Eight Democrats have filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Greg Walden in the May 15 election.

HOLLY M. GILL - Dr. Jennifer 'Jenni' Neahring, of Bend, is among a slate of Democratic challengers who have filed for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's seat.A slate of Democratic challengers will be on the May 15 ballot for the position of U.S. representative for the 2nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Greg Walden.

One of those candidates, Dr. Jennifer "Jenni" Neahring, of Bend, stopped by Madras Feb. 28, for a visit and to attend a meeting of Jefferson County Democrats.

Neahring, 51, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has spent 17 years as a nephrologist — a kidney doctor — and another six years as a palliative care physician, with 19 of those years spent working at Salem Hospital, in Salem.

"I'm on a leave of absence while I run for Congress," said Neahring, who still fills in at the Salem Hospital when needed.

Concerns about health care spurred her decision to run for office. "I had served on a hospital board in Salem, focused on how do we bring down health care costs and make it more affordable, but also more patient-centered?" she said. "We were looking at ways to support someone when they got back home. We wanted to do much more of that."

After examining health care programs nationally and internationally, Neahring said that she felt that getting into homes to help people was important. "Community health workers are highly effective in keeping people healthy and keeping them in their own homes and bringing down health care costs."

"CCOs (Coordinated Care Organizations) have been doing that, but we need to do it on a national level," she said.

Since Neahring moved to Bend six years ago, she has been on contract with Salem Hospital. "I know how difficult is is to be in the individual health care market," she said.

Rather than looking at issues from a partisan standpoint, Neahring would like to take a different approach. "If I'm going to serve in Congress, I have to represent everybody in the district, not just the people who voted for me," she said. "The labels of Republican and Democrat are splitting people more, as opposed to just talking about the issues."

Infrastructure is another issue Neahring would like to address. "We were expecting something grand, but what we got is nothing grand," she said, referring to the Trump administration's $200 billion infrastructure plan, unveiled last month, which has uncertain funding.

"We are needing to focus on universal broadband, because we know we're going to need that for educational opportunities, small business opportunities and even telemedicine," she said. "I'd also like to see the infrastructure plan take into account what we need for renewable energy five, 10, 20 years in the future."

"Technology for renewable energy needs to grow, but we need to look at how we store it," said Neahring. "The limitations right now are when it's really windy, you generate a lot of wind power; if we're able to store it, we'll be able to be a lot more energy independent."

Her other concerns relate to education and educational opportunities that prepare kids for the jobs of the future — "primarily, being able to continue learning and learn new skills as technology changes," she said.

Neahring attended college and medical school from 1983-89, at Northwestern University, in Chicago, where she first earned a Bachelor of Science in Medicine, and then graduated from medical school. She spent five years in a residency and fellowship program at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, specializing in kidney disease and nephrology, before practicing for four years in Williamsburg, Iowa, while her former husband trained in ophthalmology.

She and her former husband moved to Salem in 1998, where she worked in her own practice affiliated with the hospital, and her husband was an ophthalmologist. They have two daughters, Lila, 24, and Aja, 26.

In her spare time, she enjoys rock climbing, mountain climbing, mountain biking, paddleboarding, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, hiking and backpacking.

"In Bend, I hardly ever take my car out," said Neahring, an outdoor enthusiast. "I leave it in the garage."

Other Democratic candidates include Jim Crary, of Ashland, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Timothy White, both of Bend, Eric Burnette, of Hood River, Michael Byrne, of Parkdale, and Raz Mason, of The Dalles.

No Republicans have filed to challenge Walden.

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