Saturday, March 25, 2006
By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
March 8, 2006
Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, recently visited Hood River to enlist citizen help with his “grassroots” gubernatorial campaign.
He has made numerous other trips to the Gorge; earlier in life as a professional ski racer and, in recent years, on outings with his wife, Stephanie, and 3-year-old son, Perry.
But this time Atkinson wasn’t driving through the valley to enjoy the scenic vistas. He had come to enlist the help of local volunteers in his challenge against incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski. After eight years in the Legislature, he has concluded that only a partisan turnover in leadership will ever lead to any notable reform.
“I believe this state is ripe for change and I can turn it in a new direction. The Democrats haven’t had a good idea in years and that’s broken the confidence of the people,” he said.
Atkinson expects a lot of opposition from special interest groups since he wants to “break their monopoly” in the halls of Salem. He is relying on support from citizens who also want to see Oregon’s government change the way that it does business.
“I think it is wrong that special interests have more power and influence in Salem than the voters and the people who represent them,” he said. “I want to return the power to the people. They feel disconnected and they’re fed up.”
If elected, the Jackson County resident will focus on repealing the capital gains tax to attract more businesses, and better protect children from sexual predators with stiffer penalties. In addition, he wants to control illegal immigration by blocking their access to driver’s licenses, voter registration, and other state services.
Although most of his proposals are also supported by other Republicans, Atkinson said that he has the edge on simple and workable answers to most of the challenges facing the state.
For example, he said the most immediate way to give schools more certainty about funding levels is to require that an education budget be set within the first 80 days of each session. It is unfair, said Atkinson, to require that schools approve a budget based largely on guesswork by July 1 because the legislature is still haggling over issues every biennium.
Even though he is the youngest contender at age 35, Atkinson sees that as a plus. He said his long track record in public service and his success as the founder of Allmand Tree Creative, which specializes in corporate marketing strategies and training business leaders, speak for themselves.
In political circles, he’s viewed as a devout conservative who possesses an independent streak when it comes to environmental protection.
“I’ve got youth and passion on my side and there are a lot of people in my generation that don’t see Oregon moving where they want it to go,” he said.
In 1998, just 366 days after completing his master’s in business administration from Willamette University, Atkinson won a contested primary election for his senate seat. He said the odds were against him because he was out-spent nearly four to one in that race. Therefore, he is undaunted about taking on the state’s lead official — or any other contenders.
“If you’re not in it to change the world you’re no different than what you’re trying to replace,” said Atkinson. “People want to believe again, they want to be respected again and I can give them that.”
For more information about his campaign platform, go to: