Greg Walden (R-Hood River) has held the U.S. House of Representatives seat of Oregon’s second district since 1999, but this November a new challenger has emerged to vie for the position, a fight that may extend multiple election cycles.
Jim Crary, a resident of Ashland, is running against Walden on the Democratic Party ticket for Oregon’s second district in the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general election. The second district is the seventh largest in the entire country, covering all of eastern Oregon and much of southern Oregon, including Lake and Klamath counties, encompassing a vast area to represent with many differing viewpoints and issues to address. Crary got his start in politics in Alaska where he resided for 24 years, running for the State House of Representatives as an independent. Seeing firsthand the cause and effect of a huge alcoholism epidemic in Alaska resulting in related abuse crimes, he spearheaded an initiative for a sales tax on alcohol. It was during that effort that he witnessed how money can negatively affect politics, as an initial positive response soon lost out to an ad campaign launched by alcohol companies to battle the initiative.
It is the money in politics issue that is now inspiring Crary to represent Oregon’s Second District, believing that in Walden’s nearly two decades in Washington D.C. he has been immersed in politics and the influence of money for too long.
“I bet (Walden) got in with good intentions, but he has stayed too long, and it’s become clear he is representing special interests,” said Crary. “I think money corrupts, and you can see it in the voting record.”
Campaign finance reform is Crary’s biggest issue, promising to seek a constitutional amendment if elected, while also caring greatly about climate change after previously working in the oil and gas industry. He pointed to Lakeview as a perfect example of embracing renewable energies that lead to new economic prosperity, stating that he often uses Lakeview as an example while on the campaign trail of communities working towards the future.
For Rep. Walden, his efforts in the current Congressional term have yielded seven proposals being passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. These include legislation to bring commercial air service back to Klamath Falls, provide funding for Columbia Gorge bridges and expand broadband internet access to rural areas. He has worked extensively with Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on legislation to change federal forest management policies to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires and alter how wildfire suppression efforts are funded.
For several months Crary has been campaigning across eastern Oregon 4-5 days a week, meeting with groups and individual citizens to hear concerns Oregon residents have about current problems and what representation has not accomplished. He noted difficulty in being able to campaign in Lake County, denied by service organizations a chance to speak at meetings unless Walden was also invited, despite Walden making numerous appearances at town halls and service organization meetings on his own since being elected. Crary recognizes that unseating an incumbent in Congress is difficult, with over 90 percent of Congress members typically re-elected despite historically low approval ratings, but sees the 2016 election as just he first step in a multi-year effort.
“I’ve got a small chance, I know that,” said Crary. “It lies in the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump supporters who are frustrated with status quo of modern politics. I’ve learned so much, it’s been a wonderful experience, and if I don’t win I’m going to run again.”
Crary plans to attend the AAUW political forum on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Lakeview at the Lake County Senior Center. For more information visit www.crary16.com.