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Congressional Democratic race pits Rep. Kurt Schrader against Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, bar owner Blair Reynolds

Oregon's Fifth DistrictTuesday is the deadline to reregister as a Democrat or a Republican in order to vote in Oregon primary elections. The Republican primary has gotten interesting, but the Democratic race is also worthy of consideration:

Rep. Kurt Schrader

Schrader feels he's earned your vote with the actions he's taken as the incumbent congressman since 2009.

"I think we represent the diversity of this district really well," he said. "We're a microcosm of the whole state of Oregon and the whole whole state of this country. So I think I present a pretty balanced view that people respect, and we've been extremely successful."

He points to promises and projects fulfilled such as $1.2 million for the new pier at the Port of Newport, the securing of dollars for the Woodburn interchange and the Mill Creek Employment Center in Salem.

With an agricultural background as a farmer, Schrader believes he's well-tuned to issues around forestry and the environment, allowing him to connect with rural voters in a unique way. But he also feels connected to the urban areas of his district where health care and education are of particular interest, two topics he feels he's delivered on during his tenure in Congress.

He rates Congress' response to the coronavirus pandemic fairly high, but also admits there's some things that could be improved upon, specifically that farmers should be able to access the federal paycheck protection program just as small businesses do. He also feels trade associations and other 501(c)6 organizations are going to be vital in helping to reinvigorate the economy and should be taken care of like nonprofits have been.

"I think there's a lot of improvements to be made to some of the programs, they're geared for low-income individuals, but we want to make sure people aren't taking advantage, you know, the Ruth's Chris Steakhouses of the world," he said. "Most of Oregon's businesses are small, under 10 people, that's who we really want to target, and, I think, hopefully, you'll see some improvement."

Schrader also mentions that health care and hospitals, being some of the largest employers in rural areas, will need a carve out from Congress soon and he's committed to ensuring health care workers on the front lines are taken care of.

Mark Gamba

The mayor of Milwaukie wants to represent the citizens of Oregon's fifth congressional district because he cares deeply about the future of this state and of this country.

From universal health care to climate action, Gamba would push the needle further left in terms of advocating for policies that protect people and the environment.

As a former photographer for National Geographic, Gamba has seen firsthand glaciers melting at unprecedented rates and animal species that once thrived beginning to die off due to climate change.

"A lot of people have said, 'Even if we elect one more progressive that believes in climate change and would do strong things, what's that gonna do on the Republican side?'" Gamba said. "What I've always been effective at as a mayor, and as a city councilor before, is having real world conversations with people who disagree with me on policy, and then bringing them stories, bringing them reasons that are relevant to them things they care about and that affect them."

Gamba said he believes that Oregon's 5th District isn't quite as purple as Schrader likes to paint it, and Gamba feels that its citizens are ready for bold action on a number of issues where Schrader hasn't been quite so comfortable to act. Gamba believes that his experience as a mayor — solving local problems and interacting with a wide range of people everyday — have uniquely set him up for success in Washington, D.C.

"I wish there were a whole lot more mayors in Congress than there are because mayors have to deal with real world problems, right now, today, on the ground," Gamba said. "Potholes, sewer and water pipes are not Republican or Democrat, right? They are just problems that have to be solved. (Mayors) are very practical by nature. They have to be practical people."

Gamba also notes that he's running his campaign much differently than a career politician would: he's not accepting any corporate money, and is therefore not beholden to anyone but the voters of his district.

"I will never take corporate money, even if I'm there for 30 years, which, I hope I'm not," he said. "I hope I'm in there for 10 years, solve climate change and I'm out. I'll find some cool, young person run."

Blair Reynolds

You could consider Blair Reynolds the Andrew Yang of this congressional race. Reynolds is a cool, young entrepreneur who wants to give you paycheck each month just for being a walking, breathing human being.

Of course, there's much more to Reynolds' campaign than just universal basic income. The Hale Pele tiki bar owner has long kicked around a run for public office, and that yearning to serve stems from a deep-seeded passion to fight for everyday, working-class people.

"There's a lot of people, especially in our federal government, that are working for corporations, you know, getting big corporate money," he said. "It disgusts me that we're electing our best fundraisers, rather than our best people to actually represent us."

With that in mind, Reynolds is advocating for massive reforms in the way American democracy works, such as a massive overhaul of campaign finance and getting corporate money out of politics, as well as dismantling the party system from the inside out.

Medicare for all is another staple of Reynold's platform, and he'd like to see a system where a family doesn't pay into a plan for the possibility of insurance, only to have still shell out a large portion of their income if they're sick or injured.

"(Our current system) is killing people. Literally, killing people," he said. "It's absurd to me that someone could die because they don't have enough money."

Economic recovery following the crisis surrounding the coronavirus pandemic is also a cornerstone of Reynold's platform. Being a small business owner himself, he's familiar with the struggles business owners have dealt with in terms of acquiring relief through the Small Business Administration's loan program and federal paycheck protection. He believes he has the life and business experience to make good decisions on behalf of Oregonians in Washington, D.C.

"I just think that Congress is completely out of touch," he said.

Reynolds says he's not in this to become a career politician. If elected he pledges to give himself a maximum of six years to accomplish his goals before passing the torch to someone else.


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