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As part of our ongoing election coverage, we asked the three candidates in the Senate District 15 race to respond to several questions covering a variety of issues. The three — incumbent state Sen. Bruce Starr, a Republican; former state Rep. Chuck Riley, a Democrat; and attorney Caitlin Mitchel-Markley, a Libertarian, are vying for the right to represent the district over the next four years.

Senate District 15 encompasses the cities of Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove and North Plains.

Due to space limitations, we were unable to print all the interview questions in the newspaper, so we are publishing the complete version here on our website.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Please give us a very brief bio of yourself, including what you do for a living.

BRUCE STARR: I've lived in Hillsboro my entire life; grew up on my parents farm, Hilhi graduate and small business owner. I've had the privilege of serving as Hillsboro City Councilor, State Representative and State Senator.

CHUCK RILEY: I’m a retired small business owner and IT professional, an Air Force veteran, and a former State Representative. I live in Hillsboro with my wife Katie.

CAITLIN MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I am happily married to my husband Kyle, the Libertarian candidate for Oregon House District 30, and I am the mother of an adorable toddler, Corwyn. I am also an attorney and I currently serve on the Oregon State Bar’s Board of Governors. This is my first venture into politics.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Why did you decide to run for this office?

STARR: I'm committed to ensuring that western Washington County continues to be the special place where we want to live, work and raise a family. Providing across the aisle leadership has led to investments in our roads, bridges and transit systems. I have worked to ensure our community continues to be a place where small businesses can grow and thrive, which is why both the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce PAC and NFIB endorsed me. I want to make sure our streets are safe, keeping violent criminals behind bars, including violent sex predators who prey on our children. Finally, I'm committed to making sure our local schools have the resources they need to increase school days and decrease class sizes. I voted to increase the K-12 budget by $100 million and voted for PERS reform so our school districts would have more dollars for classrooms.

RILEY: I decided to run for office to get our priorities straight. This means more funding for schools instead of funding tax breaks for corporations, ensuring equal pay for equal work, expanding access to job training programs that help Oregonians get family-wage jobs, and fighting for small businesses that make up the backbone of Washington County.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I am running for Oregon Senate District 15 because Kyle Markley’s 2012 campaign for Oregon House District 30 proved that minor party candidates can make a difference. Voters should be given the opportunity to vote their conscience based on the issues they are interested in and the candidates they actually want to serve. Similarly, voting for minor party candidates isn’t just "a vote against" the two major parties, or voting for "spoilers." Minor party candidates can raise issues that are important to the voters, but that are ignored by the major party candidates because they don't serve the purposes of the major parties or their special interest donors. If elected, I will focus on the issues of fiscal responsibility, law improvement, protecting civil rights and reducing unnecessary regulations. Whatever the outcome of the election, hopefully the issues I raised will be addressed and I will have made a difference.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: The state’s voters are wrestling with whether to make marijuana legal (Measure 91). Where do you stand on this and why?

STARR: I am opposed to Measure 91. I absolutely believe this sends the wrong message to Oregon's young people. We, as a society, spend millions of dollars working to decrease smoking generally, but if this passes it sends a signal that smoking marijuana is OK. Also, there is no FDA that will regulate the potency of the various marijuana products that may be marketed to Oregonians.

If you do an easy Google search, it's simple to see how deadly and dangerous legalization has been in Colorado. There are way too many unanswered questions. At the very least, we should wait and see how the legalization has worked out in Colorado and Washington.

RILEY: I am still looking at the details of this complicated ballot measure. While this issue clearly has popular support and will eventually pass, we need to make sure we’re ready for it by working with law enforcement officials to keep our communities safe.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I am very conflicted regarding this measure. I have no objection to the effort to decriminalize marijuana use for adults in Oregon, and I think cities should respect the plain language of the text by not trying to pass pre-emptive tax ordinances on marijuana. However, I will personally vote against the measure because I think passage of the measure will be detrimental for marijuana growers, dispensaries, users and the state.

Since it is still illegal under federal law to use, produce or sell marijuana, Oregonians will still face federal prosecution. I fear passage of the measure and subsequent state laws legalizing marijuana will gives citizens a false sense of security. As well, it will likely lead to lawsuits between the state and the federal government to address the conflicts between state and federal laws on the issue. That will require considerable taxpayer funds to litigate these cases.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Education funding was at the forefront of discussions during the last legislative session in Salem. While some progress was made toward getting more funding for K-12 schools, much work remains. Do you support funding education first, and at what level?

