Republican candidates forum in Vale attracts large crowd

Lisa Maddox, Portland, listens in as candidates at a political forum held at the Vale First Christian Church Saturday speak about the issues. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

VALE – Republican Marc Thielman said if he is elected governor of Oregon, one key move he will make is to arrest Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt.

“I will say, ‘welcome to accountability,’” said Thielman Saturday night during a candidates forum sponsored by the Malheur County Republican Party at the Vale First Christian Church.

Thielman was one of five candidates for governor at the session. Four other GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Ron Wyden were also on hand at the forum.

Besides Thielman, other gubernatorial candidates were Reed Christensen a retired electrical engineer from Hillsboro, Amber Richardson, a southern Oregon massage therapist, Kerry McQuisten of Baker City and Brandon Merritt of Bend.

Candidates running for Senate who attended were Sam Palmer, a Grant County commissioner from John Day, Jo Rae Perkins of Albany, businessman Darin Harbrick who lives in rural Oregon on the McKenzie River and Eugene resident Ibra Taher.

The candidates stuck mostly to a familiar Republican script of freedom, adhering to the U.S. Constitution, election integrity, faith, support for police, ending Oregon’s “unconstitutional” Covid mandates and work toward unifying the Republican voter base in an effort to secure the governor’s seat.

The forum consisted of brief remarks by each candidate. Then, candidates answered several written questions before offering their final comments.

Thielman’s statement regarding Schmidt came during the question-and-answer period. Each candidate was asked what they would in their first 30 days in office.

Thielman, former superintendent of the Alsea School District, lamented the role of Schmidt’s office during a series of riots in Portland in 2020. He criticized how many protestors were released without formal charges, creating an atmosphere of no responsibility regarding crimes.

“We have to get back to accountability,” said Thielman.

He said after the session he believes that arresting Schmidt would send that message.

“The second he hits the interstate he is fair game,” he said.

Thielman resigned as superintendent of the Alsea School District in February after school board officials voted to hire an investigator to review complaints against him. The complaints asserted Thielman created a hostile work environment and conducted illegal firing practices.

Christensen – who said he was arrested by the FBI for his involvement with the U.S. Capitol riot in January 2021 – talked about election integrity and said it was the time for good people to step up and make a difference. Yet it is important, he said, that voters remain skeptical.

“Good people have a weakness in that they don’t recognize evil,” he said.

Merritt said he would end all mask and vaccine mandates in his first 30 days as governor.

He also advocated tax credits for parents who opt to homeschool their children. He said he would lower taxes and support the agriculture community, small businesses and police.

“I back the blue 100%,” said Merritt.

Richardson also said she would end Gov. Kate Brown’s Covid emergency orders.

“Emergency orders would be taken off day one,” said Richardson.

The governor has already announced that her emergency order related to Covid will expire April 1.

Richardson also said she would break up the Oregon Health Authority, lower taxes and use the Oregon National Guard to battle cartels in southern Oregon.

McQuisten said one of her first goals as governor would be to replicate a move by former President Ronald Reagan.

She would choose a panel of experts to act as advisers. She also said she would review state boards and commissions to ensure there was no duplication. McQuisten said she, too, would support police.

“The way you back the blue is through the budget,” said McQuisten. “We’ve seen people arrested and released. That won’t happen anymore.”

The Senate candidates had the advantage of leveling their criticism at a single person: Wyden.

Palmer attacked the senator’s record on justice.

“Ron Wyden has voted and supported legislation to keep animals on the street,” said Palmer.

Palmer also lauded his own experience in government as a plus for voters.

“I’ve worked with state legislators, your county commissioners and mayors. I am the only one up here who has been elected,” he said.

Harbrick said the state needs “someone who actually has business experience.”

“We can’t have runaway spending,” said Harbrick.

Perkins also addressed government spending and said the national deficit is out of control.

“I will never vote to increase the spending cap. Our country is bankrupt and we can’t continue on this trajectory we are on now,” said Perkins.

Taher promoted deregulation and pushed for lower taxes.

“Congress voted to treat you like children. They transferred wealth from you to the elite,” said Taher.

News tip? Contact Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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