Jamie McLeod-Skinner is running for the chance to provide what she feels is a fresh perspective and new energy in Congress on behalf of House District Two. She is running against what she believes to be a lackluster and partisan record by the office-holder, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) and ineffective representation of his constituents.
Asked to talk
Greg Walden and his staff had not responded to invitations for a one-on-one interview with Hood River News, as his opponent has done. On Wednesday, he agreed to do so, but will not be available for an interview until Nov. 1, five days before the election.
“The fact is that we’ve lost the faith of young people in the political process, in the belief government can be a force for good in their lives, there is so much disgust with political divisiveness,” McLeod-Skinner said.
Of Walden, “It’s one thing to come back to the district and talk bipartisanship, but when supporting bills that are strictly on party lines, you’re not practicing bipartisanship.
“Young folks don’t feel listened to: Be it climate, the national debt, net neutrality, and that in their entire lifetime we have been at war, and they are asking why we can’t do a better job, and I agree. Look at the threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, based on $1.5 trillion debt. There is a lot of passion around that,” she said.
She said Walden “has talked of commitment to veterans, and there is a list of veteran support legislation he has voted against, including funding for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s one thing to talk about what you do and your direction but another thing to look at the record,” she said.
At a Oct. 16 election forum in Hood River, McLeod-Skinner tamped down the role of bipartisanship, saying, “We are united not by a common bloodline but by common beliefs,” and stated that examples of collaboration can be found throughout the Second District, pointing to broad-based efforts in Burns to address the failing water table in Harney county.
“Is groundwater Republican or Democrat?” she asked.
“There is this draining frustration over the needs of people, and votes following big corporations and PACS instead of average people,” she said. “There is a real opportunity after I am sworn in in early January to come to a consensus on big picture ideas and forge brand new ideas. It’s about pushing back on politics of D.C.”
McLeod-Skinner said that the majority of her campaign contributions come from within the district and are $100 or less, compared to Walden’s reliance on Political Action Committee (PAC) donations and Walden’s collective receipt of more than $1 million from pharmaceutical companies throughout his Congressional career.
“I vow not to take money from PACs,” McLeod-Skinner said
“Our momentum is picking up, our volunteer base has jumped to 2,600 plus,” she said. “Last weekend, we wanted to do a very aggressive, ambitious outreach to voters throughout the district and our volunteers made 100,000-plus calls. It was really a great effort.”
“Our fundraising is 65 percent from within the district, 90 percent within Oregon, average all under $100. The energy and enthusiasm on the campaign has really picked up.”
She said support “has come from across the spectrum: Independent Party, Veterans for Jamie, Republicans for Jamie, it’s all really exciting. We’re focusing on the basics.”
For McLeod-Skinner, this starts with healthcare.
“My opponent voted 50 times to repeal the ACA, without a viable solution or alternative. He said he would support pre-existing conditions, and is not,” she said. “Three-fourths of the people in this district are in farming and ranching. It’s a huge issue and I know if we look at different models, we can afford to be fiscally responsible and still provide comprehensive physical and mental healthcare.
“Regardless of party affiliation when our loved ones are sick, they want access (to healthcare). All kids need access to education, a roof over their head and food on the table. We are focusing on ideas and not the buzz words, and sending out a positive message of how we move forward together,” McLeod-Skinner said.
“With some of the things happening in D.C. and more entrenched political divisiveness, folks are concerned and want positive change. And I have gotten really a warm reception by focusing on the big picture ideas and not going negative and promoting divisiveness. I look to the needs of people and not political party,” she said.
McLeod-Skinner noted that half of people in the district are at or near the poverty line, “and it’s been a focus all along and why (we’re) focused on basics and economic development.
“I anticipate this will be an interesting election cycle with a lot of change; my initial focus will be to develop relationships and to talk about big-picture ideas and show that the ideas we’re talking about really do address needs, health care, education, economic development and, if we can get the focus on big-picture ideas, policy makers agree on the big ideas and then you bring the expert in the room to tell you the options.”
McLeod-Skinner addressed what she called Walden’s “cheap shots that raise questions about his performance, after 20 years,” citing the incumbent’s criticism of his challenger, highlighting on social media her connection to the Skinner ranch family in eastern Oregon.
“We haven’t used it as campaign thing, it was a post on Facebook, not a campaign ad,” McLeod-Skinner said of a photo she posted on the Skinner ranch.
“Instead of promoting his own accomplishments, he’s (Walden) saying stuff specific about my family and my, quote-unquote, relationship, dismissive of my relationship. My connections to the district are through my wife’s family and I had, back last fall, reached out to Bob Skinner to discuss land use issues, and saw him at Central Oregon Cattleman’s in the fall. As we were leaving, we took a picture of something to report and document the conversations I was having.
“I worked in California for a while but I’m not from California, and the contacts I have in Silicon Valley are of great interest to folks in Prineville and The Dalles, and to a drone program in Pendleton (Vahana.)
“There are all sorts of opportunities to draw in natural resources, not just in ag, water, sustainable forestry and natural resources, but also newer technologies coming in. We have those opportunities, and its about protecting resources and developing good paying jobs.”
She uses the “Stone Soup” approach to infrastructure pieces: “Government needs to know when to help out and when to get out of the way after but nurturing connections to the private sector.
“It’s saying, ‘This is your community, what’s the need, what are the resources and gaps, and how can the federal government help fill them,” McLeod-Skinner said.
“If public funds available can be used to create restrictions around costs of housing; i.e. a Santa Clara partnership between city, schools and for-profit and non-profit developers for teacher housing, a plus for school district, and the city. For any economic development there is the need to attract teachers and professionals.”
She pointed to an innovative housing program in John Day done not with federal funds, but offsetting costs, with the city offering funding and resources as a bonus to private developers.
“The city will be getting tax revenue from housing down the line, offsetting taxes, a lump sum benefit for development of housing, to be paid off in the long run.”
McLeod-Skinner decries the use of government surplus supporting the fossil fuel industry.
“We should be focusing on subsidies to encourage development of private sector, and we have opportunities throughout our district: Incentives for private sector for renewable energy are opportunities we are missing right now.”
This falls under the category of economic development, explained McLeod-Skinner, but it also addresses the challenge of increasing temperatures and global warming.
“Farmers and wheat growers in this district are concerned. This is not a liberal-conservative issue. The impacts we are facing are hurting us all. We really have to be mindful. Tariffs come to mind; they don’t want to borrow money from China for a one-year bailout. They want to sell wheat to China.
“Congress needs to be more assertive. I appreciate the president wanting to address the trade issue, but not at the cost of our farmers.”
Health care options
The ACA “at start was good but it is problematic now, with small businesses feeling the crunch, needs to be addressed.”
Her preferred model is a balance of private and non-profit sector, adding that “other developed nations are able to care for citizens at less cost than we are spending now, and I do think its important to start with big-picture ideas, to have to have an idea of what we want to accomplish.”
Healthcare access is, in McLeod-Skinner’s view, a matter of financial ability and proximity, and managing costs. “It’s care for the caregiver and covering preventive care,” she said. “The best model I’ve seen is the consolidation of the insurance market, to focus our resources on providing care and not fighting over whether or not people get treatment; the other piece is effective negotiation with big pharma; (profits) are out of control and the market is so out of control, providing healthcare is the number one cause of bankruptcy, and we are seeing people needing to make decisions on providing for their family with health care or keeping a roof over their head.
“We have family farms on the market, three-generation farms, sold to care for mom. It is sad we are at that point.”