Unseating an incumbent like Greg Walden from Congress is a steep uphill battle, but challenger Jim Crary smells an opportunity.
Crary, one of several Democrats vying for their party’s nomination, was tapped to run against Walden for the District 2 seat in the 2016 general election. He lost, with only 28 percent of the vote, but he said the difference in dissatisfaction with Walden and the Republican party this time around seems like “night and day.”
People are unhappy about Walden’s prominent role in engineering a health care bill that would have caused an estimated one in 10 of his constituents to lose their health insurance, Crary said. He said Republicans promised for seven years that they had a much better plan than the Affordable Care Act, then it turned out they hadn’t kept any plan at all “on the shelf” for when they took charge.
“Obviously they’re great at criticizing but not great at constructing,” he said.
Crary said there were about 140 people at a candidate forum in Bend on Monday night. Last time around, he said, it was hard to get 25 people to show up to something this early in the race.
Crary’s motto, printed right on his business cards, is “Don’t criticize unless you have a better idea.” One of Crary’s biggest ideas is for campaign finance reform — the issue that first inspired him to run in 2016.
The Ashland Democrat said he doesn’t think it’s possible with today’s congressional and Supreme Court makeup to pass a constitutional amendment or overturn the Citizens United decision that designated political donations as protected free speech. But Crary said there are ways to dilute the power of that money and the wealthy donors who spend it.
Crary envisions a public financing system that would give each registered voter $50 from the federal government to donate to any candidate or ballot measure that they would be able to vote on in the coming year. If the voters participated in the primaries, they would get another $10 to donate toward the general election. Crary said if every Oregonian who voted for him in 2016 gave him $10, that would be more than $1.66 million.
“Let me tell you this, you can run a really credible campaign on that amount of money,” he said.
Besides health care, the other issue that has become especially important to Crary this time around is the environment. Crary said he “absolutely” believes in man-made climate change, and called the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord “going backward.”
Crary acknowledged that he spent about six years of his career working for the oil company BP in their contracts and procurement department, but said those days are behind him. He said the country doesn’t have time to “screw around” on climate change, and needs to implement a cap and trade carbon tax that would charge polluters for excess carbon emissions and then either return the money directly to individual taxpayers or put it toward things like renewable energy and electric cars.
“If everyone was driving electric vehicles charged with renewable energy, that’s nirvana,” he said.
Crary said one thing he did agree with President Donald Trump about was that the country needed to invest in updating and building new infrastructure. It’s something that labor on the left and businesses on the right both agree with, he said, so it didn’t make sense that Congress wasn’t pursuing it.
Crary has lived east of Ashland for about 11 years and was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. He served two years in the Army before graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and a law degree from University of San Diego. He has held a variety of jobs over his career, including 14 years working for the municipality of Anchorage’s legal department. He is married with four children.
Crary is on a three-day trip to Hermiston that has included several meet and greets with constituents, but he also encouraged people to email him at Jim@Crary4Congress.com or give him a call on his cell phone at 541-531-2912. He said if elected to Congress he has pledged to spend at least five hours a week personally answering the phones in his office.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.