Grants Pass got a taste of the energy building in Oregon’s Congressional District 2 to replace Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) with someone who will help turn the Trump tide in Washington D.C. About 100 people crowded into the venue on E Street, chatting up hope and vowing to help any way they can during the Josephine County Democrats’ Candidates’ Forum held Tuesday, April 10th. In addition to the congressional candidates, Deputy District Attorney Matt Corey told the crowd he was running for a newly created judge position because the judicial system in Josephine County is sorely in need of change.
After a brief business session, the Forum began with each of the six candidates present giving a Twitter-length explanation of why they are running.
Tim White, from Bend, said he wants to show the people of CD2 just how blatantly they’ve been lied to by their current representative. Jamie McLeod-Skinner emphasized her family history in the district and said her vision includes a big investment in physical and social infrastructure. Jim Crary, who lives east of Ashland, says nothing will change in Washington without campaign finance reform, while Michael Byrne, who, like Crary ran against Walden two years ago, said he was “here for the revolution.” Byrne said last time he ran Trump was just getting started and he was “naïve” about what brought Trump into power. He said he is running to bring to the contest someone who can get Walden out.
Jennifer Neahring, a Salem physician, said she decided she had to do something when it appeared the Affordable Care Act would be repealed. Without that people would have to go untreated for illnesses or risk financial disaster. She proposed taking ACA further by cutting the cost of medical care, medicines, and creating healthy communities through education, clean air and water and prevention. Eric Burnette, a strong union supporter who has worked in the shipping industry gave three things he would work on: making sure everyone gets health care, getting wages to rebound, and creating real infrastructure investment.
The first question directed at all the candidates was about the threat of Sinclair Media shifting local news to the right. All the candidates agreed the Federal Communications Committee needs to be changed so large mergers can’t dominate a news market. Highlights of other issues included:
How to run in a conservative district with a Republican incumbent who has been in power for eight terms – Byrne said winning will depend on a strong “get out the vote” strategy and convincing non-affiliated voters to vote for Democrats. Neahring agreed, saying turnout will be important, as well as concentrating on issues most people agree on, such as the high cost of medical care. Burnette said he’s a proud progressive and won’t be running as a “Democrat light.” Burnette emphasized that a lot of union voters are prepared to vote for Democrats this time. Crary said visiting conservative areas and talking to people to find common agreement works, while McLeod-Skinner talked about Oregon Values such as keeping kids safe, keeping water clean and available, and sustainable use of resources. White said it’s necessary to avoid old political stereotypes and focus on issues.
Health care – Each candidate vowed to work for some sort of universal coverage with slight variations. Byrne pushed for Medicare for all, White advocated trimming back the military spending to fund health care, reforming the pharmaceutical industry and getting everyone older than 55 on Medicare because if they lose their jobs at that age it is very hard to get private insurance. Neahring favored single-payer, cutting down administrative costs, getting drug prices down, and coordinating preventative care. McLeod-Skinner’s plan includes covering everyone, managing costs, improving the quality of care and caring for caregivers. Crary wants to add audio, dental and vision coverage, especially for children. Byrne said getting Republicans out of the majority is the first step in health care reform.
Foreign Affairs – All the candidates were concerned about the gutting of the State Department and that Congress should have more power over the declaration of war.
National Debt – The candidates were all adamant that big tax breaks for the wealthy are driving up the national debt and failing to address real needs for middle class workers and the poor.
Guns – All the candidates agreed that assault weapons should be restricted, background checks need to be improved, gun-show and internet loopholes need to be closed, the National Rifle Association needs to be exposed as a big money lobbying organization trying to pass itself off as a non-profit charity, and that all gun deaths should be reduced. Burnette proposed setting a goal of reducing gun deaths by two-thirds over a ten year period, encouraging legislation and community action aimed at that goal, then re-evaluating steps taken at the end of the time period to see what works and what doesn’t. McLeod-Skinner said responsible gun owners need to be brought into the conversation to talk about keeping children safe at school, reducing suicides, and what to do about assault weapons.