Unlike Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and the late John McCain, Rep. Greg Walden has chosen the path of divisiveness, Jamie McLeod-Skinner told listeners at a Sept. 26 town hall meeting in the Canyon City Community Hall.
The Democratic candidate for Oregon’s Second Congressional District, one of the largest in the U.S., McLeod-Skinner faces an uphill battle to defeat Walden, who has won re-election nine times in a row. She said she put 41,000 miles on her car campaigning across Eastern Oregon.
McLeod-Skinner accused Walden of failing to address the issues constituents are concerned about and being a top recipient of campaign donations from the health care industry.
Three core issues cut straight across all Eastern Oregon counties, she said — access to health care, improved educational opportunities and “putting food on the table.” Solving these issues starts with good ideas and building consensus, she said.
McLeod-Skinner suggested consolidating insurance companies and negotiating pharmaceutical prices to deal with skyrocketing health care costs. She noted that for rural residents in Eastern Oregon, access to health care means more than cost — it also means physical proximity. She called for retaining Obamacare and addressing specific problems in the affordable care program.
Equipped with an engineering degree, a master’s in regional planning and a law degree, McLeod-Skinner was a reconstruction and water program manager in war-torn Bosnia and Kosovo and an environmental planner for the Santa Clara Valley Water District for five years.
In response to submitted questions, McLeod-Skinner promised to hold annual town halls across the district as well as using Skype to hold debates with students.
She said she wants to keep youths informed but also restore confidence in government.
For too long, Democrats have focused on issues originating in urban areas while Republicans focused on helping big business, she said. To achieve results in Washington, D.C., representatives needed to develop consensus about an issue, talk to experts and then get legislation passed. She said Congress should push back on the Trump administration’s tariffs, which were hurting agriculture.
McLeod-Skinner emphasized the importance of bringing broadband internet to rural counties to provide educational opportunities and promote economic development. Large data centers have been established in Prineville, she said, adding that she has maintained her connections with people in Silicon Valley.
Eastern Oregon can boast about its quality of life, but it lacks good housing and internet access, she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, which changed campaign finance regulations for corporations, has had a major impact on the U.S., McLeod-Skinner said. One reason so many people distrust government is the belief that money is influencing government decisions, she said. Her campaign is not as well funded as Walden’s, which will become evident soon, she noted.
McLeod-Skinner supports proactive steps to address climate change. Her focus has been on promoting renewable energy, but other creative opportunities exist to lessen human impacts, she said. Even if other nations won’t step up and take steps to address climate change, the U.S. should at least address its own impacts, she said.
When asked about forest management, McLeod-Skinner said she supports the collaborative stewardship work of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners and the formal review process that federal land agencies follow.
Recognizing public frustration and divisiveness over issues, McLeod-Skinner said officials in Washington, D.C., should not micromanage the nation’s natural resources. Listening to each other’s opinions and agreeing to disagree is better than shouting at each other and not working together, she said.
McLeod-Skinner and Walden will debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 5, along with Independent candidate Mark Roberts.
Eastern Oregon residents can stream the debate on ktvz.com and can submit questions to the candidates on the station’s website at ktvz.com/share.