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Dist. 52 candidates make their case

This story has been updated. The print version of this story mistakenly included several responses from candidates that exceeded the given word limit.

Oregon House District 52 is up for grabs and three candidates are vying for the seat. The position represents Hood River, Sandy, Corbett, Estacada, and parts of Gresham.

Voters will have their say on the May 17 Primary Election ballot, which is already reaching households.

IT’S BEST TO VOTE EARLY

The Primary Election ballots were mailed last week and should have arrived in each voter’s mailbox by now. If you have not received your ballot, call county Elections at 541-386-1442.

Election Day is May 17 but all voters who mail their ballots are urged to do so earlier than usual — by May 10, to ensure it gets to the county in time. Ballots must arrive at the county — either the drop box at Sixth and State or the one at Cascade Locks City Hall — by 8 p.m. May 17. Postmarks do not count.

Hood River News asked all three candidates — Mark Johnson (R-Hood River), Mark Reynolds (D-Odell) and Walt Trandum (D-Sandy) — why they’re running, why they feel qualified for the job, and what constituents can expect under their leadership.

We asked each candidate the following:

  1. Why are you running?
  2. How are you qualified to represent Dist. 52?
  3. Concisely state your three primary goals for your first/next term in office.
  4. How should the Legislature deal with the PERS crisis?
  5. How should the Legislature respond to the problem of failing infrastructure?
  6. Social services and schools seem to get pitted against each other every budget cycle. What are your plans for providing adequate and stable funds for the programs?
  7. What is an area that Oregon government is not involved in, or insufficiently so?
  8. What is an area that Oregon government SHOULD NOT be involved in, and is?
  9. What is, and should be, the relationship between financial campaign support and the conducting of public policy?
  10. Who are your main financial supporters?

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MARK REYNOLDS

MARK REYNOLDS

(D-Odell)

  1. I’m running to invest in quality schools, support our small businesses and agriculture, and build healthy communities with affordable housing, clean air and water, and well-maintained infrastructure.
  2. I grew up on a farm in the Columbia Gorge. I’m a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in teaching. I have served on the Wasco County Commission on Children and Families and was appointed to the Migrant Education Committee of Practitioners. I have active experience managing public funds and working for the public good.
  3. My goals are to fully-fund our public schools, to increase jobs skills training programs, and to address the rising cost of higher education.
  4. PERS, like all investment funds, is a moving target. After the crash of 2007, the PERS unfunded liability was $17 billion dollars. A few years later, it was reduced by half by gains in the stock market. The courts have consistently supported the PERS contractual obligation to employees in lieu of wage improvements. We have to keep our promise to PERS earners. If there are ways we can save money and reduce the unfunded liability that are legal and fair, I have not seen them yet. I’m open to considering all reasonable proposals to manage PERS.
  5. The problem of failing infrastructure has accumulated over the past decades and, because we haven’t addressed it, it has come to a crisis point. Our old school buildings are difficult to service and maintain, and are not energy efficient. The state has offered matching grants to districts that will support construction levies. That is a step forward. However, our roads and bridges are in need of repair and replacement. We know that Oregon has the lowest business taxes in the U.S. Large out-of-state corporations depend on quality schools, roads, and bridges but are not paying their fair share.
  6. It’s our obligation to provide critical services for the most vulnerable Oregonians and to fund our schools to ensure our economic future. We have been borrowing on that future and not investing in our schools and communities. This is a problem that, like failing infrastructure, accumulated over decades of neglect. We can immediately address the lack of funding for critical social services and schools by making sure that corporations pay their fair share. In the long term, we need to design an equitable revenue system in Oregon, one that is fair to working families, small businesses, and agriculture.
  7. We have seen many problems in public accountability. We haven’t adequately monitored problem areas, like protecting our air and water from pollution.
  8. Independent business people are concerned about special privileges for large corporations. Oregon government should not add to the burdens on small businesses.
  9. Increasingly, shadow groups donate large amounts of money to candidates and that is a threat to our democracy. I believe campaign contributions should be transparent and regulated. As huge amounts of cash are infused into elections, the risk of corruption and malfeasance increases. Our legal and electoral systems should not be bought and sold, but serve the public good.
  10. The campaign depends on the many small contributions of friends, neighbors, and supporters. We have received over 75 individual donations of $100 or less. We have received larger contributions from individuals and organizations, none exceeding $2,500, which include Service Employees International Union 503, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and House Speaker Tina Kotek.

