Democratic challanger emerges for Olsen's seat
By Merari Calderon Ruiz
As the 2018 election season draws closer, Charles Gallia (Democrat) has stepped forward to challenge incumbent Alan Olsen (Republican) for Oregon State Senate District 20.
This district includes Canby, Barlow, Oregon City, Estacada, Eagle Creek, Gladstone, Redland, Boring, Johnson City, Damascus, Beavercreek and southern parts of Happy Valley.
Gallia is a fifth-generation Oregonian, born in St. Helens, but grew up in the Clackamas area. His father passed away early in his life, so his grandfather helped raise him.
After going to Portland State University for a year, he had to quit and get work to help him pay for his education. Later on, he went back to PSU and earned his bachelor's degree in political science and his Ph.D. in public administration.
For the past 17 years, Gallia has worked as a senior health policy advisor for the Oregon Health Authority.
Gallia said he has a passion for ice climbing, distance running and making different projects, big or small, such as building his house. Some accomplishments include climbing the Oregon Cascades, except for Jefferson, and completing the Silver Falls ultra-marathon.
Gallia said there are two reasons why he is running for the State Senate: One is because this district represents a combination of small cities where he lives and since the Senate completes four years in office rather than two, like in the House of Representatives, and there's less people, the role becomes more significant.
"It gives you chance to become familiar with what the issues are and be thoughtful about the future of Oregon and to make an impact," said Gallia.
The three issues in which he wants to focus on include healthcare, transportation and the economy, and the rural quality of life.
With healthcare, there is always a constant battle. Gallia said that we need to get a handle on how health care is financed for low income people and, at the same time, make sure everyone's insurance premiums don't go through the roof.
When it comes to transportation and the economy, there was a transportation bill in where Clackamas county was on a list to have funds to work on Interstate 205, for the bridge and other congestion, but Gallia said that the version that finally passed didn't meet Clackamas County's needs.
"A few years ago, there was a discussion about changing the urban growth boundary and moving that into what was clearly rural farmland and it made me concerned because the urban areas weren't being developed," said Gallia. "The pressures on the farmland and rural way of life could have been addressed just by following the rules of land use planning, but the resources weren't there to build the infrastructure that's necessary for houses and businesses in that part of the area."
Olsen will be seeking a third term as the District 20 senator.
He was born and raised in Illinois, but for the past 30 years he has lived in Canby with his wife Juanita and his two dogs. When Olsen moved to Oregon in 1978, he became a general contractor and has been building houses ever since.
He served in the military from 1969 to 1971 and later graduated from Purdue University and got his BS in Chemistry. His hobbies include playing golf and fishing and at one time he was a professional tournament bass fisherman.
He said the reason he got involved in politics was because in 2009 the state wanted to charge everyone who owned a well a $100 tax. He talked with his neighbor, who was a senator at the time, and she said the bill would never pass. Although she didn't support the bill, she still voted for it, and that stirred his passion. The next year, he ran for the Senate and won the November 2010 election.
Olsen focuses on three issues -- education, employment and efficient government.
He said he wants to continue to fight for the government to put in more money into education because great education brings great employers.
Olsen said that small businesses are the backbone of the state, but they are taxed "a ton of money and put under a lot of rules." And that prevents small entrepreneurs from moving forward.
When it comes to efficient government, the government needs to supply the people with highways, infrastructure and safety because that's their responsibility, he said. At the same time, they have to use the money on hand and not keep borrowing money.
"Anytime I vote on a bill, I look at Oregonians and what does it cost to Oregonians?" said Olsen. "That's the decision I make because I work for the people, I don't work for the party and I don't work for any union."
When he was first elected, a woman in Canby was going to get her house shut down because she was violating a lot of county rules, she called him and asked for his help. A couple years later, he was with his wife at Walgreens and that woman comes up to him, asked to give him a hug, and thanked him for saving her house.
"That's the thing that keeps me going," said Olsen. "It's the fact that you can do things for people that other people can't do."