A solid track record and a Republican presence in the Oregon delegations are among the reasons U.S. Rep. Greg Walden lists as to why he is deserving of a ninth term as Oregon’s Second District House Representative.
What follows is a Q-and-A with the candidate, edited for length.
(Ballots for the Nov. 6 election must be in the hands of the County Elections Department by 8 p.m. Tuesday; postmarks will not count. Also, remember to sign your ballot and drop it off at any county Elections Office, including the Hood River County office at Sixth and State streets, or at Cascade Locks City Hall.)
'I changed my mind': Town Hall unlikely
Rep. Greg Walden was also asked when he will schedule a 2018 town hall in Hood River County, as he had vowed to do, and why has one not been scheduled before now.
Greg Walden: We’ll see if we get it done before the end of the year. We may not. My intent was to do one, but frankly, we decided going in a election year, it was not the most productive thing we can do.
HRN: Why is that?
GW: Town halls are important, but there are so many other ways we interact with people in today’s modern world. I’ve had 70,000 people participating in telephone town halls, and we have answered 129,500 phone calls emails and letters. Being available is what is important. How often has the governor held town halls in Hood River?
HRN: Not sure, but unlike you, she has not promised to hold one a year in every county in the district.
GW: But what we found was the town halls were being weaponised by the Indivisible and Resistance movements.
HRN: So I hear you saying that a town hall in Hood River County this year is probably not going to happen.
GW: That’s correct.
HRN: Even though you had promised to do so?
GW: I changed my mind.
HRN: Why are you running again?
Greg Walden: I like to solve problems and bring people together and I have a solid track record of doing that. I passed more legislation into law than any member of the Oregon delegation, and had more bills across the House floor. I’m in a position to make a positive difference for the country, whether it’s opioids to helping veterans to dealing with forest policy, to dealing with farmers and ranchers, and I am uniquely positioned to make a real difference.
HRN: Based on the issues, why are you a better choice than your opponent?
GW: I have a long history in the district. I’ve lived all my life in Hood River or The Dalles, I’m still a small business owner, I know the issues and people, and I‘m the only Republican in the delegation; I have strong contracts with cabinet, officers, and I brought them to Oregon and they have seen the issues first hand, and we have worked hand in hand. If we go all blue, I don’t think it will be the same kind of representation for the Second District.
I have been there long enough to develop a lot of positive relations on both sides of the aisle as we have moved bipartisan legislation. We’ve had 129 bills out of the Energy and Commerce committee, 92 percent of them were bipartisan and most of them passed unanimously. I have (a) proven record of getting things done.
HRN: What specifically do you have in mind for job creation and economic development in Oregon’s second district?
GW: I think it comes down to two things: I’ve been working on issues relating to connectivity of broadband in the rural areas of the district, where not all places have a lot of access to high-speed fiber options. To improve healthcare and the economy, we need to close the digital divide. So moving on the telecommunications side is important.
Fixing forest management is critical to the economy … in Ashland, for example, there were significant layoffs at Oregon Shakespeare Festival due to the wildfire smoke. You see it throughout the district, not only the adverse health affects, but cancellation of major sporting and entertainment events and (in 2017) Cycle Oregon.
What we did in (federal) tax cuts made a big difference, such as cutting the beer tax in half, which is creating jobs and allowing these breweries to invest in expansion. In Klamath Falls, I’ll be hosting the Secretary of the Air Force, his first time at Kingsley Field, that’s where they train F15 pilots, and that aircraft is old and broken and needs to be phased out, so we’re trying to focus on the F35 and, if we don’t, that base is at great risk of reduction. In Prineville, we are working on expansion of data centers and getting sufficient power for the centers. Officials from the city and PacifiCorp and other manufacturers there say they are about to run out of available electricity. Whether it’s the agricultural base, or dealing with tariff issues, or data centers, it’s about how do we bring communities and power companies together to resolve issues.
HRN: Are you a more effective leader than 15 years ago, and why?
GW: I’m more effective than I was. You learn along the way, some from your mistakes, and I’ve made my share over time, but you gain a deeper and deeper understanding of the issues and the needs. I’ve made 599 round trips to the district, I’m in the community all the time whenever we’re not in session in Washington. I’m a leader of one of the more powerful committees (Energy and Commerce), with responsibility for health care, energy, food safety, communications, and others. I’ve developed really strong relationships with the people who are running those affected agencies; developed a deep understanding of the policy issue relating to them. It ends up being about relationships, you’ve got to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
HRN: Explain your actions and reasons on revisions to the ACA:
GW: One of the promises of ACA is that premiums would go down $2,500 and that never happened; we’ve looked for ways we could affect individual market to bring down premiums. Our ideas in that regard were similar to what was successful in some states, where can (we) bring down costs, regarding individual markets, though that amounts to only 7 percent of those who have insurance. We’re trying to adjust the federal share of expansion on Medicare; I pushed back against full repeal and pushed for staying on trying to transition an expanded population onto affordable insurance that would be highly subsidized.
The bill we passed in the House leaned a little farther right than I would have liked, and we knew that, but it never got to conference committee to get to a more polished product. We have what we have.
HRN: What causes climate change and what is the federal government’s role in dealing with the problem? Do you agree with the Trump Administration’s roll-back of environmental restrictions and on the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Accord?
GW: Humans contribute and there are natural conditions that contribute; we’ve had thermometers 300 years and they have shown that. The question is how do we measure it, what can we do that’s in our country’s interests? We’ve done more than most countries in switching from coal to natural gas. We need more active forest management, comprehensive forest management, if you can reduce emissions from wildfire, you can make a difference, especially on fine particulates and carbon monoxide. The are lots of things we can do. As for the president walking away from Paris Accord, obviously that was his decision, but it had never gotten to the Senate for ratification as a treaty.
HRN: Aside from its status, not as a treaty, the accord was something the president saw fit to make a point of taking the U.S. out of.
GW: The question is what can we do to reduce, irrespective of a treaty or what can other countries do. Many countries are having trouble meeting their goals. Our carbon levels are below where they were in 1995. I think we should invest in new technologies; for example, I have advocated for advanced battery storage which will improve solar power. There are things we can be doing in U.S. that are far better than taxing consumers or entering into agreements internationally that might hurt our economy.
HRN: The number of American troops heading to the Mexico border has just gone up to 15,000. What do you have to say about President Trump’s response to the “invasion” by immigrants, and comment on the president’s move to deny birthright citizenship to some people.
GW: We passed legislation earlier this year to add additional security to the border so we don’t have people flooding across, so we could have controlled entry points; legislation I voted for allowed (for documentation) for 1.8 million people under the DACA program, and for a guest worker program, for agriculture.
We cannot have a situation where people from other countries just flood across our border. That presents all kinds of issues. I talk to a lot of people who are following the rules to seek legal immigration status, and a lot of them get frustrated by people who do not (follow the rules.)