One of the most significant economic and educational changes for Bend’s future is transforming Oregon State University-Cascades Campus into a four-year institution.

There are many people responsible for how far the campus has come. But in the last legislative session, nobody was more important than state Rep. Jason Conger. He is now seeking the opportunity to return to Salem and fight to get the campus the money it needs to purchase buildings.

Voters should re-elect Conger for another term.

It’s hard to find a sliver of daylight between Conger, a Republican, and his opponent, Democrat Nathan Hovekamp, in terms of support for the campus expansion.

But one critical question is: Who has a proven track record of success for OSU-Cascades at the state level?

That’s Conger. He got it done.

Of course, the contest for the House District 54 seat is about more than OSU-Cascades. The overriding state issue is that it does not have enough money to do everything. Conger and Hovekamp offer competing approaches. Neither strikes us as a party ideologue, but you can get a fairly clear sense of how they differ from the following issues.

Conger fought to extend the state’s enterprise zones, which gives businesses a tax incentive to expand or locate in Oregon. That program is part of the reason why companies such as Facebook and Apple decided to locate in Central Oregon.

Hovekamp is not opposed to enterprise zones, but he believes their best use is to promote development infill and help distressed areas.

Conger supports a gradual elimination of the state inheritance tax as contained in Ballot Measure 84.

Hovekamp does not — at this time. Conger says Oregon’s relatively high capital gains tax makes the state less competitive when competing for investments and business.

Hovekamp does not favor reducing the tax — at this time.

Hovekamp does support Ballot Measure 85, which says it would divert the corporate kicker money to K-12 public education.

Conger says he is “agnostic” on the issue and does not believe it would be much of a financial advantage to schools. He would be supportive of a more comprehensive tax effort, which would consider ways to provide more stable funding and incentives to make Oregon more competitive for businesses.

So the Conger/Hovekamp choice is in those ways a shading of the conventional Republican/Democratic philosophical divide. They also have different professional backgrounds. Conger is an attorney. Hovekamp has been an instructor at the college level, including at Central Oregon Community College.

Hovekamp has served the public before on the Bend Planning Commission and on the school board of Bend-La Pine Schools. What does not speak well for him, though, is that he abruptly announced in June 2008 that he was leaving the school board at the beginning of a meeting and walked out. Board members were bewildered. It was a completely unprofessional exit.

Conger, on the other hand, is a proven voice for Central Oregon. He has the political skill and the record in the Legislature to make things happen for this district. He has invaluable experience as a legislator that Hovekamp does not. Conger showed a willingness to work across the aisle with Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber on health care reform and education reform and now on medical malpractice reforms. He was one of the few legislators to show any sort of leadership in reform of the state’s pension system.

Vote for Conger.