Dave Hunt unopposed as he seeks re-election
Seeking a third term representing Oregon's 40th district in the state legislature, Rep. Dave Hunt handily won the Democratic primary earlier this year. A candidate also won the Republican primary in convincing fashion: Rep. Dave Hunt.
'It's unusual - I don't think this district has ever been uncontested before,' said Hunt. 'No Republican filed to run, and several Republican constituents contacted me and said they wanted to write me in. I think it's a testament to the fact that I've tried to be balanced in the legislation that I've pursued and the votes that I've cast.
'If you look at how many votes a winning write-in candidate gets, it's maybe 20 to 25. I got 293 out of 404 ballots cast.'
Hunt's name will not appear in two places on the ballot in November, however.
'Technically, the way it works is that I'm offered both nominations, but I have to turn one down,' he said. 'In some states, like New York, they have a 'fusion' ballot, where the same candidate's name can appear under both parties.'
Working across party lines
Although he will not face a major-party contender in the general election, Hunt is still keen to describe his accomplishments and his plans for the future.
'During the last session, I made progress in education - especially at the community college level,' he said. 'I co-founded the community college caucus with Vicki Berger, a Republican from Salem. We were really successful in winning more operational funds for community colleges, and also beginning the process of getting some capital construction money, as well.'
He pointed out that the state government has not committed any funds for capital improvements at community colleges since the 1970s.
'They have been lost in the middle for a lot of years, but they are a key bridge between four-year universities and the K-12 system,' Hunt said, explaining that the Republican leadership in the house showed little interest in increasing funding for primary and secondary schools.
'I sense some openness around community colleges,' he said. 'When you see an opening, you jump through.'
As another accomplishment, he cited the passage of a bill ensuring mental health parity - requiring health insurance companies to offer comparable coverage for mental and physical illness.
'There have been mental health parity bills introduced in the legislature during each session for the last 15 years, but they have all been blocked in the House,' he said.
Recognizing the bill enjoyed broad bi-partisan support, Hunt formed an alliance with Rep. Carolyn Tomei and took on 10 co-sponsors from each party.
'We didn't let any other Democrats come on board as co-sponsors, even though they wanted to, and we kept demanding a vote, which we eventually got towards the end of the session,' said Hunt.
The bill passed by a vote of 59 to 1.
'This was a case where the leadership was standing in the way of a good bill with popular support,' he added.
In the area of transportation, Hunt cited his efforts to move forward on six transportation projects of statewide importance, including the Sunrise Corridor and the widening of I-205 between Oregon City and the I-5 interchange.
'I looked at the membership of the transportation committee and at these five projects of statewide significance identified by the transportation department,' he said. 'It was strictly a coincidence, but these five projects lined up quite nicely with the members of the committee.'
Other projects that will receive funding from the bill include road improvements near Newberg and Dundee, upgrading Highway 62 in Medford and Highway 99W in Washington County.
The state's rail, aviation and maritime assets will also be upgraded owing to a $100 million bill that Hunt supported called 'Connect Oregon.'
'That money is being spent on projects all over the state,' he said. 'For example, the Port of Portland just added a new container crane, which costs about $7 million. That's going to be a direct benefit for businesses and farmers in Clackamas County, because it will expedite the movement of cargo.'
Anticipating his third term in the statehouse, Hunt again turned first to education.
'Education has to be our top priority,' he said. 'Hopefully, we'll have some new leadership in the House, and they will be more open to funding education. If you look at all the cuts we've made in the last 10 years, we need to re-build our education system.'
He identified four specific goals for the 2007 legislative session: fully funding the Head Start program, reducing class sizes in K-12 schools, making capital improvements at community colleges and keeping tuition down at the state's universities.
'I've gotten together with Chuck Burley, a Republican from Bend, and we're going to bring together a group of legislators with an interest in education funding,' he said. 'The problem is that there are 10 proposals floating around out there right now, each with a different group of people working on them. We're hoping if we can get everyone to agree on one plan, we can all work together to push the cart over the finish line.'
On the subject of transportation, Hunt would like to see continued funding for road projects in Clackamas County and beyond, as well as a second 'Connect Oregon' bill, to provide for additional improvements.
'A third priority area for me is healthcare,' he said. 'The state's focus must be to guarantee health insurance and health care for every child in Oregon. Adding a tobacco tax that is equivalent to Washington will provide enough funding to pay for that, as well as a network of school-based health centers, like the one we have already at Oregon City High School.'
Hunt would also like to see an increase in funding for public safety.
'We have got to add back the state police that we've lost over the past 15 years. It's appalling that we have half the number of troopers we had 15 years ago, and we have 1 million more people,' he said. 'That has to change.'