Kulla kicks off campaign with road trips
After becoming the first Democrat to announce a run for governor, and recently officially filing the paperwork, first-term Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla ventured out on a number of campaign events throughout the state. His travels took him to Bend, Prineville, Hood River, Parkdale, Portland, Newport and other areas in Multnomah, Benton, Lane Jackson and Josephine counties.
"I always want to simplify things down to this idea that everyone has the same problems everywhere," Kulla said. "But it manifests differently. Climate change impacts is something that everyone is concerned about. Issues like what's going in Newberg politically, which falls under political intimidation and division. We talk about the cost of housing and issues of homelessness everywhere."
Issues of affordable housing and homelessness were among the things Kulla said he heard most about, particularly in Portland, but also in communities throughout the state where the cost of living continues to rise as wages are stagnant.
Caring for those experiencing homelessness while also taking care of the issues surrounding the problem is something Kulla heard a lot about.
"With a lot of people on that particular issue, there's this feeling of compassion fatigue," Kulla said. "They're tired of people pooping on the streets, assembling garbage, crimes being committed in their neighborhoods. And that comes with an equal measure of people who desire to get people off the streets and help them with their individual situations. 'I'm sick of having a camp in my neighborhood, but I understand the need for people to have housing.'"
Kulla has attended formal events and listening sessions in communities, but he's also met with local officials like mayors, state representatives and others. He said these events function as a learning experience for him to get an idea of the issues facing individual communities, but also gets his name out there as his name recognition is not necessarily as high as gubernatorial candidates who hold statewide offices.
"Name recognition has seen a huge improvement getting out there around the state," Kulla said. "There are retail politics and wholesale politics. One is going to the community and the other is telling people that I went to the community. It's great to be able to approach people now in their physical community and know what is going on in their specific community. People have shared this stuff with me and it's informed my approach to a lot of issues."
Given all the struggles and tragedy of the last year, Kulla said he's heard from a lot of people lacking hope. Whether that applies to issues of climate change, homelessness, the pandemic or otherwise, he said people are seeking leadership that takes action to make things better.
"It's clear there are people all over in communities who are feeling a lack of hope and a lack of belief that we can actually get ahead of our problems and come together to deal with them," Kulla said. "That's been hard to hear, but there are people who really feel like they know what needs to happen for their communities to move ahead. There's hope at the local level but there needs to be more in the way of action on the state level."
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