By Aaron Withe

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For more than 30 years in Oregon, the governor’s seat has been filed with somebody with (D) next to their name.

But that isn’t enough to secure you the top job in the state.

You also have to suck up to the state’s public-sector unions.

Last November’s gubernatorial election is a prime example. In a record year, GOP hopeful Knute Buehler, with the support of Nike founder Phil Knight, most of the business community and Republican party PACs, raised more than $18.8 million.

Meanwhile, incumbent Democrat Kate Brown raised $18.6 million, and the media noted some of her more prominent donors included Democratic PAC’s and Emily’s List. Most, however, failed to disclose the largest special interest to fund not only her campaign but also most liberal candidates around the state — government employee unions.

Unions spent more than $3.3 million to ensure Gov. Brown’s victory, not including the additional money they funneled through other various PAC’s.

But Brown’s race was only a part of their broader political agenda this election cycle. The unions also spent millions to ensure supermajorities in the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives.

What does this mean for this next legislative session? Quid pro quo.

Elected officials who owe their office to union money will be more than willing to return the favor by passing any bill their benefactors support — regardless of whether it’s in the best interests of the people.

And it seldom is.

Unlike private-sector businesses, which have to earn a profit to survive, government operations are funded by taxpayers like you.

When Oregon voters elect liberal, union-backed candidates, they’re actually voting for bigger government, crippling taxes, less transparency and intrusive regulations.

By extension, they’re also voting for lower employment, reduced wages and a continued exodus of the private-sector businesses we count on to create the wealth government consumes.

Not that the unions care. From their perspective, bigger government means more public employees. Which, in turn, means more dues-paying members and more money with which continue corrupting politicians to keep the whole cycle revolving.

Cue Kate Brown.

Her election successes have been bought and paid for by government unions that reap the benefits of the additional taxes her policies devour.

This past election showed us that even with the significant financial resources Knute Buehler generated, if you’re not supported by the unions, you’ll be matched at best, and usually outspent.

Which isn’t to say change isn’t coming.

Last June we witnessed one of the most consequential U.S. Supreme Court decisions in decades.

The ruling in Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) makes right-to-work protections the law of the land and empowers public workers to abandon their union and stop paying union dues while still keeping their jobs.

Tens of thousands have already done so, and the opt-out movement is gaining momentum.

Absent their monopoly over the public labor force, unions will soon lose their monopoly over the state’s elected officials — resulting in government that represents Oregon’s people rather than its most avaricious special interest.

The real winners here are the public employees themselves.

Who, once they decide to leave the union, save themselves around $1,000 per year in union dues. Money that would have otherwise been used by the unions for their political agenda.

— Aaron Withe is the Oregon Director of the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.

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