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Candidates talk education, land use, minimum wage

About 100 turn out to hear from legislative hopefuls


Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Eight candidates for three legislative seats in play on the Nov. 4 election ballot met voters at the Hillsboro Main Library Oct. 1. Left to right are: Susan McLain, Mark Richman, Bruce Starr, Chuck Riley, Caitlin Mitchel-Markley, Kyle Markley, Joe Gallegos and Dan Mason. If it’s October, it must be campaign season. That was certainly the case Oct. 1, as eight candidates for three different legislative offices gathered for an evening forum at the Hillsboro Main Library.

Invited to the event were candidates in three specific races: Mark Richman (Republican) and Susan McLain (Democrat), state representative candidates in House District 29; Joe Gallegos (Democrat, incumbent), Dan Mason (Republican) and Kyle Markley (Libertarian), state representative hopefuls in House District 30; and Bruce Starr (Republican, incumbent), Chuck Riley (Democrat) and Caitlin Mitchel-Markley (Libertarian) in the Senate District 15 race for state senator.

Approximately 100 citizens turned out to listen to the eight give one-minute answers to a series of questions that, as the candidates were often quick to point out, could use an hour or more of discussion.

In an opening statement, each candidate offered a compelling reason for voters to support their candidacies, and each voiced a specific theme.

“I want to be a strong voice for children and families and small businesses,” McLain said.

McLain’s opponent, a deputy district attorney for Washington County, said he would fight for the public.

“Public service is at the core of who I am,” Richman said. “Jobs, education and public safety — I always want to be wherever the fight is.”

Starr pointed out that a healthy economy would create many societal benefits.

“We need to have an economy that works so we have the dollars necessary for public service, public safety and quality education,” Starr said.

Riley, a former state representative, said he believes Oregon can do better than it has been doing.

“I want to run because I want to make sure we have a good education system and equal pay for equal work,” Riley said.

Mitchel-Markley, an attorney, stressed that as a third party candidate, she would not be beholden to a strict party line.

“I would bring fiscal responsibility, law improvement, civil rights and a focus on policy instead of politics,” she said.

Kyle Markley, Caitlin’s husband and also a Libertarian, said he would focus on maximizing the rights of individuals.

“I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” he said. “Government is too intrusive, and I will be an advocate for individual freedom and individual rights.”

Gallegos, who was first elected as a state representative in 2012, said he wants to continue the work he has started by asking for another term in office.

“We had a great session last time, and I want to get back there,” he said. “I am a staunch advocate on behalf of education.”

Dan Mason, who is challenging Gallegos, said he planned to focus on four major issues.

“The keys are transportation, housing, economic development and school funding,” Mason said.

Among the many issues addressed in the forum were tax reform, climate change, coal and oil trains, crime, the minimum wage, the Strategic Investment Program and preservation of farmlands.

“We need sweeping changes to tax system in Oregon,” Gallegos said. “Any tax reform will take reaching across the aisle. It’s not just about money; it’s also about priorities.”

“We need to look for efficient ways to run state and local government,” said Mason.

The recent “Grand Bargain” — in which the Legislature passed legislation to resolve land use issues in Washington County and two neighboring counties — was also a topic of interest.

“The Grand Bargain wasn’t so grand because there were no citizens involved,” McLain said.

“Hope we don’t have to go to the Legislature to accommodate the land use process,” Starr said.

“In general, the land use system is working well,” Riley said. “We need to leave it at the local level as much as possible,” Riley said.

The Libertarian candidates expressed a different point of view.

“The Legislature telling a North Plains farmer whether he’s able to sell his land, that is not appropriate at all,” Mitchel-Markley said.

Kyle Markley agreed, saying landowners should have maximum control over their land.

“The dominant vote on land use should be left to land owners,” he said. “These decisions are ideally made by communities at the community level. We need to rely on the community to have a voice in their own decisions. It’s not appropriate for boundaries to be drawn by legislators far away.”

When the topic of the transportation of coal, oil and gas through Oregon came up, Riley and Mitchel-Markley took opposing stances.

“My preference is, don’t have oil trains coming through at all,” Riley said. “It’s very dangerous, and we want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Mitchel-Markley said that approach made little sense.

“I support shipping coal and liquefied natural gas through Oregon,” she explained. “These materials are shipped every day without incident.”

When the question of Oregon’s minimum wage came up, Kyle Markley said he was eager to address the topic.

“I’m happy to get a question that allows me to put on my fire-breathing Libertarian hat,” the state representative hopeful said. “Having a minimum wage is a form of price control, and that’s very bad. It takes away the freedom of two people to agree to a wage.”

Richman pointed out that many people just need a job to get a start and gain experience.

“If the wage is too high, employers won’t hire them and they may not get that first chance,” Richman said. “Making it more of a risk to hire them is not what they need.”

Gallegos said his focus was not primarily on young people getting their first job.

“I’m less concerned about juveniles getting jobs than adults getting a fair wage,” Gallegos explained.

Starr said he believed Oregon has already been more than fair in setting the state’s minimum wage.

“We already have the second highest minimum wage in the country, and every year it goes up,” Starr said.

The candidates’ forum was sponsored by the Committees for Citizen Involvement of Washington County and Forest Grove.

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