Health care professionals seek NE Portland seat in House
Two health care professionals seek the Democratic nomination for the Oregon House seat being vacated by Barbara Smith Warner in Northeast Portland.
Whoever emerges from the May 17 primary contest between Catherine Thomasson and Thuy Tran is likely to have the inside track for the District 45 seat in the Nov. 8 general election. After Smith Warner was appointed and won the party primary in 2014, she was unopposed in four general elections. Smith Warner became House majority leader in 2019, a position she gave up earlier this year, although she is completing her fourth elected term that ends Jan. 9, 2023.
No Republican filed by the March 8 deadline.
Both Thomasson and Tran have similar legislative priorities for health care and housing, though they are advocates on other issues.
Thomasson, 64, is a physician, a self-employed environmental health consultant, and leader of the environmental caucus of the Democratic Party of Oregon. She is a former student health physician at Portland State University and Oregon State University, and was executive director of the national Physicians for Social Responsibility from 2012 through 2016, after a stint as its Oregon president.
Thomasson did her undergraduate work in chemistry and earned her medical degree in 1983 from Wayne State University in Detroit. She has one grown son.
Tran, 55, is an optometrist who has owned Rose City Vision Care since 1995. She was on the Parkrose School Board from 2012 to 2015. She is on the boards of Family Forward Action, which advocates for child care and other family support services, and Metropolitan Public Defender, which serves Multnomah and Washington counties.
Tran also is part of the medical group for the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard.
She earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1990 from the University of California at Los Angeles, a doctor of optometry degree in 1994 from Pacific University, and a master's in business administration in 2016 from George Fox University. She has three children.
According to reports filed with the Oregon Elections Division, Tran had raised more than Thomasson, $59,000 to $37,000, and had more cash on hand ($35,000 to $13,000) with two weeks before the primary.
On the issues
In addition to health care and housing, Thomasson is an activist on climate-change issues.
"We must justly transition off fossil fuels and become a society that relies on sustainable energy sources while addressing climate impacts especially for those most vulnerable," she said. "Yet we are still not moving fast enough."
Among her proposals for the 2023 session are additional energy-saving measures within building codes, the potential for carbon storage on farm and forest lands — largely omitted from the carbon-reduction plan approved Dec. 16 by the Environmental Quality Commission — and further carbon reductions in transportation, which is the largest single source of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Both candidates say they would support more state money for housing lower-income families and more legal protection for tenants against evictions and higher-than-average rent increases. Thomasson said housing should be made part of land use and transportation planning aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, and that money can be generated by ending the state deduction for second mortgages and capping the deduction for primary mortgages.
Both candidates say they would work toward expanding access to health care, particularly mental health and addiction treatment.
Thomasson said it's time for the Legislature to limit campaign contributions. A constitutional amendment that voters passed in 2020 clears the way for lawmakers or voters to do so, but lawmakers have not done so.
Tran said her time on the boards of Family Forward Action and Metropolitan Public Defender have led her to support paid family and medical leave — a state program that is scheduled to start paying benefits in September 2023 — and more work to shore up legal representation of indigent criminal defendants. The 2022 Legislature approved $13 million more as a stopgap, but the governor, legislative leaders and the Oregon Supreme Court chief justice have acknowledged that the current system has resulted in hundreds left without representation in court.
"I am passionate about bettering my community and am running for office to expand access to health care, provide support for working families, mothers, care workers and more, and make sure more people are able to have as much opportunity as I have had in
my life," she said.
NOTE: Adds campaign finance reports as of May 2.
Campaign websites for House District 45 candidates in the Democratic primary May 17:
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