Scappoose's Joel Haugen challenges entrenched politics at national level
by: Darryl Swan, Joel Haugen, 58, of Scappoose is seeking a Republican Party bid to challenge David Wu for a seat on the U.S. House of Representatives this November. To learn more about Haugen, visit his Web site at

Scappoose's Joel Haugen has no delusions about his chances to take over the 1st Congressional District seat this fall from U.S. Rep. David Wu, though a part of him concedes that winning is a possibility.

'Stranger things have happened,' said the 58-year-old small-business owner and former educator. 'By some stroke of fate I could emerge, but the reality is unlikely.'

Just making it to the big electoral dance this November is a gamble for Haugen, who must first best Republican challenger Claude William Chappell IV, a McMinnville Internet business owner, in the May primary to get the GOP go-ahead.

But Haugen's sense of victory doesn't hinge on whether he has more votes thrown at him in either race.

For him, it is all about injecting a trickle of fresh ideas into the raging stream of contemporary political thought.

'The more folks I can talk to, the more effective I'll be, win or lose,' Haugen said.

Haugen's message is simple (he has it broken down to five bullet points on his pennywise campaign brochure, each line no more than 11 words in length), though in execution it would require a radical shift in current political thought.

He favors a new energy policy that integrates hydrogen as a dominate fuel source and weans the U.S. off its current diet of fossil fuels.

He wants to do away with the federal tax code, instead implementing a 1 percent or less national electronic transaction fee.

Education needs an overhaul, Haugen said. Two lightning rod subsets of his education platform include mandatory school uniforms and compulsory national service, the latter drawing fire in early self-run polls staged on the idea. But Haugen defends the concept, arguing it could be used to promote education and other social progress not fully tied to military service.

He promotes a change in approach when it comes to businesses and the health coverage offered to employees. Instead of a reactive program, he wants built-in preventative incentives in the form of wellness programs and health savings accounts.

And last, but certainly not least, especially in the realm of GOP pontificators who favor President Bush's war in Iraq, he wants a more humble approach toward foreign world powers.

'I'm a Republican, but I think George W. has been a disaster for the country, and has been a disaster for the Republican Party,' Haugen said. 'We are in an absolute mess right now.'

Unlike the more popular trend among Republican hopefuls to invest in the policies of President Ronald Reagan, Haugen has modeled himself in the mold of Republican Teddy Roosevelt. In addition to his other points, Haugen favors a policy of environmental conservatism, as did Roosevelt, and much like his turn-of-the-20th-century inspiration he seeks a dramatic revision to the national health care system.

'Unfortunately, in my view, the Roosevelt Republican is very much a low priority in the National Republican Party,' he said.

On the surface, Haugen is driving for much of the same change espoused at the Democratic levels. And in fact, when given the possible presidential candidates stumping for national votes at present, Haugen said he would likely vote for Democrat Barack Obama should he win the Democratic primary.

But if it comes down to Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican John McCain, he'll vote McCain.

Midwest beginnings

Haugen said his first taste of politics goes back to his home state of Minnesota, when as a 12-year-old youth he worked for Republican Rep. John McKee at a lake resort in the 1960s. From that acquaintance he had the fortune of meeting high-profile clients, such as the coach for the Minnesota Vikings and the then-president of AT and T.

Most of all, Haugen said it was McKee's even-keeled and humble approach that resonates in his campaign, and in his life, today.

'If you can approach life in general with humility, I think you're a lot better off,' he said.

Haugen was drafted into the Army in 1968 and served 22 months in the Vietnam War in tactical operations, including work as a helicopter door gunner.

After an honorable military discharge, Haugen entered college life and graduated with his bachelor's degree from a small university on the shores of Bemidji Lake in Minnesota, in the hometown of his birth. It was also there that he met and married the love of his life, Judy, who was also a student at Bemidji State University. The couple today has two sons together, both in their 20s.

Haugen later earned his master's degree at Western Illinois University in physical geography.

The couple followed their hearts west, where Judy landed a job as a teacher in Scappoose. Haugen worked a brief stint for the Port of Portland as a planning and research associate, and followed it up as an independent defense contractor, spending long periods away in Colorado while Judy stayed behind.

The long-distances eventually stymied Haugen's business venture, and in his search for an outlet closer to home he followed in his wife's footsteps and graduated with a teaching certificate from Portland State University. He taught middle school science in Hillsboro and Forest Grove schools, but the entrepreneurial spirit never fully burnt itself out.

Today, Haugen runs a company called Smart Map Imaging, calling upon his prior experience in geography and a thirst to learn the latest technologies to work with real estate firms and other commercial enterprises.

Judy said she supports her husband's foray into national politics, though mention of it draws a similarly hesitant smile as it does from Joel. For one, the prospect of life in Washington, D.C., is unpleasant, at best, especially given the couple's love of nature and a current residence in the panoramic west hills of Scappoose.

'I think it's a very noble thing,' Judy said when asked about her husband's aspirations. 'His heart is in the right place.'

The couple exudes a sense of duty entwined with Haugen's political outlook. It is a sense, Haugen said, that his generation has a responsibility to leave the world in better, not worse, condition than it was handed to them.

'We want to leave the world in a better place, not so much for our children, but for all generations,' Judy said.

Haugen acknowledges that his election platform is pretty basic and without a lot of surprises, though he admits that he is dumbfounded why so many national politicians, including his long-term competition, have blanched away from his core issues.

'These kinds of things are really pretty basic to me and common sense,' he said.

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