Sunday Profile: Teresa Lucas

Statesman Journal

In no particular order, here are some things Teresa Lucas loves: Diet Coke. Her boyfriend, Ross. A strong national defense. Harry Potter. Western Oregon University. Shoes. The pink handgun she got for her last birthday. Cooking for her friends and family. Singing karaoke, particularly Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson songs. Ronald Reagan, whose 6-foot-2 cutout stands proudly in her bedroom.

Teresa LucasTeresa is 24, but already has a long resumé in Oregon conservative politics. Right now, she’s the Community Outreach Coordinator for Common Sense For Oregon. Prior to the election, she served as grassroots director for Chris Dudley’s gubernatorial campaign. She interned in the Capitol building for the 2009 session, and while she was at Western Oregon, served as the secretary and events coordinator for the Oregon Federation of College Republicans.

Teresa’s first national media appearance was on Dr. Phil’s show, in advance of the 2008 election. In the clip, Teresa speaks out sharply against celebrity trumping politics for young people. At one point, she compared Obama to Paris Hilton.

Kevin Mannix first met Teresa in 2008, when she had organized a group of WOU College Republicans to show up at a debate. He was immediately struck, he said, by her organization, her eloquence and her efficiency.

One year later, before she graduated, she had a job with him.

“We had watched the work she did with College Republicans, and we said, ‘Here’s someone who’s really got career potential, and we should encourage that,'” Mannix said.

Common Sense had been considering creating the community outreach position, he said, “but we expedited it based on her availability.”

“I graduated on the 13th, and went to work on the 15th,” she said. “Didn’t waste any time.”

Teresa lives with her sister Marian, 26, in a tidy Keizer apartment complex. She loves cooking dinner, and in fact, she and her boyfriend became close when she would frequently invite him over for dinner — though the two were just friends for more than a year, each worried that the other didn’t feel the same way.

On a recent evening, she made chicken fajitas — one of Ross’ favorites. Fox News played in the background as Teresa carefully sliced red peppers.

In five years, she said, she hopes to be married — at this point, she and Ross pause to smile at each other — and maybe have a kid.

“The thing I’ve always aspired to, more than a career, is being a good mother and a good wife,” she said. “It’s actually odd for me, now, to be such a career-oriented person.”

Her path to politics started in high school.

She grew up in a somewhat apolitical family in Beaverton — her dad was registered Independent; her mom was a Democrat. During the 2004 elections, she was one of the only seniors who had turned 18 in time to vote.

“I read through both the platforms, which I think most people don’t, and it turned out, hey! I’m a Republican,” she said. Her sister cried when, after Teresa forced her to read the platforms she came to the same realization about herself. Since then, her family has followed her to conservatism. Her dad ran for office on the Republican ticket and her mother heads the Washington County Republicans.

The most important issue to her personally, she said, is national security, followed by social conservatism, then fiscal conservatism.

The social conservatism dovetails neatly with her faith. She is a devout Catholic — a decision she arrived at in adulthood. On her left-hand ring finger, she sports a purity ring that she has worn since high school.

This faith, in turn, gives her a strong sense of what is right and wrong.

In college, she said, her professors would tease her before starting on a certain book — “Madame Bovary”, say, or “Wuthering Heights” — because they knew she wouldn’t like it.

“I loved the storytelling,” she said. “But I would always get frustrated, because I would think, ‘These are bad people.'”

Throughout college, she got more involved — “Every election, I was walking, I was phone calling,” — but didn’t consider making it her livelihood.

“I never thought about politics as a career,” she said. “It was just something I was passionate about.”

When she’s not super busy — i.e., when it’s not election time — Teresa likes to go karaoke as often as once per week, but this night at Duffy’s Hangar is her first experience with live band karaoke.

For her first round of the night, she goes with Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” Backed by a three-piece band, she grabs the mic and belts it, supplementing her singing with wags of the finger and hand flourishes. When she finishes, emcee Kyle Sexton announces she has officially earned her live band karaoke handle.

“Velveeta McDaniels right there, ladies and gentlemen! Put her on a microphone and she just melts!”

Among those in the audience was her friend Dave Sweeney, a meteorologist who met Teresa through the Salem Chamber of Commerce.

“She is just a really, really, really — put about 17 reallys — beautiful human being,” he said. “Now, you ask me if I agree with her political beliefs, hell no! But like I said, one of my favorite people in the world.”

Later, Teresa notes that Dave frequently tells her she is “right of Attila the Hun. But he says that to everyone.”

While those around her nurse pints and cocktails, Teresa sips a Diet Coke. She’s not a drinker — has never had a drop. At first, she said, it was weird to be in a bar, but in time she became comfortable.

“I really like to go dancing,” she said. “And there’s only so many places you can do that.” She does indeed take live band karaoke as an opportunity to head out on the dance floor.

Her karaoke strategy is fairly straight forward:

“No sad songs. No slow songs.”

And sure enough, the next time Sexton calls her to the stage — this time announcing that her prized karaoke handle is on the line — Teresa bounds up to the stage, then launches into a full-voiced rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Her friends flock to the dance floor, and slowly strangers join them to form the largest dancing contingent of the night.

kwbrown@statesmanjournal.com or (503) 399-6743

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