A wildfire burns southwest of Harper Sunday. A lightning storm over the weekend ignited a number of fires across the region. (FILE PHOTO: The Enterprise/Kelsey Haueter) A wildfire burns southwest of Harper Sunday. A lightning storm over the weekend ignited a number of fires across the region. (FILE PHOTO: The Enterprise/Kelsey Haueter)

Congressman Greg Walden is in the best position of his political career to help rural Oregon, and that’s good news for Malheur County. He should advance as far and hard as he can to clear hurdles to economic revival here.

The alignment in Washington couldn’t be better to do that. Walden, who has served as U.S. representative since 1999, has seen this before – Republicans in control of the House, the Senate and the White House. That constellation, though, hasn’t been in place since 2006.

What’s different – and better – for Walden is his own political ascendancy meantime. He continues as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which makes him a ranking leader in the House. What’s more, his committee helped in the recent election to preserve Republican control when many anticipated a sharp drop in numbers. That has to make him a popular man in the hallways of the Capitol.

And he will be no stranger to the Trump administration. He served for years with Mike Pence, the vice president elect from Indiana. The two share time in the broadcast industry. It’s hard to imagine our Congressman won’t get his calls returned when reaching out to the White House.

Walden brings to this new alignment a deep and abiding understanding of the issues in rural Oregon. His endless tour of small communities and his town hall meetings give him a rich, deep knowledge of how the federal government affects those trying to make a living and raise a family in the Oregon Outback and beyond.

His affinity for his constituents never was more apparent than when Walden took the floor of the House on the third day of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He tossed a scripted five-minute speech and spoke from the heart.

“I got up there and 17 years of working with farmers and ranchers and folks in eastern Oregon just poured out,” Walden said at the time.

He pointed his verbal spear most sharply at the federal bureaucracy and particularly the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He knows too well that reforming federal government and forging more common sense policies means tackling regulations. That may not seem like sexy work, but it’s where real change happens. Walden is ready, for instance, to take on the “Waters of the U.S.” regulations that greatly expanded federal control of water resources.

Yet no one should expect that all he has to do is snap his fingers and the miseries, perceived or otherwise, imposed on rural Oregon will disappear. Remember, most of his Republican colleagues are east of the Mississippi, where they don’t know the difference between a sage grouse and an old coot. They have constituents who don’t understand what a cow is doing on public land.

But rural Oregon can fairly expect its Congressman to deliver in meaningful ways. The days of our voices and needs being dwarfed by others should be over. – LZ