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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 05 January 2006

SALEM—In the last year, Gov. Ted Kulongoski boosted the number of women and minorities appointed to state boards and commissions. His appointments in 2005 show a marked change from 2003 and 2004, when fellow Democrats, as well as women and minorities faulted for relying too heavily on White, male appointees. Of about 150 new appointees for board and commission slots in 2005, one-fifth were minorities — double the share during his first 20 months in office, and slightly more than their share of Oregon's population, an analysis by the Statesman Journal found. Also in 2005, women accounted for two-fifths of his new board and commission nominees, up from one-third in his first 20 months in office. "What it says is that they are making efforts to change and diversify," said state Sen. Jackie Winters, a Salem Republican. Two years ago, Winters joined a delegation of Democratic women senators who asked Kulongoski to make affirmative action a higher priority. The governor faced even greater pressure in 2005, after Democrats captured full control of the Senate in the November 2004 elections. One of those Democratic women senators, Sen. Vicki Walker of Eugene, is challenging Kulongoski in the Democratic primary. In her campaign attacks on Kulongoski, Walker has repeatedly railed against the "good ol' boys in Salem." When told of Kulongoski's improved track record last year, Walker said that she was pleased, but added that he still has "a long way to go" to make female appointees on par with their share of the population. The roughly 200 boards and commissions in Oregon hold considerable power, doling out state dollars for highway projects, deciding how state money will be invested and overseeing the state pension-fund system as well as the Oregon Lottery, among other duties. Often, service on one of the boards can serve as an entree for greater involvement in state government. In 2005, the governor named a Black woman to the State Board of Chiropractor Examiners, an Native American woman to the Environmental Quality Commission, a White woman to the Oregon Investment Council and an Asian man to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. In spite of those successes, critics point out that Hispanics accounted for only 4 percent of Kulongoski's new board and commission appointees in 2005 — less than half their share of Oregon's population. Yet that was an increase from earlier in Kulongoski's term. Kulongoski's new Chief of Staff Pat Egan said the governor has been committed to affirmative action since the beginning of his term. But he acknowledged that recruitment started slowly in the Kulongoski administration, in part because few appointments were made the final year of Gov. John Kitzhaber's tenure. When Kulongoski took office in 2003, there were many vacancies to fill and a large backlog of applications from a "self-selected" pool of candidates, Egan said. "In that instance, the options that Ted had were quite limited," Egan said. — The Associated Press

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