▶️ Dems eyeing Walden’s seat have uphill battle to turn district blue

By HEATHER ROBERTS
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

At nearly 70,000  square miles, the 2nd Congressional District is Oregon’s largest. It’s a lot of ground to cover for a typical campaign; but, this isn’t a typical campaign season.

A handful of Democrats are eyeing Congressman Greg Walden’s seat in the U.S. House, believing the district could turn blue in November, for the first time in nearly 40 years. 

Freelance writer Jack Howard is a sitting Union County Commissioner.

He’s lived in La Grande 14 years. 

“I’m not in the mainstream of the Democratic Party: I’m Pro-life. My religion also informs my particular views on that. But because I acknowledge that it’s a religious perspective, I don’t think I have a right to project my religious beliefs into a political decision.” He’s also pro-Second Amendment, though he supports increased background checks for people with a history of mental health issues. 

Alex Spenser, of Klamath Falls, wants a limit on magazine size, “I like to shoot, just like everybody else likes to shoot. It’s nice to go out on the range and know that you’re a good shot; that’s fun. I enjoy it. And, I don’t need a magazine larger than 10 rounds. Nobody does.” Spenser – an author, mediator and activist – has run unsuccessfully for elected office before. She wants to be the first woman to represent District Two. She says, “I have some really interesting ideas. I have a very diverse background, which gives me a strength that no other candidate has in this race, on either side.”

Chris Vaughn, a Bend sales rep, volunteered on campaigns for Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama and Bernie Sanders; but this is his first run for office.

He originally hoped to run against Congressman Walden, “For one thing, I don’t think he represented our district well; he pretty much represented business and corporate interest.”

Also vying for the Democratic nomination John Holm, of Medford, who said at a recent virtual forum, “I’m running for Congress because Republicans have been working in their own self interest, ignoring the needs of Oregonians, for too long.”

As well as Nick Heuertz, of Central Point, who told the forum, “I’m running for office because I feel our country is at a tipping point.” 

That tipping point, the candidates say, is caused by President Donald Trump.

“I got a phone call today,” Spenser tells Central Oregon Daily, “From a gentleman who said, ‘I’m a Republican; I represent a big group of Republicans, and we don’t like what we’re seeing on the other side.’”

Vaughn says, “I don’t think what they expected, when they elected Donald Trump, was to get someone who is a constant liar and is very unethical and basically a corrupt individual.” Howard adds, “Because, at some point, people have to say ‘this is not the presidency we bargained for, and it’s time to move on.” 

All agree recovering from COVID-19 will be the most important Congressional action in the coming year. 

Where they differ: Post-pandemic priorities. Spenser believes healing divisive government and developing infrastructure programs are key, 

“From broadband to high speed rail, to making sure our roads and bridges are safe and secure for everyone, To water issues, which are so incredibly important.”

Howard is most focused on the budget, and getting more money into rural county coffers. 

And Vaughn supports the ‘Green New Deal’ and Medicare for all, “People don’t want to see their friends going to GoFundMe to try and get healthcare because they don’t have insurance, or they have insurance but the insurance isn’t covering whatever is wrong with them.”

Candidates are hosting virtual town halls and taking part in Zoom forums, to comply with current pandemic restrictions.

If elected and restrictions are lifted, how will they meet with constituents across such a large area? 

Vaughn says, “I know if I’m the person that is representing this district, I will be traveling around the district and trying to get to know people as much as possible.” 

Spenser also plans to travel, “I will take a page from Senator Merkley’s book and insure that in every county I have a town hall, every year.”

Howard takes a different approach, “Having engagement with civic groups and keeping some of my committee memberships. For example, one thing I’m doing now that I’d hate to give up is serving on the Disabilities Emergency Management Advisory Council – DEMAC. Those kinds of connections are essential.” 

The first hurdle is securing the Democratic nomination. Ballots are due before 8 pm, May 19th. 

Thursday, Central Oregon Daily will introduce you to a few of the front-runners in the Republican primary for Congressional District 2. 

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