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Get to know your candidates: Suzanne VanOrman

Hood River Democrat and Head Start veteran challenges Smith
by: contributed photo, Suzanne VanOrman.

Hood River resident Suzanne VanOrman is the Democratic challenger to incumbent Patti Smith.

VanOrman, 67, has left no doubt in voters' minds as to what her major platform issue is for her campaign: education reform.

'As a person who has spent most of her working life in education, I am extremely concerned about public education,' VanOrman said. 'The current legislative leadership has succeeded in reducing education to a shortened year, overcrowded classrooms and questionable quality.'

VanOrman's work as executive director of the Mid-Columbia Children's Council expanded pre-kindergarten Head Start education services from 95 to 482 families in the greater Columbia River Valley area, receiving state and federal grants for the program and working with many community partners to improve rented facilities and to acquire new facilities.

'I spent many years creating budgets and making sure the program spent within the limits of our income,' VanOrman said. 'I am happy to say we lived within our means, spent wisely, and continuously improved.'

She hopes to parlay the successful practices used as a private contractor into the public education system.

Quality-of-life issues are VanOrman's other major focus, from police funding to insurance affordability.

'I, too, am concerned about the methamphetamine problem, but all the legislative bills in the world are no help if there isn't money budgeted to pay for enough police to control the illegal activity,' VanOrman said. 'Three hundred and nine troopers for the whole state is not an acceptable number. You can't fight crime if you have no fighters.'

VanOrman believes that small businesses and Oregonians without insurance should be allowed to join in a statewide purchasing pool to reduce their costs for prescription drugs. That would give otherwise unlinked individuals and companies the kind of purchasing power larger corporations might have.

'With health insurance premiums continually rising, I fully understand why businesses can no longer afford to offer it. We have to (make) sure health providers start protecting us and not their profits,' she said. 'Collective purchasing would help reduce drug costs for all Oregonians.'

SUZANNE VANORMAN AT A GLANCE

OCCUPATION: Retired; worked as a teacher (preschool, middle school and high school); project coordinator, Clackamas County Children's Commission; Clackamas County Juvenile Court, employee and volunteer coordinator-counselor; project coordinator, Clackamas County Productivity Improvement Project.

EXPERIENCE: Oregon City Commissioner, 1983-1985, 1988-1996; commission president; South Fork Water Board; Oregon City Improvement Trust; Oregon City Urban Renewal District; Oregon City Civil Service Board; Tri-Cities Services Budget Committee; Legislative Aide for Robin Lindquist; past president, MECCA-League of Women Voters; past president of eight community organizations; treasurer, Oregon City Optimists.

WHY RUN? 'After the 2005 session, many of us were sorely disappointed with the lack of positive outcomes from the Legislature. Our state desperately needs better leadership. My values are a well-educated, healthy community with citizens who get good jobs, who have affordable health care and public safety services that protect us. It is time for change. Based on my experience and what I know, felt I was well-qualified to serve.'

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS INCLUDE: Democratic Central Committee of Clackamas County, independent businesspeople and businesses of the 52nd House District.

ENDORSEMENTS: U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, former Gov. Barbara Roberts, Sandy Mayor Linda Malone, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Multnomah County Democrats, SEIU Local 503 - Service Employees International Union, NARAL - Pro-Choice America, OLCV - Oregon League of Conservation Voters, The Black Conference.

CONTACT: 541-490-6796 (campaign coordinator), www.votevanorman.org.

FINAL THOUGHT: 'My goals are to provide adequate and stable funding for our schools, to make sure the needed services from health care to police funding, which have been drastically reduced over the years, are restored by effective budgeting.'