Walden retiring

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Oregon’s only Republican in Congress, announced on Oct. 28 that he will retire in January 2021. “I’ve had an incredible opportunity. It has been a great, joyful journey,” Walden said in an interview with the Malheur Enterprise.

Oregon may not know it yet, but in 2021 it is going to lose a tremendous amount of influence in Washington, D.C.

That’s because longtime federal lawmaker Greg Walden will step down that year from his slot in the U.S. House or Representatives. Walden, 62, announced earlier this week that he will not run for re-election in the huge 2nd Congressional District. That district includes large chunks of Eastern and Southern Oregon — including Umatilla and Morrow counties.

First elected in 1998, Walden’s coveted position will be up for grabs in the next election. It also means that when Walden departs, 20 years worth of experience and political know-how will go with him.

That isn’t a good thing for Oregon, and it is especially bad news for the constituents of his district.

As the only Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation, Walden, for the most part, delivered a type of moderate center-right balance to a field dominated by Democrats. While Walden met criticism from the political fanatics on both sides of the political fence, overall his track record shows he looked out for Eastern Oregon on a consistent basis.

Whomever replaces Walden will face a long road to achieving the kind of influence the Hood River native built over two decades of work in Congress.

Walden also strived to raise the voice of the rural areas of the state in the federal arena. His successes during his tenure are many and the state — especially the moderate GOP — is going to miss his leadership.

Political voices of reason — the adult in the room, if you will — are sadly missing on the American political stage as of late. The country is bitterly divided along political fault lines where there is a constant grinding of rhetoric and dogma that ignites sparks that burn bright. Politicians who, for the most part, stick to party alignment yet seek always to find compromise to help the nation and their state seem like a vanishing species. As Walden has pointed out before, that perception is quite correct. Lots of good work is done in the hallowed halls of Congress by both Democrats and Republicans on a regular basis. But it is the smoldering fire of fanatical doctrine that gets headlines and seems to snake throughout the political collective consciousness like a main circuit cable.

Walden brings a sense of methodical purpose to his political work and he did a lot for Oregon. Once he leaves the American political stage, he will be sorely missed.

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