Rep. Greg Walden’s challenger in the November election spent time in Hermiston last week, including a visit to the county fair.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, running against the incumbent for U.S. Congressional District 2, said partway through the visit that she was enjoying the opportunities to get to know the area better and meet with local farmers.
McLeod-Skinner describes herself a “rural Democrat” who spent her time as a teenager outside Ashland riding horses, herding sheep and bucking hay (her family moved to Oregon when she was a teen). She worked on water-related humanitarian projects in post-war Kosovo and Bosnia and later returned to the United States to work for the same organization’s refugee resettlement program. She used her civil engineering degree to work on water systems projects in the Santa Clara, California area, served on a variety of water-related boards and later went back to school for a law degree, specializing in water, natural resource and Indian law.
“I’ve got a real interest in water,” she said.
She said if she represented Eastern Oregon in Washington, D.C. she would be interested in encouraging compacts to allow area farmers to draw more water from the Columbia River while still balancing the need to protect fish.
McLeod-Skinner has some experience in politics at the local level, including years on the Santa Clara city council and a four month-long stint as city manager of Phoenix, Oregon. She said she was the eighth city manager in seven years and blames the city council’s dysfunction as the reason she didn’t last long either before being fired.
She said she believes in “people over party” — a philosophy that she argues Walden has moved farther away from the longer he stays in Washington, D.C. She said it won’t matter to her which side of the aisle good ideas come from, as long as she can help the government implement common-sense solutions or “know when to get out of the way.”
McLeod-Skinner is a believer in renewable energy and said the government should be investing there. After spending time in Eastern Oregon on the campaign trail she has some ideas for economic development that could also help the environment, such as a recycling center that would help process some of the plastics that China is no longer taking.
“It would ultimately need to be a private venture, of course, but I could see a major investment of public-sector funds,” she said.
McLeod-Skinner said Republicans “gave too much away” to corporations during last year’s tax cut package and she believes they are now going to use the resulting deficit increase as an excuse to cut Medicare and Social Security — something she plans to fight.
She also said she believes the Affordable Care Act must be improved, but not in a way that will make people lose coverage.
“We need to be helping to move it forward and not continually undermining it,” she said.
She said she is concerned with rising college costs as well, and would like to see a sort of “civilian GI bill” where young people could get their education paid for in exchange for public service.
She discussed a middle-of-the-road vision for immigration. She does not believe in open borders, but does believe that those who are already here illegally should have some sort of path to legal residency without leaving the country, if they pay a fine for breaking the law and haven’t committed other crimes. She also believes that instead of “terrorizing families” ICE should be focused on protecting the country from legitimately dangerous people and fighting human trafficking related to illegal immigration.
“I believe there is a common-sense way to move forward, that’s fair to hard-working folks trying to put food on their table, that respects our laws but also helps the agricultural system,” she said.