HD 18 candidates discuss priorities
Stretching from the Mount Hood National Forest into the heart of the Willamette Valley, Oregon House District 18's broad swath includes the cities of Silverton, Molalla, Mount Angel, Scotts Mills, Hubbard, Aurora, Barlow, Butteville, Donald and St. Paul.
Voters within the district will choose between two candidates hailing from Silverton: veteran Republican legislator Rep. Rick Lewis; Democratic challenger Jesse S. Smith, a precinct committee representative who has spent considerable time in recent months pounding the pavement and meeting HD 18 voters.
Lewis is seeking his fourth term. He was appointed to the position in early 2017 to finish the term of Vic Gillian and was subsequently elected to the seat in 2018 and 2020. The incumbent enjoyed considerable margins of victory in his races as Republicans have run strong in this district for decades, posing a challenge that does not escape Smith. But the challenger welcomes the opportunity the race affords him to meet with the district's wide array of denizens.
"I recognize that this is a tough race: nobody I have asked can remember the last time someone from my party won this seat — it has been at least a generation," Smith acknowledged. "Nonetheless, I believe there are important conversations to have about local issues, and it's an honor to participate in that conversation and to do what I can to advocate on behalf of the people of House District 18."
Meanwhile, Lewis has his sights set on ongoing, unfinished business.
"I will be bringing forth my affordable-housing bill for the 4th time in an effort to get it to the floor for the first time for debate and a vote," Lewis said. "The bill has made it through several committees in the past with strong bipartisan support, but each time the bill was killed before it could be sent to the floor.
"With balance, the bill should pass," he continued. "I will continue to work to remove barriers for the construction of affordable housing so that everyone may have an opportunity to raise their family here. Increasing those opportunities and creating more housing will help get the homeless off the streets and into a home and promote first time home buying for all families."
While they represent opposing, often seemingly polarized parties, both HD 18 candidates harbor some of the same concerns and priorities. Both emphasize that affordable housing is a top issue, within the district and statewide, as is homelessness.
"The people of Oregon's House District 18 want the State to increase the availability of affordable housing. I'm prepared to work together with my fellow legislators to get that done," Smith said. "The people of Oregon's House District 18 want the State to address Oregon's homelessness crisis, by increasing public services and by finding places for the unhoused to live. I am prepared to work together with my fellow legislators to get that done."
Lewis stressed: "Increasing (construction and housing) opportunities and creating more housing will help get the homeless off the streets and into a home and promote first time home buying for all families."
Smith said his top priority is education and public schools, while Lewis put a stronger emphasis on police reform.
"I got into this race because I want to see the State do more on behalf of our public schools," Smith said. "Supporting public education is my greatest concern, and if elected I will do everything possible to see that our schools get the funds they need.
"My opponent, by way of contrast, used his position as the incumbent to oppose Oregon's landmark 2019 school funding bill," he added.
A former police chief, Lewis said police reforms need to be responsible.
"Public safety is a major priority for me. Over the course of the past several years, we have passed approximately 23 police reform bills. I supported many of them once they were amended to eliminate potential disastrous consequences," Lewis said. "The impact on communities has been felt statewide and includes officer hiring and retention challenges as well as recruitment challenges.
"I will advocate to stop police reform bills and allow law enforcement to implement the many changes we have made and to give us time to analyze the impacts of those changes — both good and bad," he added. "Crime and victimization need to be addressed, including issues with Ballot Measure 110, mental health matters, drug abuse and overdose deaths and the significant rising crime rate."
Lewis also touched on the often party-line talking points of reducing regulations, especially for small businesses, and cutting taxes. He also said more work is needed in supporting military veterans.
Smith similarly expressed concerns about ensuring comprehensive health-care coverage, fair wages, contesting legislation that compromises abortion rights and protecting farmland and the outdoors through enforcement of urban growth boundaries, even if it means voting counter to his party's stance.
"I want to stand up on behalf of the working families of this district, and make sure that everyone gets paid fairly," Smith said. "My opponent, by way of contrast, used his position to oppose overtime pay for farm laborers. And I want to stand up for safe and legal abortion access in Oregon, in a time when reproductive freedom is under attack nationwide. My opponent, by way of contrast, has repeatedly used his office as the incumbent to introduce and advance legislation that would restrict abortion access in Oregon, and if given the chance I am certain he will do it again."
Lewis points to his five decades of public service as a boon to the district and to finding middle ground, adding that there is much work to be done.
"Oregon is not in a good place right now," Lewis said. "We have a two-party system of government for a reason. The best work gets done when there is balance between the two parties. Negotiation and compromise then become the rule and not the exception. It takes experience and leadership to bring about the changes Oregon needs. I have both of those qualities."
House District 18
Name: Rick Lewis
Hometown: Sheridan, WY; Oregon resident since 1979
Occupation: 3-term State Representative; Retired Chief of Police with 40 years in law enforcement including 28 years as Chief of Police
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice
Prior government experience: 3 years U.S. Army; 2 years National Guard; 40 years in law enforcement; chief of police 3 Oregon cities, including Silverton 1998-2012; interim city manager, Silverton; mayor, Silverton; appointed to Oregon Legislature in 2017; elected in 2018 and 2020. Past chair of the Oregon Board on Public Safety Standards & Training; Past chair — Police Policy Committee; Silverton Budget Committee; Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council; currently serve on the Oregon Homeland Security Council, Asset Forfeiture Oversight Advisory Committee and Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. Legislative committee assignments: Vice chair of the House Veterans and emergency Management Committee, vice chair of the House Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery and member of the Joint Transportation Committee, the Joint ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety and the House Judiciary Committee.
Name: Jesse S. Smith
Hometown: I have lived in Silverton for the past decade.
Occupation: Currently a full-time parent; previously employed in website development and marketing.
Education: MBA in Marketing from City University of Seattle; BA in English from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA
Prior government experience: Currently a party Precinct Committee Person. More importantly, for the past several months I've been going to meetings with constituents, and walking the streets of this district going door to door talking with voters. I look forward to using my business skills and life experience to represent the interests of the people of this beautiful district.
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