Blumenauer, Broussard contest 3rd Congressional District
Oregon's 3rd congressional district, which encompasses the northern reaches of Clackamas County as far east as the summit of Mt. Hood, as well as much of Multnomah county, has been represented for the past 10 years by Democrat Earl Blumenauer. He faces a challenge this November from Bruce Broussard, a Marine Corps veteran and entrepreneur.
First elected to Congress in 1996, Blumenauer made his initial foray into public life in 1973, when he was elected to the statehouse, where he served for five years. In 1986, he was elected to Portland City Commission, serving until a special election to replace Ron Wyden catapulted him onto the national stage.
Looking back over the 2006 session, he cited several accomplishments.
'I'm very pleased with the bill that we got through the House on protecting Mt. Hood,' Blumenauer said. 'It's the first time in 22 years that a bill has gotten through either the House or the Senate, and if it becomes law, it will protect Mt. Hood for the next century.'
On the international front, he pushed for a bill entitled 'Water for the Poor' that will deliver cleaning drinking water and sanitation services to people in impoverished nations.
'I've been invited to speak about it at the UN next month,' he said. 'It's going to save millions of lives at a time when we desperately need friends and allies around the world.'
The bill does not require any additional spending - instead, it directs how money already flowing to foreign governments is spent.
'We are spending hundreds of millions giving weapons to people that maybe we shouldn't be,' he said. 'This requires us to put together a plan for water and sanitation, instead.'
On Iraq, Blumenauer noted that he voted against giving the president authorization to invade in 2002, and has remained a staunch opponent of the war.
'We're wasting billions on the war,' he said. 'Just being stuck and trying to hold on until you can hand off to a new president is not a strategy, and it's not fair to our soldiers, who have done all that we could ever ask them to do.
'Now it's coming out how out-of-touch Rumsfeld is - even people like Laura Bush and Colin Powell wanted him gone. He's a disaster - an unmitigated disaster.'
On the subject of immigration, he referred to the plan to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border as 'window dressing.'
'It's something to pretend they are doing something,' said Blumenauer. 'It's all politics. We have a 7,500 land border, so 700 miles of fence just isn't going to make that big a difference.
'Where did we intercept the only person ever found coming into the United States carrying explosives? It was in the Pacific Northwest, in Port Angeles, Wash.'
Looking ahead to the 2007 session of Congress, Blumenauer expressed his hope for a change in leadership and outlined his own plans for a new term.
'For me, the next Congress is going to be about dealing with Oregon's problems,' he said. 'We've got a big farm bill that's coming up. Every Oregonian has a stake in this bill, and we need to make sure that it's better for the farmers, for the taxpayers and for the environment.'
He also plans to call for spending restraint in Congress.
'We'll work very hard to do a better job at being fiscally responsible,' he said. 'So far, in this Congress, we've only passed two of the 13 spending bills that are required to keep the government operating. These budgets should have been passed weeks or months ago, but the Republicans have decided to put it all off until after the election.'
If the Democrats win control of the House, as Blumenauer hopes, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi would become the Speaker of the House.
'You've seen these scandals, with people steering contracts to donors who don't deserve them,' he said. 'Nancy intends to change the rules to 'pay-as-you-go,' so that a tax cut or a spending increase has to be offset somewhere else in the budget.'
A 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam, Broussard settled in Portland after being shipped out to the city as a recruiter.
'At first, I wasn't sure where they were sending me,' he said. 'They said it was near Washington, and I thought they meant Washington, D.C., until they said, 'No, the other Washington, out in the Pacific Northwest.''
After finding his way to Oregon, he decided that he would rather leave the corps than move on to his next post, when the order came.
'I love it here,' he said. 'It's a lovely place.'
An entrepreneur, he owned the Portland Observer newspaper for a time and also published the Oregon Voter's Digest.
'I also got into real estate - I started up Tri-County Neighborhood Housing,' he said. 'Housing is always an issue in the poor areas, so what I would do was, I would buy the home and carry the note. When somebody moved in, all they had to pay was the first-month's rent, the last-month's rent and a cleaning deposit.
'Maintaining that rental helped them build up their credit, and then, after four or five years, they would build up enough equity in the home to buy me out with a re-finance.'
Broussard built the business to the point that he was able to develop a 38-unit senior citizen's complex in NE Portland.
'Seniors would buy into it, like a condo,' he said.
Broussard is president of the Oregon chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers, an organization that honors African American men who fought for the Union in the Civil War. His affiliation with group has shaped one of his key policy initiatives: reparations for the descendants of those soldiers.
'President Lincoln promised these guys 40 acres and a mule - that's where that phrase comes from - he promised them that as a signing bonus. It was a contract, but then Lincoln got shot, and his vice president reversed everything he had agreed to,' Broussard explained.
Broussard stated that he was in favor of term limits, and also would like to see candidates for political office sign legally binding contracts, outlining their plans, if elected.
'If you don't do what you say you're going to do, guess what? You can't run again,' he said.
He also advocated a two-year extension of the public education system, so that K-12 would become K-14, with the emphasis in those two additional years of schooling on vocational education.
'It used to be that you would get all the training that you needed to hold a good, blue collar job in high school - food service, home economics, woodshop, sheet metal, working on engines,' he said. 'Now days, we don't have any of that - the big push is for everybody to go to college.
'Under my plan, you'd graduate from high school with your associate's degree, so you could get a good job right away, or go on for more schooling.'
According to Broussard, his plan would be popular with parents, because their children would be better able to pay their own university tuition, using their vocational skills.
'Education is the key,' he said. 'We've got to start these kids out right, and if they have to pay for their own higher education, they will be more appreciative of it.'
He also advocated an extensive system of social benefits for senior citizens, including housing, healthcare, clothing and food.
'As far as I'm concerned, we have a free enterprise system, but if you make it through to 70, you should be taken care of,' he said. 'We should take care of people when they are young and when they are old, but from 20 to 70, you're on your own - you have to make it.'