Bio

I grew up on a farm in the Columbia Gorge and live near Odell with my wife Mary, a kindergarten teacher. After college, I managed Migrant Education and after school programs in Wasco County for 13 years, then taught at Hood River Valley High School and Cascade Locks High School.

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WALT TRANDUM

WALT TRANDUM

(D-Sandy)

  1. I am running for State Representative to show that people don’t need to take large amounts money from powerful special interests to get themselves elected. I have become convinced that the influence of big money on our elected representatives is the single biggest threat to the quality of our lives.
  2. Volunteering with numerous local campaigns over the last 15 years, I came to realize that as long as we allow powerful special interests to fund the campaigns of our elected representatives, we can never win. It doesn’t matter who we elect, as long as they used big money to get themselves elected, they are unable to effectively represent us. By not taking any big money, I am the only candidate qualified to actually do so.
  3. My most important goal is passing a constitutional amendment that money is not free speech. My second priority will be changing the tax structure to something much more progressive, allowing those that can best afford it to fund more of our tax burden. Then full funding of public education next.
  4. I am not an expert on the so called PERS crisis, but I feel the issue has been used as a political football by people that don’t really have our best interests in mind. I am in favor of rewarding public service employees with good retirement benefits, and feel a well-compensated public sector, including its retirees, provide a solid, stable foundation to our economy. They continue to purchase goods and services during boom times and bust. The legislature needs to focus on funding their obligations in this area, and stop scapegoating public employees for their inability to make ends meet.
  5. Until we get big money’s influence out of our legislature, we will not be able to effectively address issues like crumbling infrastructure. As long as our elected are under the influence of big money, comprehensive solutions to these kinds of problems will remain politically undoable. Our political apparatus has been effectively hijacked and the burden of paying for things such as needed infrastructure upgrades has been inappropriately placed on those who are least able to afford it. As long private interests are allowed to finance the campaigns of our elected officials, we will have compromised representation and inadequate public policy.
  6. Social services and schools should never be pitted against each other. Both deserve adequate funding. Stagnant wages are one of many factors putting increased pressure on existing social services. Perhaps we should consider subsidizing wages in some cases, rather than profits, and see if that helps. Schools are already woefully underfunded. For any of this to change for the better, we must attack the actual root of the problem, the influence of big money in our current political system. Big money has no intention of paying for the infrastructures they benefit from, as long as they control the legislative process.
  7. Oregon’s government is insufficiently involved in the management of its sport fishing and hunting resources. Skyrocketing fees and continuously decreasing opportunities for success are unacceptable.
  8. Oregon’s government should not be giving away huge tax breaks to large profitable corporations that demand such incentives to move to or stay in Oregon.
  9. The current relationship between financial campaign support and the conducting of public policy in Oregon is ludicrous at best, and everyone knows it. Allowing unlimited campaign donations and even lobbyists to give campaign contributions to candidates is ridiculous, and yet we have been conditioned to accept this as somehow inevitable. This kind of corruption, along with the rampant use of the politics of divisiveness, have degraded and compromised our political process so that it can no longer be counted on to protect our interests. Things we don’t want continue to become law while things we need remain off the table.
  10. My main financial supporters are the good citizens of House District 52. My campaign only accepts campaign cash from people that actually live in our district, and then only in increments of $50 or less per individual, per year. I believe that only people that can actually vote for or against a candidate or ballot measure should be allowed to contribute money to that candidate measure. We accept no outside, corporate or big money of any kind. Although very pro-union, I don’t accept cash donations (or endorsements) from unions or any other interest groups, of any kind. Our in-kind contribution policy is slightly less restrictive, in that we do allow some friends and supporters from both inside and outside of the district to donate some goods and services to the campaign, as long as no actual money was exchanged. A complete itemized listing of all of our contributions and expenditures, is available at on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website.

