David Russ wants to be the first-ever congressman from the newly formed 6th Congressional District, but he is going to have some stiff competition for the job.
The Dundee mayor, whose campaign slogan is "Russ is for US," could see even more candidates join the fray as the filing deadline for the position isn't until March 8. Primaries for both parties are set for May 17, with the general election slated for Nov. 8 for the individuals who emerge from the primaries as their party's representatives.
"For over 35 years, friends and family have told me that I should run for Congress," Russ said in an email interview. "I have always told them that I would someday. In 2020, God called on me to back those promises."
Packed field of candidates
Russ joins a field that sat at 11 as of Jan. 6, including three fellow Republicans and fellow Yamhill County congressional hopeful Ron Noble, the House District 24 state representative and former McMinnville police chief. Also included on the Republican ballot will be clinical psychologist Angela Plowhead and prior GOP congressional candidate Amy Ryan Courser.
On the Democratic side is Dr. Kathleen Harder, chairwoman of the Oregon Medical Board; truck driver and Navy veteran Brian Hylland; former Portland Public School board member Derry Jackson; state Rep. Andrea Salinas; Army veteran and clean energy executive Nate Sandvig; Portland councilor Loretta Smith and Intel engineer Matt West.
Russ points to either Courser or Plowhead as his main competitors in the Republican primary.
"Amy has significant funding, but I am hearing more buzz about Angela," he said, adding that "Sandvig lives outside of the district in Tillamook. I do not expect him to do well in the Willamette Valley."
Russ dismissed the candidacy of his fellow candidate from Yamhill County.
"Ron Noble has proven to be a RINO (Republican in Name Only) in the Oregon statehouse, so I do not expect him to do well," he said.
He cautions voters to do their homework before casting their ballot: "Please review all candidate's qualifications carefully. Make sure that your new congressman has the knowledge, experience and determination to do what you need done in Washington, D.C. Compare the resumes."
What sets him apart from his competitors?
Russ said his years of experience as Dundee mayor and councilor, his knowledge of government and his experience in the private sector makes him uniquely qualified for the job.
"I have the most and best applicable experience to serve as a congressman," he said. "In addition to eight years of service on the Dundee City Council (one as councilor and seven as mayor), my depth and breadth of experience includes nearly every area of government operations …
"My 40 years of small business experience and 30 years of executive leadership and 25 years of board membership give me a strong understanding of what it takes to operate this country at the ground level for the municipalities, small businesses and workers that keep our economy running strong.
He also touted his dedication to serving his constituents.
"Every decision and action I take as a political leader is based on the needs of the people, their prosperity and the continued prosperity of the area I serve," he said. "I will never make a decision, nor take an action, for the sole purpose of acquiring the blessing of any donor, PAC, special district or committee."
Russ has less cash to run campaign then competitors
Courser has topped the field among Republican candidates with $61,592 reported in December. Noble had $9,500 at his disposal as of year's end, with Plowhead securing $4,225 in contributions. Smith gathered more than $115,000 for her run for Congress, with figures for the rest of the Democratic field unavailable as of press time Friday.
Contributions to Russ' campaign were at $1,231 as of early September, the last month reported to the Federal Elections Commission.
Russ didn't mince words on the issue of money in politics.
"First of all, this disgusts me. People spend millions to get elected to Congress," he said. "What other profession spends 12 or more times their annual salary just to get hired? Especially when much of that money theoretically comes with strings attached. I really hate to spend people's money so that I can get elected to spend their money.
"That being said, there is no denying that it takes some amount of money to get mailings out, travel around the district to events, pay a campaign manager and purchase advertising. Therefore, yes, I am reaching out to various organizations. However, I will run the most frugal campaign possible and seek as much word-of-mouth advertising as I can get."
Identifying the primary issues among residents of the 6th Congressional District
Russ said maintaining their businesses or jobs, lifestyle, safety and savings are among the paramount concerns for residents of the district.
"People really just want to be able to do what they do without the government interfering or creating an uneven playing field," he said."They also want to know that when they pay taxes that they are getting a reasonable value for their money and that they are not supporting programs that support socialist/Marxist bureaucrats, or damage them, their businesses, their communities or their country. They want to feel more in control of their circumstances and know that they can help guide the future for their children."
He added that his goal as a congressman would be "bringing the federal government back under the control of the U.S. Constitution," which he would accomplish by reducing taxes and government control while simultaneously increasing local funding and giving "my constituents (the) ability to control their own destiny."
He advocates for adopting a balanced budget bill in Congress as a temporary measure until long-term legislation can be passed to reform government spending.
"The real solution is to crack down heavily on federal overreach and wasteful government programs and spending," he said. "This can be done in many ways. A couple are strict financial auditing and termination of employees and programs that can not comply with financial rules and procedures or stay within their budget; rewarding agencies that operate within the budget they were given — the current system rewards waste by increasing budgets of agencies that overspend."
Reaching the people
Russ said since announcing his candidacy he has been developing a website, blogging, creating "virtual reality" videos and speaking at events and meetings when he is not calling potential supporters and volunteers. He has amassed a "very small, so far" campaign staff, he added.
Ultimately, his goal is to reach voters in both rural areas and in cities and share with them his vision for federal government.
"First, by being fully committed to them as individual human beings," he said, adding that he will also share his faith. "This commitment gives me a moral compass that insures I will always be a servant leader not seeking to improve my position, but to improve the position of the whole."
He plans on touting his insistence on allegiance to the U.S. Constitution as well: "This document defines the limits of our government and specifically defines protections that are guaranteed to all citizens of our great nation."
His campaign strategy includes reaching out to voters by knocking on doors, through direct mail, attendance at community events and gatherings and various social media outlets.
"I also am working on a word-of-mouth campaign," he said. "I go grocery shopping every week in a different store in the district wearing my 'Meet Your Next Congressman' t-shirt. I talk with various constituents while I shop and ask them to spread the word about the most qualified candidate on the ticket."
A new congressional district?
The 6th Congressional District includes parts of Yamhill, Polk, Marion and Clackamas counties. Cities within the district include Newberg, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, McMinnville, Monmouth, Dallas, Willamina, Sheridan, Jefferson, Wilsonville, Woodburn, Aumsville, Salem and parts of Beaverton. The district includes a long swath of the I-5 corridor.
The process that resulted in the addition of another congressional district came about because the state redraws its boundaries using population data collected every 10 years via the U.S. Census. Under federal law, congressional districts must have nearly equal populations and cannot discriminate based on race or ethnicity.
Oregon was awarded a sixth congressional district after the census determined the state had grown by 10.6% since 2010, adding more than 406,000 residents.
The latest version of the district map was established by the 2021 Legislature on a party-line vote as five of the state's six districts lean Democratic. The district map survived court challenges and will be implemented this month.
The seat will see its first representative this year and is the only U.S. House seat in Oregon without an incumbent.
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