County candidates join hopefuls for governor and Second Congressional District Tuesday

INTERNET PHOTO - The 2018 primary election is May 15.Ten candidates for a variety of political races this primary election met the public Tuesday evening during a Central Oregon Patriots-hosted forum.

The two-and-a-half-hour event drew three of the 11 candidates for Oregon's Second Congressional District and four of the 17 people running for governor. In addition, some candidates who are running unopposed in the primary attended. Mike McLane, House District 55 Representative, briefly addressed the crowd of about 50 people as did Crook County Commissioner candidate Brian Barney and County Clerk Cheryl Seely.

Crook County Assessor candidate Jon Soliz spoke at the event as well, but due to a family medical emergency, his opponent and incumbent, Brian Huber, was unable to attend.

The gubernatorial candidates took the floor first as each candidate was given time to introduce themselves and discuss the issues before fielding written questions that were submitted in advance.

Republican Bruce Cuff told the audience that his biggest issue is the PERS system.

"The PERS system is broken," he said. "We need to get all of the elected officials out of PERS."

Cuff went on to advocate for decreased business taxation, expansion of the private sector, and bringing back natural resource-based business.

Fellow Republican hopeful Brett Hyland also decried the PERS system, saying it is "gobbling up the budget and crushing everything in the state."

"All services and all public entities are about to suffer," he said.

Jeff Smith, who is also running for the Republican Party nomination, said the only way to get a Republican governor elected is to flip 100,000 Multnomah County voters who supported Kate Brown.

"You have to get them to do something radically different than they did 18 months ago, or Kate Brown will get re-elected," he said.

Smith went on to say that addressing conventional Republican issues won't work and will fail to resonate with those voters.

"There are four issues that will work," he continued, "lowering the cost of health care, lowering the cost of medical insurance, fixing our K-12 education system and (fixing) homelessness. I'm the radical who can turn those voters."

Independent Party candidate Patrick Starnes, meanwhile, frequently spoke out against campaign finance reform, pledging to fix the problem if elected.

"We have got to get big money out of politics," he said. "We can't do the other things we want to do until we get big money out of politics."

Second Congressional District candidates later took the stage, where they addressed issues ranging from health care to government spending to the Second Amendment. In attendance were Paul Romero, a Prineville resident who hopes to secure the Republican nomination over incumbent Greg Walden, and Democratic candidates Tim White, of Bend, and Eric Burnette.

All three candidates criticized Walden for his accessibility in recent years, all of them essentially saying the Congressman doesn't pick up his phone.

"You can't represent people you can't relate to," Romero said, before pointing out that his campaign literature includes his personal phone number that he will answer.

Issues Romero hopes to tackle if elected include Social Security and the Endangered Species Act and its impact on natural resource-based jobs.

"Congress owes about $4 trillion back to (the Social Security) fund," he said. "Congress needs to put that $4 trillion back."

Regarding the current state of the timber industry, Romero said that he would like to either make significant adjustments to the Endangered Species Act or repeal it entirely.

Burnette said the primary focus of his candidacy is health care, insisting that it is time to make it available to all citizens.

"The way we are delivering health care now is probably the worst possible way we could conceive of to do it," he said, adding that the Affordable Care Act has helped some people but has not done enough.

White included health care as one of his three campaign focuses. He said that 160,000 people in the Second Congressional District do not have health insurance because of the ACA, but he does not support a full repeal of the act.

"We need to fix the ACA," he said. "Not throw it out."

White's other main focuses center on paying for the new federal tax bill without making cuts to Social Security and Medicare and bring higher-paying jobs to the Second Congressional District.

"Fourteen of our 20 counties have less employment than 10 years ago," he said. "What has come back since the Great Recession? Most of the jobs have been service level jobs that do not pay a livable wage. I believe we need to bring back manufacturing."

Later, the candidates were asked about their view of the Second Amendment and whether or not they support it. Romero's answer was brief, saying that the language in the amendment is very simple and direct.

"Shall not infringe," he quoted. "It stands where it is. We need to stop reinterpreting it and stop letting people reinterpret it."

White, by contrast, said that the Second Amendment should be interpreted in a way that reflects the technology and firepower of the present.

"The great thing about the Constitution is that it was a brilliant document written in the most vaguest of terms. It was done intentionally by some pretty brilliant people who knew times were going to change."

White did not single out any particular firearm or type of gun that should face restriction, but instead stressed that too many people are dying from gun violence.

Burnette agreed, acknowledging that if he was given the choice, he would ban assault weapons.

"But I don't know if that is actually going to work," he continued, noting that mass murders in public schools and other public places results in fewer deaths than armed robbery, suicide or accidental gun-inflicted deaths.

"The goal for me is to see the gun deaths in this country go down by two thirds," he said.

County Assessor candidate Soliz was the last candidate to speak at the forum and though his opponent, Huber, was unable to attend the event, Soliz took the time to present his platform and field some questions related to his philosophy on tax assessment.

"My campaign is about you," he stressed, noting that people have asked him if he will listen to them and act on their concerns. "I represent all of you, and it will be my job to do that fairly."

Soliz went on to say that he would roll back business property audits if elected. He pointed out that Huber instituted the in-person audits about two years ago in favor of the self-reporting system that existed prior. Soliz said he contacted the assessors for each of the 36 counties, and few of them said they conduct on-site business property inspections.

"That is not the state norm," he stated. "The norm is self-reporting."

The 2018 primary election will take place on May 15 and ballots will be mailed out to voters on April 25.

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