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Blackburn explores candidacy

Changing the system motivates local resident to run for state House

October 5, 2005

Jumping from an appointed Hood River City Council seat into the state House race is a pretty big leap.

But Paul Blackburn believes the time has come to make that political stretch.

He contends that Oregon leaders are not making the right budgetary decisions. And public education, health care and the environment are suffering as a result of their inaction.

“My sense is that there are quite a lot of folks who would rather see things going differently in Salem. And some of these priorities aren’t being paid enough attention to,” said Blackburn, a full-time father.

With both of his daughters, Althea, 9, and Rosalie, 5, now in school, Blackburn has time to dedicate toward a higher office. He is willing to come out of relative obscurity to challenge incumbent Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, if he can mount enough grassroots support.

To get feedback about his viability as a candidate, Blackburn has decided to file for candidacy as a Democrat by petition. That means that he has to collect the lesser of 500 signatures from supporters in his own party or 2 percent of the votes cast from last year’s presidential election.

The easier path for Blackburn would have been paying $25 and just filling out a declaration form with the state. However, he wanted to learn more about the concerns of the electorate before throwing his hat in the ring for the District 52 seat.

“Filing by petition just is a great process because it gives me a chance to get out and hear from folks,” said Blackburn. “This is a very diverse district so I’m enjoying walking, talking and listening to make sure I’m looking out for the best interests of the people that I would represent.”

Although he has not decided upon a specific campaign platform, Blackburn is ready to speak out about the need to reform the school funding system.

“Education is really important. I think stabilizing school funding is critical for creating the world that I want my girls to grow up in,” he said.

He wants to see the 10 cents per pack cigarette tax restored to provide millions for education and health care. He said the anti-tax stand of the Republican-controlled House prevented the legislature from regaining that revenue source.

Blackburn said he and Smith also differ on environmental issues. He claims that she has earned a low ranking from the League of Conservation Voters for her stands that favor private property rights over preservation.

He believes the state has to “strike a better balance between development opportunities and resource protection.”

For example, Blackburn said Hood River city officials have found a path to protect riparian areas along the waterfront and still accommodate business growth.

Under the custom Goal 5 plan, some areas along the shoreline are designated as wildlife habitat and off-limits to building.

Other sites not suited for habitat have been designated for recreational, commercial and industrial development.

“The biggest difference between Patti and I is our votes; we’re both nice folks,” said Blackburn. “I’m still green.

As I get more experience and educate myself further into the campaign I’ll be willing to take reasoned positions on more specific issues.”

Blackburn believes that partisanship needs to be set aside at the state capitol. And special interest groups tied to big money should wield less of an influence in the decision-making process.

“There needs to be more working across the aisle to respect each other’s points of view and make the best choice for constituents,” he said.

He was appointed last November to fill the unexpired Hood River councilor term of Paul Thompson, who moved outside the city limits. Blackburn believes that experience has provided him with good insight on the role of an elected official; to serve the greater good.

However, he is no stranger to community service, having spent most of his adult life, both professionally and as a volunteer, helping others.

Blackburn, who holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative religion from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, has acted as president of the local United Way chapter for two years.

He was formerly a staffer at Samaritan House in San Mateo, Calif., and worked in America’s Second Harvest Food Bank in the same area.

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