Paige Kreisman could be Oregon's first transgender lawmaker
Paige Kreisman is traveling light.
A resident here for the last 13 months, she moved nine blocks across the Southeast Portland district she hopes to represent in the state Legislature a few weeks ago — just to save $300 per month on rent.
Her candidacy for Oregon House District 42 already has drawn national attention — she would be the first-ever transgender lawmaker in Oregon, as well as one of just a handful of elected members of the Democratic Socialists of America.
At 24, she is decades younger than her opponent in the Democratic primary, Rep. Rob Nosse, who has held the seat since 2014.
The Tribune sat down with Kreisman for a Q-and-A, which has been condensed. Listen to the complete interview below, or on your favorite podcast app.
TRIBUNE: Tell us about yourself.
KREISMAN: I'm a trans woman. I knew I was trans from a very young age. My parents were horrible people. They created essentially a conversion therapy type environment for me at home. I had to make a choice to either fight back or to die.
TRIBUNE: So you enlisted in the army at 17, right?
KREISMAN: I was the first woman to serve as an indirect fire infantrywoman. While I was in Qatar in 2015, I was really exposed to the full ramifications of U.S. foreign policy, to imperialism as a function of capitalism.
President Obama lifted the ban on trans people serving in the military. I was able to come out and receive medical care, (but) I was immediately treated like a second-class soldier. And eventually, once Trump won, I was denied the ability to reenlist.
TRIBUNE: What happened?
KREISMAN: I was getting so many death and rape threats that I decided I might as well actually take a stand. I peacefully refused all orders given to me.
TRIBUNE: You're endorsed by the DSA. What's their ideology?
KREISMAN: Socialism is a mode of production characterized by worker-owned and democratically controlled means of production. It's the workers, not Jeff Bezos, that create all value under capitalism. So it should be workers that reap the benefits.
I do think that America should abandon free-market capitalism. I'm not calling for communism in the United States in 2020.
TRIBUNE: Let's talk policy. First up, homelessness and housing.
KREISMAN: I have never lived in an apartment for more than one lease term. I've moved every year of my adult life due to rising rents. And I don't think that's acceptable.
There's 16,000 vacant rental units here in Multnomah County, and 4,000 houseless people, so this isn't a supply issue.
TRIBUNE: Salem is mulling a cap-and-trade proposal. You say it doesn't go far enough. Why?
KREISMAN: It's capitalism that brought us into this crisis. It's not going to be capitalism that brings us out. So where cap-and-trade makes it expensive to pollute, the Oregon Green New Deal makes it illegal to pollute. It meets our climate goals while also providing for a just transition.
It's so disappointing to me that our opponent is funded by Portland General Electric and the fossil fuel industry. That's why we signed the No Fossil Fuel money pledge. Because my only constituent is the working class people of this state.
If you're a fossil fuel executive, then yeah, you're going to make some sacrifices. We're not really asking for your permission. But if you're an everyday working class person, then your life's going to get better.
TRIBUNE: Could you work with the state GOP?
KREISMAN: Republicans are more than welcome to come and jump on board with our policy proposals. But I don't think that's going to happen. So realistically, no.
TRIBUNE: Would you vote to cut the Public Employees Retirement System?
KREISMAN: I think PERS cuts are never acceptable. These are teachers, nurses, firefighters, some of the most valuable civil servants that we have in our community. We made a promise to them and the state needs to keep that promise.
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