First-term State Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, wasn’t on many media ‘watch’ lists in the 2018 election and didn’t have an opponent until as late as July, but he was on the short list of defeated legislative incumbents the day after the election.
First-time candidate Courtney Neron, a mother of two and former high school Spanish and French teacher, rode a blue wave of support for Democratic women candidates to defeat Vial, whose campaign outspent her seven to one. Neron won by a 51 to 48 percent margin and her election contributed to House Democrats exceeding a three-fifths supermajority in the 2019 legislative session.
Neron was selected to run for the House District 26 seat after Ryan Spiker, who won the Democratic primary in May, withdrew for health reasons in June.
Unlike Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, who also was unseated in the election, Vial wasn’t a high-profile or partisan political figure in Salem. A lawyer, family farmer and avid ‘birder,” Vial went to Salem, in his words, “to deal with serious and complex problems that affect Oregonians.”
In his farewell legislative newsletter, Vial wished everyone a happy Veterans Day, thanked constituents for the chance in serve in the legislature and made a plea to end “gridlock and bitterness.”
“Dealing with serious and complex policies that affect Oregonians, including education, health care and criminal justice, as well as land use, housing and transportation, has been both sobering and humbling,” Vial wrote. “It has also been an inspirational and gratifying journey.”
“Moving forward, it is my hope that our elected officials strive to overcome the tribalism and partisanship that has so deeply divided our communities and our government, both here in Oregon and around the country,” he continued. “One of my personal goals as a legislator has been to rise above the partisan mentality in our government that has led to gridlock and bitterness at a time when we most need cooperation and compassion.”
Vial added, “I continue to hope that we will move beyond this polarization, reject radical ideology and return to civility, genuine dialogue and a focus on doing what is right, rather than what is politically expedient. In doing so, we must recognize that we have so much more in common than we are different.”
Often lost in political campaigns are the human lives beyond candidacies. In his initial legislative newsletter, Vial described his “uniquely large family” that includes six biological children and “dozens” of children they parented. Seven Vietnamese refugees became permanent parts of the Vial household. He has more than 42 grandchildren.
Neron has an interesting back story, too, that includes living in France, Mexico and Germany before settling into a home with her husband and two children in Wilsonville. She attended the University of Oregon, where she met her husband, and earned a graduate degree from Pacific University. Neron has taught in Yamhill-Carlton, Tualatin and Tigard. She resigned her teaching position to run for the legislature.
One of Neron’s top issues as an Oregon lawmaker will be working for smaller class sizes, which she says are critical to greater student success in classrooms. Her other priorities are “safer communities, logical transportation solutions and necessary environmental protections.”