HEPPNER — Christine Drazan rolled her campaign to become Oregon's first Republican governor in 40 years into Heppner on Wednesday, Aug. 17 for an ice cream social.
The event at the Christian Life Center drew several dozen people and some public officials, including Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack and fellow Republicans state Reps. Greg Smith, Heppner, and Bobby Levy, Echo.
"Getting involved in public service in the first place for me was about service," Drazan explained, sitting for an interview within the chapel of the Christian Life Center. "It was really about the opportunity to make a difference and be effective. What I learned as a legislator was that my opportunity to really change outcomes, which is really what defines effectiveness for me, was really limited."
Drazan, 50, served in the Oregon House of Representatives 2019-22 for District 39, which includes parts of Clackamas County. She also was minority leader until 2021, when she left the state House to run for governor.
"As Republican leader, my caucus members proposed a hundred amendments to various pieces of legislation, and repeatedly it was on party line vote, rejected," she said.
With Democrats holding a supermajority in the Legislature, she said, Republicans have few tools to stop proposals they opposed. It became clear, she explained, there was not going to be an opportunity for her as a Republican legislator in Oregon to work on big issues. But the governor's office offers just that.
"The governor's role is so critical and so important to provide balance and accountability," Drazan said. "In single party control, if you're in a state with only one party everywhere you look, you really don't have the kind of accountability that I think Oregonians want right now."
She criticized the "one size fits all" approach in Oregon government. Some rules and expectations that might be workable and culturally aligned in the more metro and suburban parts of our state instead affect the ability of rural Oregonians to support their families and lives.
To get to Mahonia Hall, Drazan has to defeat Democrat Tina Kotek, who served as the speaker of the Oregon House 2013-22, and Betsy Johnson, a longtime Democratic Oregon legislator now running an unaffiliated campaign.
As part of her campaign's "Roadmap for Oregon's Future," a six-page list of issues and proposed solutions she would implement as governor, Drazan described a series of "political agendas and bureaucratic hurdles" that interfere with Oregon's agricultural community.
"Sometimes we're talking about banning the equipment that they use in the fields, like diesel bans," she said.
Drazan has also been vocal about her support for changing Oregon's education system, citing a low overall high school graduation rate (80.6%) as a mandate for change. According to Drazan's "Roadmap," this includes focusing on academic accountability and "keeping politics out of the classroom." She said graduation requirements that were rolled back during the pandemic should be reinstated.
"I believe that those were positive, not negative for our kiddos, and that our expectations should be higher, not lower," she said.
And students who are members of minorities already face numerous cultural and social challenges, she said, and while there have been leaders focused on addressing some of the social and emotional dynamics within schools, they failed to actually help those students obtain an education.
"The thing that we cannot possibly do is then also put them into a position where they don't even have a strong education on the other side of this," Drazan said. "We need kids to be able to have a level playing field and raise up all kids."
Pivoting to Oregon's homelessness problem, Drazan has stated publicly she would declare a state of emergency on homelessness. She said she would prioritize repealing Measure 110, which rescheduled and legalized small amounts of narcotics. She said the measure is one of the many factors that contribute to Oregon's homelessness problem.
And merely amending the "regulatory environment specifically around housing," she said, does not address the holistic problem of homelessness.
"Frankly, if we have a challenge around our land use system, let's tackle it," Drazan said. "If it's affecting our ability to be responsive to homelessness, it's probably affecting our ability to be responsive in other issues."
Drazan campaigned all week in Eastern Oregon, including stops at Burns, Ontario, Baker City, John Day and Fossil. Heppner was the last place on this swing.
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