The PAC had a lot to celebrate on election night: Most of its candidates won their races. These include future City Councilors Anthony Broadman, Rita Schenkelberg, Megan Perkins and Melanie Kebler and future County Commissioner Phil Chang. The 2020 election was the biggest blue wave in Bend’s history and we wanted to find out if SCOPAC’s influence had something to do with it.
Over the next few weeks, we will bring on leaders from other local PACs in the business community to learn more about who they supported this year and what they hope to gain from their substantial campaign contributions to candidates on the conservative side of the political spectrum.
Abrams began this conversation by defining what SCOPAC means when it says it wants to support “underrepresented” candidates: “It is really a wide-ranging word for us. Women are not running for office because they’re often stuck with the other household duties and family duties that sometimes prevent them from being able to take that extra time to run for office. It is also focused on the BIPOC community. It is focused on renters in the community because most people who run for office tend to be a little more advanced in age and in wealth, especially in Bend,” Abrams said.
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While SCOPAC says it is nonpartisan, all the candidates it endorsed ran on progressive platforms generally associated with the Democratic party. However, Abrams expects the PAC will endorse Republicans in the future.
“Our big bellweather issues that we talk about in order to support a candidate are things that are really embraced by the vast majority of Americans,” Abrams said. “Being pro-choice is one of those things. Affordable housing is always top of mind here. The transportation bond that just got passed was supported by the Bend Chamber PAC as well, so I think that’s a great example of how we can support potentially more conservative viewpoints.”
SCOPAC has assembled a strong support system for candidates: This includes mentoring opportunities with other local elected officials and funds for speaker training, childcare and even meal delivery. Abrams emphasized all of this is designed to bring nontraditional candidates out of the woodwork.
Later in the podcast, we explored the topic of gender and leadership. Abrams's activism in the community stretches far beyond SCOPAC: She’s also a founding member of Women in STEAM (sciences, technology, engineering, arts and math), a networking group that creates mentoring opportunities for professionals in the community. She is the founder of CEOX which provides advocacy for women leaders throughout the nation.
Abrams explained that everyone embodies work personas that are a mix of masculine and feminine qualities: A maternal leadership style may include: expressing curiosity and openness to learning new things (not having all the answers), practicing self-development, resilience, development in your team (not just raising oneself), conflict management using empathy and self-reflection, and taking calculated risks.
Listen to more from Luann Abrams of the Strengthening Central Oregon Political Action Committee on this week's episode of “Bend Don't Break,” hosted by the Source Weekly’s publisher Aaron Switzer. Every week, Switzer invites on a someone from the community with a new perspective on living through the COVID-19 pandemic including mental health professionals, economists, educators, artists, business people, local leaders and historians. Subscribe on iTunes, Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts.
Clarification: This article was updated to substitute the word "community" for "progressive" in the title and elsewhere, as requested by Abrams, to better reflect SCOPAC's intent to be nonpartisan.