Around Oregon, In the community

Christine Drazan, Republican candidate for governor, pledges attention to rural Oregon

ONTARIO – Christine Drazan entered the room for her roundtable discussion with Malheur County leaders to thunderous applause. The Republican candidate for Oregon governor, Drazan visited Ontario on Tuesday, Aug. 16, as part of her campaign’s road trip through eastern Oregon.

“This election is an opportunity to have a conversation with Oregonians across the whole state about what we want – what do we want our state to look like and what direction do want it to go,” said Drazan.

Drazan’s “Roadmap for Oregon’s Future” campaign made stops in Rome, Jordan Valley, and Arock before arriving in Ontario to attend a packed meeting of the Malheur County Republicans Monday evening.

The Tuesday morning roundtable conversation included U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, State Sen. Lynn P. Findley, R-Vale, and Jim Mendiola, incoming Malheur County commissioner. Drazan’s opening remarks focused on the opportunity the governor’s race provides all Oregonians to have their voices heard.

Drazan is facing Democrat Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson in a historic and unprecedented race.

Drazan answered questions about state issues relevant to Malheur County, including cutting taxes on small businesses and families, reducing regulations, and expanding jobs and housing in the region.

Drazan criticized a history of a “one size fits all” leadership in Salem that puts eastern Oregon leaders at odds with decision-making that seems to favor the Willamette valley and metro areas over the voices of rural counties like Malheur.  

During the roundtable, attendees could ask a question or voice a concern about state politics. Drazan welcomed Malheur County leaders to share what was on their minds. Many of the concerns centered on the difficulty of managing the differences between Idaho and Oregon along the Snake River. Drazan attributed the struggles across the border to a “difference in leadership.”

Ralph Poole said Malheur County loses “mind power” and resources to Idaho because regulations make building and living across the Snake River more affordable and because Idahoans can cross into Oregon to shop without sales tax.

Bill Johnson voiced the challenge that rural communities across Oregon and the United States face: the flight of younger residents leaving the area for cities with more opportunities.

Drazan said investing and expanding the local capacity for housing and construction projects would help retain residents, create more opportunities, and help the local economy. Through her leadership, she said, regulations and state taxes would be lowered to make this possible.

If elected, Drazan said she hopes to solve some of those challenges by listening to Malheur County leaders about what isn’t working. She said her campaign is focused on supporting the economic needs of rural communities and encouraging businesses to stay in Oregon. In the 2018 governor’s race, the Republican candidate – state Rep. Knute Bueler – won 67% of the county’s 8,970 votes.

“The thing that would most surprise folks that live in Malheur County is that people in downtown Portland feel left behind, like they don’t feel seen and heard. And their challenges are dramatically different, and they still feel like the people that are elected to lead are not making things better they’re making them worse,” said Drazan.

News tip? Contact reporter Mac Larsen at [email protected]

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