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Bruce wants to amplify voice of ordinary Oregonians

Lobbying in Salem over the past few years has taught Robert Bruce one thing — legislators don’t pay enough attention to the people, he says.

“The more I watched that, the more I realized that that’s the way legislators shouldn’t act,” says Bruce, 50, a small business consultant from Sandy.by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Robert Bruce

So Bruce, a father of one teenage son, has decided to stop watching from the sidelines and get in the game. Barring a challenge in the May primary, Bruce is the Democratic Party’s candidate for Oregon Senate District 26 in 2014. In the general election next year, he will likely face Sen. Chuck Thomsen, a Hood River Republican in his first term.

District 26 spans an area from East Multnomah County to Hood River. The district includes a portion of Boring, as well as the communities of Sandy and the Mount Hood villages.

Bruce says he respects Thomsen, but believes the district needs a more “aggressive advocate” in Salem.

“It’s time our communities had a state senator who stepped up and solved the problems facing everyday Oregonians,” Bruce said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “Small businesses continue to struggle and our schools still aren’t getting the funding they need. We can do better and we must do better, and that’s why I’m running for the Oregon Senate.”

An active member of the Oregon Trail Democrats, Bruce says he’s heard one too many stories of legislators not responding in a timely fashion to constituents’ concerns, and he wants that to change.

“A lot of people can’t drive to Salem, so whether it’s by phone or email, I’ll respond,” he says.

Bruce provides estimating and project management consulting services for Sandy River Construction Services, and has lived in Sandy for nine years.

A native of Bellingham, Wash., he has lobbied in Salem on various issues, including business ones, and strongly advocated for a bill to end the exemption from anti-fraud lawsuits insurance companies in Oregon enjoy under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. The act prohibits fraud in business transactions.

Sen. Chip Shields, a Portland Democrat, led the charge in the last session for legislation that would give the state’s attorney general the power to sue insurance companies that engage in fraud. Similar legislation was brought forth in the 2011 session, when committee members heard testimony from individuals and businesses who had been mistreated by insurance companies, according to Shields’ office. The bill passed out of committee in 2011, but went no further.

A bill to eliminate the exemption passed the state House in the last session, but failed to make it to the Senate floor. It’s unlikely another bill will come up for a legislative vote in both houses until 2015, according to Shields’ office. Roberts states its “unbelievable” insurance companies don’t have to operate under the fair trade practices act.

“You really don’t have much recourse if you file a claim and it’s denied,” Bruce says of why he supports the bill. “If you ask 20 people in the street, they don’t know that insurance companies are not under that act.”

Thomsen says he understands the concerns that have caused folks like Bruce to call for an end to the exemption, but nonetheless opposes opening insurance companies up to such lawsuits because of the potential for economic damage.

“Basically it would open up a lot of insurance companies to third party lawsuits, which would cost consumers a lot more in premiums,” he says. He notes, however, he “would gladly support something” that doesn’t increase consumer costs.

As for other issues, Bruce says he’d like to see closer scrutiny of how small businesses contracted to complete state projects plan on doing so before they get such contracts. He’s particularly concerned about how the contracting process affects minority-owned, woman-owned and emerging small businesses, or, as the state calls them, MWESB firms.

“We give contracts to MWESB type firms without preparing them for real world experiences,” Bruce says. “This causes many to go out of business or never venture into public works contracting again, which defeats the purpose and in addition to that it often causes cost and time overruns on public works projects.”

Bruce says people he’s met are tired of hyper partisanship at all levels of government — local, state and federal — and yearn for politicians who will focus on common ground and practical solutions. If elected, “I will look at each bill on its own merits and not just take a party line vote,” he says.

Bruce’s campaign has already received endorsements from Sandy City Councilor Grant Baker and former Sandy Mayor Dick Harrison.

For more information on Bruce, visit oregonsenatedemocrats.com.