35 Innovators Under 35: Meet Ben Unger

Ben Unger has a record in politics that stretches back to his days in student government at the University of Oregon. After a stint in Chicago working with the Student PIRGS (Public Interest Research Group), Unger found his way back to Oregon to face a battle that hit close to home – and his family’s farm in Cornelius.

photo of Ben Unger“Nothing means more to me than that farm. My family has been on that land for over a hundred years now,” Unger explained. “It was absolutely absurd the number of Measure 37 claims surrounding the area. I knew I had to fight and campaign to save our farmland.”

Thus, Unger jumped at the chance to become field director for the Yes on Measure 49 Campaign, an effort that successfully scaled back Measure 37 by prohibiting large-scale development claims. Measure 49 provided appropriate relief to  those eligible for Measure 37 claims while also protecting Oregon’s farms and forestland from claims to build massive subdivisions, shopping malls, billboards and – in one notable case – a pumice mine.

“My role was largely about spreading the word of our campaign to voters,” Unger said. “It was such a rewarding experience because the result could have resoundingly changed the conversation about what Oregon truly stands for.”

Unger didn’t rest for long after the Measure 49 victory. He then went on to manage John Kroger’s successful campaign for Attorney General then served as Kroger’s Chief of Staff at the Department of Justice.

Life on his family's farm follows the growing cycle. Unger’s passion for politics has him living a life now dominated by campaign cycles. And the plan after this November’s election?

“I’ve come to accept that the next election will always be the most important one in our lifetime, where every single election the world is at stake,” Unger said. “If we are successful in 2010, I’ll be called in one direction, and if there is a different result, we’ll see what happens. I’m committed to not committing - but truly feel that this election will dictate Oregon for the next decade.”

[Disclaimer: 1000 Friends of Oregon is a nonpartisan organization. We do not endorse or oppose candidates for elected office.]