Pair will vie for Thatcher's spot in the Senate
Political newcomers Paul Diller of Wilsonville and Sarah Grider of Newberg both bring unique backgrounds to next month's Democratic primary, but also a lot of confidence in their chances to unseat the Republican incumbent from District 13, state Sen. Kim Thatcher, in the general election this fall.
"I think the district is changing for two reasons," Diller said. "One, population growth has changed the demographics of the district and has significantly reduced any registration edge for the Republican Party. Also the enhanced motor voter law has increased the number of registered voters in the district and has also changed the party profile of the district's voters."
Both candidates threw their hats into the political ring not only because they felt like they could make a difference, but because they felt their skills and experience will make them stand out in Salem.
Grider works as an educational assistant at Newberg High School, but has served in the Army and worked in law enforcement as a public safety officer at Portland State University. She holds a bachelor's degree in communications, along with a certificate in conflict resolution and mediation from Marylhurst University and an associate's degree in criminal justice from Portland Community College.
"We keep electing people that have these traditional backgrounds that set them up to be politicians, but it's not really working out for us," Grider said. "The things that I feel like I bring to the table are the fact that I have served in the military and we are having so many vets that are slipping between the cracks, not getting the services they need, not being honored the way they should be for giving so much of their lives over to their country."
Education is a major issue for Grider and with the Newberg School District facing a budget shortfall for 2018-2019, she said she felt like she had to put her money where her mouth is, so to speak. As a senator, she would focus on bringing more stability to public school funding.
"We have a lot of big corporations that are well established that are getting tax breaks that I feel like they should be paying their fair share," Grider said.
Diller is a law professor at Willamette University, where he teaches local government, property and public health law. He previously served as a trial attorney for the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice after earning his law degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
Diller has also served on the Wilsonville Town Center and SMART Transit Master Plan task forces and is focusing his campaign on public school funding, transportation, public health and housing.
"I also, as a law professor in Salem, work right across the street from the capitol," Diller said. "I know a lot of people at the capitol. I study all the issues that the state legislature deals with and thought I could bring a fresh perspective to the capitol."
Thatcher, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary, is seeking her second term in the Oregon Senate after comfortably defeating Democrat Ryan Howard (58.5 to 41.2 percent) in 2014. Thatcher succeeded Republican Larry George, who enjoyed an even larger margin of victory (more than 25 points) against Timi Parker in 2010, but both Democratic challengers seem undeterred by the strong grip Republicans have enjoyed in District 13.
"I knock on all the doors," Grider said. "I talk to Republicans, not just Democrats, and there are a lot of Republicans who are ready for change in this district as well. It's actually surprised me quite a bit how folks are concerned about current leadership and some of the ethical things that have happened and they're ready for change. They're ready to have a person in Salem that they believe in."