Bio

My wife Karen and I live in a small double-wide on five acres outside of Sandy, Oregon. Married 36 years, we have three children and six grandchildren, two dogs, three cats and several chickens. I discovered I had a talent for caregiving at the age of 19 and have never stopped.

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MARK JOHNSON

MARK JOHNSON

(R-Hood River)

  1. It’s an honor to represent House District 52, and over the last three terms, I have worked hard to make our needs a top priority in Salem. I’ve been a leader in education policy, allocated funding to protect the Gorge environment, and I always put the priorities of our community over politics. I will continue to support legislation that represents what we need right here in House District 52, and not be beholden to an agenda.
  2. It’s been an honor to represent House District 52, and over the last three terms, I have worked hard to make our needs a top priority in Salem. I’ve been a leader in education policy, allocated funding to protect the Gorge environment, and I always put the priorities of our community over politics. I will continue to vote for legislation that represents what we need right here in House District 52, and not be beholden to an agenda.
  3. In the legislative session, I will continue to work for stable, adequate funding for public education, ensure success of the Oregon Promise to improve college access and affordability and work for a comprehensive transportation package that addresses statewide needs and also contains funding for needed transportation investment in the Gorge.
  4. In the next biennium PERS costs in Hood River County School District will increase by $1.6 million. Future years will likely see similar increases unless something is done to reduce the unfunded liability of the program. It’s vitally important for the governor and legislature to come together in the next session to consider what can legally be done in order to protect our classrooms and social programs from further budget cuts.
  5. There is no question that Oregon needs to pass a major transportation package in the next session. Many of our roads and bridges are not adequate for our current population and need structural repairs. Any package must provide benefits to all sectors of the state. I will work with my colleagues on the transportation committee to ensure that transportation priorities in the Gorge are a part of any final package.
  6. The amount of general funding that is allocated to public education each biennium is a matter of choice for the legislature. In my three terms in the legislature I have consistently supported devoting a greater percentage of the budget to education and locking in that funding level so that our educators can plan on a certain level each year. In addition, I support policies that will help businesses to grow and employ more people so that we can have more tax revenue to fund our social programs.
  7. Oregon needs to take proactive role in developing safe, recreational tourism and remove barriers to growth. With growth, we can re-invest in our local communities.
  8. Refrain from regulations on issues better managed locally. For example, stand-up paddleboards on the Columbia shouldn’t be regulated the same way as boats.
  9. Oregon has one of the most transparent campaign finance systems in the nation that requires all political contributions and expenditures to be a matter of public record within a defined timeframe. I believe the issues of campaign finance reform should be addressed nationally. I voted for House Joint Memorial 201 in the February session that called for a national convention of states to amend the constitution regarding campaign finance. House Speaker Tina Kotek had the final say in allowing the bill advance, and stopped it in spite of bipartisan support.
  10. I believe my largest financial supporters in the campaign are Associated General Contractors. They are a private sector organization that represents both union and non-union contractors that perform a wide variety of construction across Oregon.

Bio

As a Hood River native, husband, father and local small business owner, I understand our community —why we love it, the challenges we face, what makes us unique and how we should be represented. My 11 years on the school board have provided me with a depth of understanding of public education that enables me to be an effective policy maker in Salem while advocating for the best interests of our local district. In my three terms in the House I have built strong bipartisan relationships that enable me to be an effective part of the legislative process.

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