong finisher."
Term limit backers have filed a proposal with the Secretary of State asking for a November referendum and plan to campaign for the 89,000 petition signatures required to put the proposal on the ballot.