New House minority leader's aim: 'work together for change'
Republicans in the House of Representatives recently voted to appoint State Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, to the most prominent leadership position in the caucus — Republican leader — just months after her first legislative session.
Drazan — who represents Charbonneau —replaced Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, for that position to lead 22 Republicans in a legislative body that is overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats. In this position, Drazan will have authority over the legislative agenda and campaign strategies for the caucus. Along with Charbonneau, Drazan serves Canby, rural Clackamas County and parts of Happy Valley and Damascus. She is the only Republican Portland metro area representative.
Drazan said becoming minority leader was not a goal of hers heading into the 2019 legislative session, which ended in June, but that she simply wanted to "do everything in my power to improve the lives of folks in Oregon."
Despite her relative inexperience as a legislator, Drazan is confident she is up to the task.
"I think this is a caucus that is ready to work together for change and there have been plenty of legislators before me who are freshmen who stepped into the role as caucus leader. It's not uncommon," Drazan told the Spokesman. "It's (about) expressing a desire to accept new ideas and being unified behind these goals of achieving balance in our state we haven't seen for more than a decade."
And Drazan isn't exactly a neophyte to the legislative process. She worked for Republican legislators in the 1990s and 2000s before undertaking more local positions and then running for public office in 2018. In her new role, she's hoping to use the knowledge she's gleaned to help her party gain back seats — particularly in the Portland metro area — and implement effective policies.
"I think the thing that is consistent across time when it comes to public policymaking is that you have to serve the greater good," she said. "As soon as policy serves special interest or is an expression of a political agenda you begin to stop serving the larger range of Oregonians."
In turn, Drazan said she would try to recruit candidates who are focused on the concerns of their community rather than ideological viewpoints. According to previous Pamplin Media Group reporting, Rep. Kim Wallan, R-Medford, said previous leadership focused too much on polarizing issues.
"In the upcoming election we are going to recruit candidates that are going to be really invested in their own communities and really understand their own districts and serve that particular part of the state. Once we have candidates who want to do that, we can compete in the marketplace of ideas that is our elections," Drazan said. "From suburban parts (of the state) all the way across the line, I'm confident we will attract competitive candidates that are there to serve communities, not special interests."
Drazan thought her caucus did an effective job as the minority party in the recent legislative session.
"We worked really well together and we had a team that was committed to achieving the best possible outcomes we could given the circumstances. We had a unified group and worked hard to make our case," she said. "Cap and trade was unconstitutional, unaffordable and bad public policy. There were a lot of issues that were bad public policy. We represented the minority opinion effectively."
Drazan said she and her colleagues hadn't decided which issues the caucus will focus on in the future but indicated that improving affordability for families that are struggling to make ends meet is a priority.
"I think what we have with the supermajority right now is an incredible imbalance of power. That's not healthy for any system," Drazan said. "Because we have that it means Oregon is becoming less and less affordable for hardworking Oregonians, people on fixed incomes. The approach we have right now from Salem is one that no longer cares about the impacts of these policies on people being able to live here."
And she indicated she plans to advocate for reducing the role of government when possible.
"With our historic economy where we have record revenue coming into state budgets I think we need to understand the limits of government and stop acting like government is the solution to every problem we have," Drazan said. "Our government needs to be accountable, transparent — and outside of that we need to work with our partners in the nonprofit community and partner with people who can come alongside and take the lead."
State Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, recently endorsed Drazan's appointment in an interview with Pamplin Media Group.
"I think she's an incredibly gifted person," Findley said. "She has a great, forward-thinking vision."
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