Beatrice Cochran faces uphill battle in race against Piluso

Last month, Rep. Greg Matthews, D-Gresham, announced he will not seek re-election and endorsed former Gresham police chief Carla Piluso, who is running for the seat in District 50.

Piluso will face Beatrice L. Cochran, a medical language specialist at Providence Portland Medical Center, in the May 20 Democratic STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER JIM CLARK - Beatrice Cochran

Outlook readers should be familiar with Piluso, who spent 30 years with the Gresham Police Department, during which time she became the city’s first female police chief.

Piluso retired from the force in 2009 and currently sits on the Gresham-Barlow School Board as well as a number of other community and nonprofit boards. She is among the best-known public figures in East County and the race’s apparent frontrunner.

But who is Beatrice Cochran? And why did she decide to run?

The Outlook invited Cochran to sit down for an interview this week to learn a little more about the candidate.

Grandmother, veteran

Cochran, 74, is a widowed mother of five sons, has 11 grandchildren as well as a great grandson. She lives in Rockwood and says President John F. Kennedy inspired her interest in politics.

“I think the Democrats help people,” she adds.

She’s in good company in her district — 42 percent of Outlook readers identified themselves as Democrats in a recent survey, whereas only 15 percent said they were Republicans.

However, Cochran is decidedly a centrist Democrat as opposed to leftist. For example, she firmly believes in the Second Amendment right to bear arms and also spoke at length about how she believes the middle class needs a voice in the Oregon Legislature. For example, she wants Oregon to abolish its income tax and replace it with a sales tax.

“I don’t think people working should be the only ones paying the taxes,” she says. “If you’re rich you get a write-off.

“The middle class is paying for everybody. I think everybody should pay the bills.”

On other issues, Cochran sounds more like a contemporary progressive — for example, she wants the state to provide more funding to train police officers in dealing with people who are mentally ill. Noting how some crime suspects with mental issues have met a tragic end at the hands of the police over the past few years, she wants the state to make the humane handling of such suspects a priority.

“They have money for everything else, they should have money for that,” she says.

Cochran served as an army medic in the early 1960s and was stationed in Texas and Germany.

Her late husband of 40 years, Bill, whom she met in Germany, also served, and was a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Cochran says she will advocate for veterans in the Legislature.

“Anything you can do for the veterans is important,” she says, adding she believes veterans need more funding to help deal with both the physical and mental problems wars cause.

Quixotic run

Cochran is frank in her assessment of her slim chances against Piluso, a well-known community leader.

Cochran says she knows she’s an underdog, but still thinks she speaks for voters, while entrenched leaders do not.

“She’s been in the political arena a long time,” she says of her opponent. “But I think we need new people.”

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