Representation at the state level is critical for all residents and Umatilla and Morrow counties are no different. During the upcoming Nov. 3 election, voters have the opportunity to select representation for Senate District 29, House District 57 and House District 58.

Fortunately, in two of those races, voters should know exactly what to expect from a pair of incumbents running for reelection, while the third race features a pair of newcomers.

In Senate District 29, the Republican incumbent Bill Hansell faces challenger {span}Mildred O’Callaghan of{/span} Wallowa County.

Hansell, a Republican, is in his eighth year as a senator for District 29, which includes Umatilla, Morrow, Wallowa, Union, Gilliam, Sherman and half of Wasco counties. Hansell served for 30 years as a Umatilla County commissioner.

Greg Smith, a Republican, is facing Democratic challenger Roland Ruhe, a building and remodeling contractor from Irrigon, for House District 57. Smith is seeking an 11th term as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives. Interestingly, Smith hasn’t faced a Democratic opponent since 2010.

We believe Hansell is one of the more open legislators in the Oregon Senate, something that is a rare commodity nowadays. Hansell has been instrumental in bringing funding to a number of projects in the area, including a new Oregon State Police crime lab in Pendleton, Blue Mountain Community College’s FARM II facility and the Umatilla County Jail renovations, although the latter two are in limbo after COVID-19-related budget shortfalls.

Smith’s biggest strength is he reliably brings home millions of dollars each session for needed projects in his district, or projects like FARM II and the jail renovation that are technically outside his district but benefit west Umatilla County residents.

We know Smith has had his detractors about using his role as a legislator to benefit his private business, and we believe it’s time ethics rules that govern the Oregon Legislature are changed. However, there’s no question that Smith gets results for his district.

Both Hansell and Smith are experienced legislators with strong connections in Salem. It’s that experience that we believe is needed at this time, so we strongly urge voters to reelect both Hansell and Smith.

In House District 58, Democrat Nolan Bylenga is facing Republican Bobby Levy in the race to replace Rep. Greg Barreto after two mostly mediocre terms.

District 58 includes Union and Wallowa counties, part of Umatilla County and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Bylenga, a Democrat, is a 22-year-old Portland State University student and Pendleton High School graduate, while the Republican Levy is a farmer in the Echo area and president of the Eastern Oregon Women’s Coalition.

Bylenga holds some views that run against the grain of the Democratic Party, expressing admiration for Hansell and his participation in a nine-day walkout to deny the Democratic-controlled Senate a quorum to vote on a cap-and-trade bill. He also said he supports the Second Amendment and wants to prevent small businesses from being overtaxed.

Bylenga also has been an advocate for diversity and against social injustice, meeting with Umatilla County Board of Commissioners in August as the board worked to pass a resolution in support of communities of color and actively take a stand against racism in the county.

Levy has experienced leadership in several different arenas.

She represented Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which encompasses all of Eastern Oregon and is the state’s largest geographically. Levy eventually chaired the commission.

She is president of the Eastern Oregon Women’s Coalition, which she cofounded, and helped establish the Eastern Oregon Economic Summit.

Levy said she plans on listening closely to constituents about what they want and need. As a new ODFW commissioner in 2006, she visited all five districts in a quest to discover what issues were most important to Oregonians. She said she plans to bring that same mindset to this new role. Of course, she said, she’ll keep the welfare of Eastern Oregonians top of mind.

We believe Bylenga and Levy would each make great legislators in Salem and would no doubt work hard for the region. But Levy’s past experience should give her the edge at this time for District 58.

We hope you support Hansell, Smith and Levy.

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