STARR: I opposed the overall K-12 budget last year because it clearly shortchanged Hillsboro and Forest Grove schools. I will not support school budgets that continue to underfund our local classrooms. I believe the Legislature controlled by the Democratic majority has systematically underfunded education, choosing to increase other budgets to the detriment of our schools. I oppose that approach.

While Democratic candidates and legislators all say during campaigns that education is the number one priority, the Democratic majority has failed to match their actions with their campaign rhetoric. This is extremely frustrating for me as a member of the minority. I have to either vote yes or no, and I've decided I will not vote to underfund our schools. What I support is providing our local schools the resources they need to ensure full school years and much smaller class sizes, especially in the elementary grades. I work closely with our school boards and school administrators, so I know how the budget being discussed in Salem will impact both Hillsboro and Forest Grove school districts.

Again, as a member of the minority, I'm not in a position to control when the education budget is passed. If I were in the majority, I would work to ensure the education budget was passed early so school boards and administrators had the certainty they need in the early spring and could plan appropriately. I did vote to increase the K-12 budget by $100 million, which was part of the governor's so-called special session last fall. I also supported the PERS reforms, which moved millions of dollars from PERS payments into the classroom.

RILEY: I absolutely support funding education first. Funding our schools is one of my top priorities. Instead of giving away tax breaks to large corporations, we should be funding our schools so we can make our class sizes smaller, ensure more days in the school year, and stop laying off good teachers. This is one of the biggest issues facing Oregonians today, and I look forward to fighting for our kids and our schools down in Salem.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I do not support funding education first. Public safety should be the government’s first item for consideration and funding. Yet, there is no shortage of funds at the Legislature’s disposal for adequately funding education. Unfortunately, there is a lack of prioritization and responsible use of taxpayer funds. Education should be fully funded before things like the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Racing Commission. We should have a tax credit for Oregon’s K-12 schools, not for the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Relatedly, we need to ensure that the funds the education system does receive are spent responsibly. The focus should be on students getting a good education, not just an expensive one! We need to consider reducing administrators’ pay, empowering school districts to hire/fire teachers based on skill, not seniority, and instituting merit-based pay systems for teachers. Funding education means that funding should actually go to educating our students.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Environmentalists and others have been expressing concern about moving crude oil by rail, citing dangers of explosions and urging political leaders to stop these shipments. Alternative methods of moving the crude oil — such as new pipelines — are also being strongly protested, not only for the impacts to private and public land, but also because there have been deadly pipeline explosions in recent years in the Northwest. Given that our society relies on crude oil and it has to be transported somehow, what approach would you take?

STARR: This is an issue of public safety. Notification by our Class 1 railroads is necessary, and we must make sure that the communities through which these trains are traveling have the necessary capacity to protect the public in the event of an emergency.

We all are enjoying reduced costs of fuel due to the increase in domestic oil production. This is a positive for every family, and the data is clear that moving the oil from the upper Midwest by rail is far superior to moving the oil via trucks on our highways. Bottom line, the Legislature must work with local governments, cities and counties, to ensure they have the information and resources necessary to protect the public.

RILEY: Crude oil explosions, on both train cars and in pipelines, are a huge environmental and public health concern. Instead of focusing on more ways to move crude oil around, we should be focusing instead on expanding our support of clean, renewable energy.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I don’t share the concerns of ‘environmentalists and others’ regarding moving crude oil by rail. There are numerous state and federal laws and regulations relating to the transportation of energy products, both in terms of public health and safety, as well as environmental protection, to protect Oregon’s citizens and environment. Huge quantities of crude oil are shipped all over the country every day without incident. There are proven safe ways to transport crude oil, and we should utilize those best practices.

However, every system can be improved, and if there are economically feasible alternative methods that would offer even greater protections for our citizens and their property, those methods should be studied and possibly implemented. I would support studying proposals for alternative methods of transporting crude oil, such as through pipelines, although I would not support any proposals that impact private land without the express consent of those private landowners.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Where do you stand on Measure 92, the measure to require labeling of genetically engineered foods?

STARR: I am opposed to Measure 92. I am concerned that there will be multiple unintended consequences if this measure passes. Increased costs for Oregon farmers is one, as well as increased costs for taxpayers related to the necessary state regulatory scheme.

RILEY: Knowing where our food comes from is extremely important. I look forward to continuing to discuss this issue with farmers and food producers in my community, especially those who would be affected by the GMO labeling initiative, before I make my decision on how I will vote.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I am opposed to Measure 92, as I don’t believe it will serve its intended purpose. It includes too many exceptions to truly inform consumers. Additionally, it would be an administrative and financial burden on Oregon’s farmers, producers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. The text of the measure admits that more than "80 percent of Oregon's agricultural products are exported out of state, and agricultural products rank second in value among Oregon's exports." Since this measure imposes labeling requirements not required anywhere else, this would be extremely burdensome on Oregonians and our economy.

Instead of imposing additional costs and labeling requirements on GMO producers, non-GMO producers can voluntarily advertise that their products do not contain genetically-engineered food. Nothing prevents non-GMO producers from labeling their products accordingly. That would serve the intended purpose claimed by the Measure 92 supporters, but does not force other producers and the consumers to incur additional costs.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Some Oregon communities (Tigard and Tualatin, for example) have opted to call for a public vote before certain mass transit projects can be advanced. In your view, does this help or hinder planning to reduce gridlock?

STARR: I believe that it's important to include the public in making important decisions regarding local transportation projects. If the local governments make the case to the public that specific transit investments are valuable and will reduce gridlock, then it will not hinder the process.

RILEY: It’s important that we move critical mass transit projects forward, but we should also make sure to have ample public input in all government decision-making. I’m in favor of ensuring that the public has a strong voice in decision-making, especially where it can improve government transparency and make projects more efficient.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I fully support more citizen involvement and input regarding government projects. I think greater inclusion of taxpayers’ input through a public vote would help planning to reduce gridlock and hopefully avoid things like the failed Columbia River Crossing project. As well, citizen oversight committees should be created and utilized for any large projects that do not already have oversight from independent agencies. Any budgetary overruns should require additional legislative authorization, funding from outside sources (such as the federal government or another state) should be secured by written contract prior to any expenditure of taxpayer funds, and contracts with vendors (for example Oracle) should specifically include guarantees of milestones and expected results. Bureaucrats and politicians should abide by the will of the people and not waste taxpayer funds on unwanted mass transit projects.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: Why do you believe voters would best be served by choosing you to represent them over your opponents?

STARR: I have a record of working across the aisle to deliver for the voters in western Washington County. I have provided leadership working collaboratively with my colleagues to build new roads, bridges and transit projects in my district and throughout the state. Creating a healthy business environment by supporting the largest tax cut for small business in Oregon history, ensuring that the tax incentives that allow our economic development professionals at the city and county level can recruit world class employers and passing legislation that supports alternative fuels such as propane, natural gas and solar. These are results of my bipartisan leadership.

I voted against letting violent criminals out of prison early, and sponsored Jessica's Law, which keeps violent sex predators behind bars. My opponent's record is nearly non-existent. In six years in the Oregon House, he passed/sponsored one bill. He did not provide any real leadership; he rarely voted against his party leadership. He voted for school budgets that were seriously inadequate and created shortened school years and large class sizes. He voted to let violent criminals out of jail early. He also sponsored numerous tax increases, including bills that would increase the beer tax by over 700 percent, a tax on life insurance and annuity benefits, the elimination of the farmworker housing tax credit, and huge increases on small businesses ensuring that small businesses would pay 40 percent more than large corporations. Thankfully he was very ineffective, and none of these bad ideas became law. He's now saying that he will increase education funding by closing corporate loopholes. His only specific is a tax expenditure that allows corporations some tax advantage by shipping jobs overseas. What he fails to say is how much that would "save" and allow to transfer and why Democratic chairs of the House and Senate revenue committees haven't already eliminated that particular "loophole." He has no record of success and no explanation for how/why this time would be different from his previous unspectacular six years in the House of Representatives.

RILEY: I have the right values for Washington County, and my opponent’s priorities are out of step with this community. Folks in our community care about funding education and supporting working families. My opponent, on the other hand, has shown through his votes in the Legislature that he supports large corporations and the wealthy. I will be an advocate for our priorities – not big corporations and the wealthiest few.

MITCHEL-MARKLEY: I believe voters would be best served by choosing me to represent them over my opponents because I’m not a typical politician. I am not beholden to the platforms and funding of the major parties, nor do I have to fall in line with the party caucuses or leadership in Salem. I have no desire to pass more laws infringing on individuals’ freedoms, schmooze and fund-raise with the wealthy and powerful, or do anything and everything to bring government money to my Senate district. It is vital to have legislators who focus on Oregon’s existing laws to address the areas that infringe on peoples’ civil rights, that extend the government’s influence and authority beyond its basic functions, or which are of questionable constitutionality. I am an attorney who can fulfill that role. If elected, I would focus on policy, not politics.

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