Jamie McLeod-Skinner hauls her dog and a teardrop trailer across Eastern Oregon in her bid win the Democratic Party nomination for the 2nd District Congressional District and the right to face Greg Walden in November.
Thursday she was in Canyon City and Friday in Pendleton. Tuesday she will be in The Dalles for the Wasco County Democrats monthly meeting. She said she spent nine months of the campaign with her ear to the ground, talking to locals across the seventh-largest congressional district in the country.
“I’m a big advocate of local wisdom,” she said, while also a fan of data and information to inform policy decisions.
Issues vary from one end of the district to the other, she said, but housing, health care and net neutrality are common issues. She said she wants to see broadband access in rural areas, incentives for renewable energy development and social infrastructure to address the opioid addiction crisis.
The district has plenty of differences, but McLeod-Skinner said she sees a strong sense of unity throughout.
“The thing that cuts across the board is we all care about out families,” she said. “We care about our communities.”
McLeod-Skinner graduated high school in 1985 in southern Oregon, earned a degree in water law from the University of Oregon and said she is a lifelong Democrat. The former city manager for Phoenix, Oregon, McLeod-Skinner now lives with her wife in Terrebonne in Jefferson County. She said her wife’s family has ranched in Jordan Valley in the southeastern corner of the state for 100 years.
She calls herself a “rural Democrat.” She said the Democratic Party has focused too much on the urban areas while Republicans have been beholden to corporations. Both leave out rural residents. Government also can’t step in and take on a problem on its own, she said, there needs to be partnerships and local solutions. And while she supports polices to keep water clean, for example, the implementation matters.
“We need to make it easier for folks to have their livelihood work,” she said.
She also said voters see incumbent Rep. Greg Walden has shifted his focus from the district.
“The issues that are really impacting people’s living, he is not stepping up,” she said.
Walden, a Republican from Hood River, has been in office since 1999 and has more than $3 million cash on hand, according to opensecrets.org, which tracks campaign finances. McLeod-Skinner said to counter that she has a large team of dedicated volunteers. She also is putting in time and miles in the district.
God, guns and guts matter out here, and guts is maybe where challengers can carve into Walden.
Constituents have slammed the representative for skipping on public appearances, particularly in the wake of promising last year not to support health care legislation that cut pre-exisiting conditions, only to vote for the Republican plan to do just that in repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Voters want to see leaders held accountable, McLeod-Skinner said, and to see their elected representatives take a stand against divisiveness,
such as when President Donald Trump demeans or criticizes some groups.
“We don’t have that kind of leadership from our representative,” she said.
McLeod-Skinner is going up again six Democrats for the nomination. The field consists of: Michael Byrne, stonemason from Parkdale; Jim Crary, retired attorney and oil company executive from Ashland; Eric Burnette, mariner from Hood River; Jennifer Neahring, physician from Bend; Tim White, former automotive chief financial officer from Bend; and Raz Mason, a hospital chaplain from The Dalles.
McLeod-Skinner and several of the Dems are coming for candidate forums March 22 in La Grande and March 23, 6-8 p.m., at the Bob Clapp Theatre, Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton.