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Democrats vie for Nov. 8 primary win

Candidiates reveal few differences at King City forum
by: Barbara Sherman LINED UP TO SPEAK — At a Sept. 16 King City forum for candidates in Oregon's 1st Congressional District's Democratic Party primary election, Suzanne Bonamici (far right) speaks, while the other candidates (from left) listen - Brad Witt, Robert Lettin, Dominic Hammon, Dan Strite, Saba Ahmed and Brad Avakian.

The top three issues for candidates in Oregon's 1st Congressional District Democratic primary election Nov. 8 are jobs, jobs and jobs.

Seven of the eight Democratic hopefuls spoke at a candidates' forum Sept. 16 hosted by the King City Democrats in the King City Civic Association Clubhouse; the event drew about 100 people.

To be sure, other issues, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, balancing the federal budget, education and protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, also were hot buttons.

Glen Geller, vice chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party, moderated the forum, which gave each of the candidates an opportunity to make opening statements, answer several questions from the audience, and make closing statements.

Geller chose Saba Ahmed to start off, and she was followed down the table by the other candidates.

Ahmed, a native of Pakistan who has worked in the high-tech field, said that for the past six months, she has traveled between Oregon and Washington, D.C., "lobbying against the war efforts."

Ahmed said that in a world of men in pin-stripe suits, she as a Muslim woman offers a different perspective and has found people she has met "opening to listening to me."

"We were all affected by 911 and need to work together," she added. "There is high unemployment in Oregon, and we need to bring high-tech investment to the state. Oregon has a high high-school drop-out rate, but with an educated population, companies will come here and invest."

Brad Avakian, Oregon's state labor commissioner and a former legislator, said, "Northwest Oregon needs a strong leader in Congress who can bring jobs to Oregon and protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."

Avakian said he has proposed a 21st century WPA program to create jobs that would rebuild the country's electrical grid and bridges plus focus on green projects.

State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Beaverton) said she is running "because people in the 1st Congressional District deserve someone in Congress who will fight for jobs and public education and protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"(They also need) someone who will stand up to the industries who caused the collapse of our economy… (They need someone) who will get things done without being divisive."

Dominick Hammon, who lives in Brookings and is a former contractor, called himself "an average Oregonian with no campaign manager, no pollster and owing no favors."

He said he would represent only his constituents and work for jobs, property rights and tax relief.

"I will stop the Tea party from dismantling Medicare and Medicaid," Hammon said. "Retirement is something we will all do someday."

Robert Lettin, of Sherwood, said he had worked on Capitol Hill with embassies and the State Department.

An investment advisor, he said, "Social Security is and will be fine until 2037. But if nothing is done, it will be cut by 25 percent in 2038."

Dan Strite, who lives in Warrenton and is a retired business owner and golf pro, came armed with signs and charts.

"My platform is to get of the war business," he said. "We should govern by consensus. We need a government that will respond to the people and will represent Democrats, Republicans, the green party and the Tea Party."

State Rep. Brad Witt, a three-term Oregon legislator who has held leadership positions in the Oregon AFL-CIO for 14 years, said he wants to work to create good jobs, a safe and healthy environment, safe neighborhoods, continue women's right to choose, and protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security plus end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I want to provide strong, effective, principled leadership," Witt said.

The candidates were asked to name their No. 1 priority, and Lettin named three: turn the economy around, stop the war and overhaul the government.

Hammon said he would work for a fair tax plan to grow small businesses, and Strite commented, "There are lots of great ideas at this table."

Ahmed called for "bringing all the troops home safely and building Oregon's rural economy."

Avakian stressed the need to add shop classes at middle and high schools to provide some of the qualified labor needed by businesses.

Bonamici said jobs and the economy are her No. 1 priority along with providing an education "to make sure students today get jobs tomorrow."

Hammon said that No. 1 for him is "economic fairness," while Witt said, "No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 is the creation of more good-paying jobs. I would end the Bush tax cuts immediately.

"I would rebuild energy, transportation and communication infrastructure and call for the modernization and upgrades of public buildings."

The candidates also discussed how in their view jobs can be created along with immigration reform.

One candidate did not attend the forum - Todd Ritter, a Tigard resident.

The Democrat and Republican parties are each holding primaries to determine candidates for a run-off election Jan. 31 to fill the seat vacated by David Wu when he resigned in early August after a sex scandal was revealed.

Before the candidates spoke, Geller pointed out that Democrats have held the 1st Congressional seat since 1975.