Jamie McLeod-Skinner has spent the last year doing what she believes all government officials should be doing: Traveling throughout her district to meet with constituents.
Earlier this week, she stopped by Dog River Coffee in downtown Hood River to hear from people in the area and give voters the chance to get to know who she is as she vies for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-Ore.) post in Congress.
“I always like the opportunity to have folks … in a public space and people can ask whatever and get a little bit of background on the race, on me, and that kind of thing,” McLeod-Skinner said. “And then also I get to hear about people’s concerns, issues that people are identifying and things that people worry about in different areas.”
McLeod-Skinner lives in Terrebonne, an unincorporated community north of Redmond, considers herself a “rural Democrat,” which she defines as “someone who is just much more pragmatic and is absolutely committed to working …with everyone, with all these party affiliations, to see how can we take care of local problems.”
She strives to find non-partisan solutions that serve communities rather than political parties, she said. When she stops at county fairs along her campaign, she’ll often go up to the local Republican Party’s booth and introduce herself, she said.
Once when she did this, a man in the iconic red “Make American Great Again” cap came up to her “looking for a verbal sparing match,” she said, but after a few minutes of conversation, they were able to find common ground and build a connection upon that.
“People are sick of the fighting, sick of the screaming match. People are nervous about the direction our country’s going, and nervous about the undermining of some of the institutions of democracy,” she said.
“We both have our different party affiliations and we’ll have different opinions on policy matters, but when it comes to focusing on care for our families, care for our communities … it’s what I refer to as Oregon values … so it goes beyond party affiliation.”
Though government does have a responsibility to help locals solve problems, she said, politicians in Washington, D.C., “should not be micromanaging for folks on the ground” because those people on the ground know what’s best for their communities, more so than politicians across the country.
The compromise, she said, is forming partnerships with local organizations.
“What’s really wonderful about these partnerships,” she said, “is when you sit down at the table, there are folks in it from across the political spectrum. It’s not about politics, it’s about bringing folks together to solve the common challenges that we have.”
In Hood River and Wasco counties, those challenges include housing costs, education, energy, water, immigration and economic development in rural areas, among others.
She views public resources as an investment, she said, adding that investing in resources like education are an investment in the whole community.
Her focus, she said, is on fixing broken systems like Veteran’s Affairs, healthcare, education and immigration. And though she has ideas on how she thinks these systems can be fixed, she said her job isn’t so much to come up with ideas herself, but to listen to her constituents.
“The best policies are not really prescriptive. You want to sit down with folks and really tap into the wisdom in the room and figure out what people want to accomplish and help them accomplish that,” she said. “My job is to absorb the insights and wisdom from folks on the ground and craft that into good legislation and get that legislation passed.”
That back and forth between the representative and the represented, she said, is something that Walden has failed to do.
“The frustration that I’m hearing with folks — even in rural areas now — is the fact that they’ll read in the paper the next day that he (Walden) has been there. He’ll have a private meeting and he’ll be gone and people won’t even know he was there, people don’t have a chance to meet with him. That’s not a way to represent folks,” she said. A representative’s job, she added, is to show up, and Walden’s failure to do that shows a “lack of leadership.”
“I’ll be the first to say, I think when he (Walden) first got there, I thought he was doing a good job,” she said, but as time went by, she said, Walden has become more focused on party-politics than the needs of his constituents.
“So, what I think voters are looking for is someone who gets the issues, someone who shows up,” McLeod -Skinner said. “It’s about your constituents, that’s who you should be serving.”
For more information on McLeod-Skinner and her campaign, visit jamiefororegon.com.