Questions for candidates: Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner on the environment, affordable housing and political extremism

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Democratic candidate in Oregon’s 5th congressional district, 2022.

Courtesy of Jamie McLeod-Skinner

Editor’s note: Oregon’s 5th congressional district drew considerable national attention for the November midterm elections, not least because longtime Democratic Representative Kurt Schrader was ousted in the primary. That has prompted some political forecasters to declare the race a throw between Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. OPB reached out to both candidates for their views on issues most important to voters in November. Here are McLeod-Skinner’s answers.

Do you think there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election?

no A fact-based review of allegations of fraud showed that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Candidates who perpetuate the fraud myth erode public trust and prevent our government from working for the people.

Free and fair elections are the basis of our democratic republic. We must provide voter access and system integrity. That includes ending partisan manoeuvring, protecting and expanding voting rights, and introducing campaign finance reform to ensure the government listens to the people and not just the interests of corporations — and then respects the results when the ballots are counted. Spreading false rumors only fosters fear and chaos.

Protecting our democracy means respecting the peaceful transition of power. I’ve won and lost elections. It sucks to lose. But having worked in former war zones — where I’ve seen the outcome of failed democracies — I know the importance of respecting free and fair elections, regardless of how we feel about the outcome. Those who took part in the January 6 uprising – and those who tacitly support it – are a threat to our country. The violence we saw against Capitol Police on January 6 should be condemned without apology. We need elected leaders to protect and strengthen our democracy and ensure that all voters can participate in our democratic process, regardless of political party.

How accessible do you find voting in Oregon?

Oregon’s automatic voter registration, mail-in ballot system, and paid postage are a model for the nation. The foundation of a democratic republic is an accessible and safe electoral system. Possible improvements include same-day registration, more dropboxes in rural areas, automatic translation (with checks for accuracy), support for voters with disabilities, and ranked or STAR voting to determine voter preference.

What policies would you advocate in Congress to reduce the impact of inflation in your district?

Prescription drug costs affect virtually every family in my district. Congressional Democrats recently took a major step with the Inflation Reduction Act, which started the process of reducing insulin costs. I advocate expanding this policy by allowing Medicare to negotiate all prescription drug prices. Pharmaceutical companies should be able to make a fair profit but not be able to bring down the price, especially for life-saving drugs.

What federal policy would you support to reduce wildfire risk in Oregon?

The risk of forest fires is high in many parts of my district. I was recently confronted with the impact of wildfires while leading wildfire recovery efforts as Interim City Manager in Talent, a town that had lost a third of its homes and businesses to wildfires. Most of the homes lost were those of farm workers and seniors on a fixed income. The impact was personal for me: the fire started in the town where I graduated from high school, members of my family were on evacuation alerts on both ends of the fire, and a friend lost her home. I built the city’s remarkable team, secured recovery and security resources, and led the start of the city’s rebuilding process. I ended my tenure by assessing lessons learned to help the city be better prepared for the next crisis. This experience gave me a good sense of how the federal government can be more helpful in providing emergency resources and supporting local efforts.

Actions to reduce wildfire risk include investing in wildfire preparedness, mitigating risk, improving emergency response, and changing our long-term climate impact trajectory by investing in a sustainable renewable energy grid. Once an emergency has been declared, faster deployment of resources and technical support for on-site decision-making is required for affected communities.

How would the region be helped to manage its water supply, especially as much of the district is affected by prolonged drought?

The long-term drought we face is affecting our urban areas and natural resources, causing our family farms to go under. I have worked with farmers and water managers to both provide solutions to drought and prevent the crisis from sparking community conflict, and worked across political parties to find viable solutions to improve access to water for our farms and improve natural systems. Farmers are proud people and the effects of this prolonged drought have been devastating.

In addition to emergency relief, we must invest in better management of our limited resources through expanded water infrastructure, promote more sustainable and equitable government water policies, and mitigate the long-term effects of drought by investing in climate impact reduction, including renewable energy, on the energy grid. We need to bring stakeholders together to find solutions.

My background as a water law attorney and civil engineer gives me a deeper understanding of issues and policies affecting agriculture and water management. In a number of roles, including my current role on the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, I have worked with Oregon’s farmers and ranchers on a range of issues including drought relief, water access, and wildfire prevention and recovery.

Oregon has been a frequent arena for political extremism in recent years. Why do you think that is, and what is the role of Congress in this?

Oregon has also provided models for collaborative, bipartisan natural resource management solutions such as: B. the High Desert Partnership. In my role as OWEB board member, I have advocated investing in such partnerships because working together is fundamental not only to solving our most pressing problems, but also to avoiding political extremism.

In my role on the Jefferson County Education Service District Executive, I regularly work with my colleagues from a variety of policy backgrounds to focus on providing resources and support to our students, families and school districts. I focus on bringing people together to work together on our common challenges, rather than playing us off against each other with the dog whistles that feed extremism. That’s why I have support from people across the political spectrum and from the Independent Party of Oregon.

I have traveled thousands of miles through Oregon’s urban and rural areas and listened to thousands of Oregonians. The bottom line is that regardless of party affiliation, Oregonians want to be able to put a roof over our heads and food on our tables. We want opportunities for our children and health care for our families when they are sick. We want to feel safe in our communities and not burn our homes down or our family businesses go under. Democracy is an active choice that we make. We prefer to grapple with the complexity of thought diversity rather than the threat of extremism.

The role of Congress is to invest the necessary resources to support the work on the ground that is being done to build partnerships that promote local solutions. And we must ensure that all voters, regardless of party affiliation, can participate in our democratic process.

Do you think that after Roe v. Wade should take action against access to abortion? What action, if any, should they take?

Yes, access to reproductive health care is part of our fundamental personal freedoms as Americans. As a member of Congress, given the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, I would support the protection of Roe v. Restore Wade and other privacy-based decisions that are now at risk. In the meantime, we must protect the right to an out-of-state abortion and ensure protection for doctors performing abortions where they remain legal. We must also ensure the protection and privacy of abortion data. Congress must overturn the Hyde Amendment to ensure women in the military and those who depend on India’s health services, as well as their partners and dependents, have access to a full range of reproductive health care and choices as part of their health insurance.

A lack of affordable housing is affecting families across the country, including in central Oregon. What concrete strategies do you have to tackle this problem?

Affordable housing is a big issue in urban and rural areas across the county. We need to increase the housing stock and provide comprehensive services for people struggling with homelessness. Congress should invest targeted Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in affordable housing, both for rent and for home ownership, to enable people to overcome generational poverty. I am currently working on a model affordable housing project in southern Oregon to help wildfire survivors, using a Land Trust model to ensure the project creates long-term affordability for the area while also allowing homeowners to raise equity in to build their houses. I have also worked on projects that provide affordable housing to specific sectors such as teachers or first responders that help solve the housing shortage and support essential professionals in our communities.

Housing is a personal issue for me. When I was a kid, I remember our rent increases came from our food budget. Therefore, I have experience working on this topic and I am the only candidate in this race who has experience in the design, construction and project management of affordable housing.

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