OR-CD2: Turning challenge into opportunity

Greg Walden (R-OR) has been in Congress for two decades. In recent years, he has not served Oregon’s Second Congressional District (OR-CD2) or the country well. He should be replaced. Seven Democratic candidates are vying to challenge him in November. Who among them is best positioned to represent OR-CD2? Who can win the Democratic primary? Who can win the general election?

It is both inconvenient and quaintly refreshing that there are no reliable polls to point to the top candidates in a crowded field. Straw polls were taken at the “candidates’ forums” held across the district, and the same candidate won all of them. Yet, such polls are not statistically significant because the samples are too small and potentially biased by activism.

I thus found myself doing homework on all seven candidates: Reading their materials, listening to them, studying their records, even talking to them. Recently, I asked each a three-part question: “If you were to win the primary, what top-three specific policies would you use to challenge Walden’s record? Why? What arguments would you use in the challenge?”

Six candidates responded, with the seventh (Raz Mason) declining due to time constraints. This blog post acknowledges and compiles their answers and offers a brief follow-up reflection. The policies (or issues) they picked are summarized below, and by clicking on each name you will be taken to their full answers.

Eric Burnette: Eric’s priorities are (1) ensuring access to Medicare services for all, (2) investing in rural infrastructure and technology, and (3) fighting for working families in Oregon and in America.

Michael Byrne: Michael’s priorities are (1) clean House of greed, incompetence, and malice, (2) embrace science, and (3) end the war.

Jim Crary: Jim would challenge Walden’s (1) exposure to undue influence, through money received from big donors, (3) actions to undermine the Affordable Care Act, and (3) failure to represent the district, exemplified by his lack of support for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner: Jamie would challenge Walden’s (1) failure to support net neutrality, (2) failure of leadership in renewable energies, and (3) undermining of our healthcare.

Jenni Nearhing: Jenni would challenge Walden’s (1) attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, (2) role in support of the corporate tax cut, and (3) support of policies that increase fear in our immigrant population

Tim White: Tim would challenge Walden’s (1) campaign contributions from outside Oregon and the district, (2) voting record on school funding, and (3) support for Trump policies.

Philosophically, the seven candidates have far more in common than what separates them. In their answers or more generally, they all see Walden as someone who no longer represents the district and who is too closely aligned with the Trump administration. They all support a move towards (or back to) universal health care, environmental responsibility, renewable energies, net neutrality, humane immigration laws and practices, fiscal responsibility and fair taxation—among many other threads of shared beliefs.

As much alike as they are philosophically, the candidates have very different backgrounds, skills, and styles, which they proudly bring to their campaigns and do come across in their answers to my questions. Voters have real options on who to select to challenge Walden. The choice matters!

That all eligible voters do vote also matters: The national leadership of the Democratic party needs to give Walden’s challenger a credible chance to win. And that means resources. Resources for an objective assessment of the voters’ views on Walden and on the Democratic primary winner. Resources to deploy a winning strategy. Resources to force Walden to a broad, policy-based, dialogue—one where he will be appropriately challenged on his record. Big numbers of voters in the democratic primary will be essential to convince the Democrats nationally that they have a realistic opportunity in OR-CD2. Please vote!

While a big primary turn-out is a must, it will not suffice. After two decades, Walden is vulnerable: Democrats can win—or at the very least demystify Walden’s aura of invincibility to pave the road for his overdue replacement in 2020. But OR-CD2 voters are dominantly republican and non-affiliated. The path to a Democratic victory is thus non-traditional. The message must have broad nonpartisan appeal. To craft that message, Democrats must listen to the needs and thoughts of people across the entire district, rural and urban alike. This includes specifically those who supported Walden and the Trump administration, only to be abandoned in a string of policies that hurt farmers, ranchers, Tribes and environmentalists alike. Even more than always, this is a year for pragmatism and inclusion, not partisan dogma.

Pragmatism also means that the eventual primary winner should actively tap on the diverse strengths of the other six candidates: They are stronger together, as they complement each other. Regardless of the outcome of the primary, I also hope that all candidates take advantage of the momentum they generated to remain civically engaged through local boards, the state legislature or otherwise. Each has much to offer to affect change in the political ‘status quo’ of a district and country that would greatly benefit from more dialogue and inclusivity, less partisanship and better representation in Congress.

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