Walden takes no chances with newcomer opponents

Walden takes no chances with newcomer opponents

On the surface, it would appear that Oregon's 2nd Congressional District incumbent is a shoe-in to be re-elected this November.

After all, well-known U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, faces relatively unknown opponents in Democrat Noah Lemas of Bend and two minor-party candidates, the Pacific Green's Tristin Mock and Constitution's Richard D. Hake.

But the veteran congressman, who is seeking his sixth consecutive term since first being elected in 1998, isn't taking any chances.

For the past two weeks Walden has been campaigning throughout the vast district, which includes all of Eastern Oregon as well as the lion's share of Jackson and Josephine counties. He is traveling some 3,600 miles over the course of attending more than 60 campaign events in 16 counties.

"I take them all seriously," Walden, 51, said Monday during a telephone interview from Ontario. "And this year one out of four voters in this district registered to vote for the first time in the last year. Many new voters are energized to vote who apparently never voted before. I'm trying to reach as many as possible through advertising or personally."

He was quick to observe he makes a point of visiting each county at least twice a year.

"I don't wait for the even number (election) years to show up," he said. "Besides, I like getting out on road trips. It helps me keep in touch with people and their concerns."

Understandably, the recent economic downturn is on the minds of many constituents, he said.

"The broad issues I'm seeing are jobs, finances and economy," Walden said. "People are rightfully concerned where our country is headed and what it means to their personal finances. People who are nearing retirement or in retirement are concerned about their nest eggs.

"I'm also hearing from small business owners who are having problems getting a line of credit," he added. "All of that hurts job growth."

While he notes the economic crisis is difficult for the nation, he says it also provides a chance for Congress to work together.

"It's an opportunity for our country to stop the partisan fighting," he said. "Now we can get the adults in the room who have respect for each other and look for ways to solve problems."

Walden, who noted he has made a point of reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats, says one issue the nation must address is how to improve an energy policy which is heavily dependent on foreign oil. In addition to writing legislation to allow more access to oil and gas reserves in the states and supporting increased fuel efficiency standards, he calls for investing more In renewable energy sources.

Noting that he voted in favor of the county timber payments bill recently approved by Congress, Walden said more needs to be done to provide work on federal forest lands.

"Better management of our forests would create more jobs, decrease wildfires and reduce pollution," he said. "We need to increase the authority of forest managers to actively manage forests to reduce catastrophic fire and improve forest health."

The Republican, who said he led the fight to keep the Department of Veterans Affairs'Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics open when the agency considered closing it seven years ago, said he will continue to support veterans' causes.

"When people ask why I do this, I always tell them I like to pull people together to solve problems," he said. "I like working closely with local governments and citizen groups. We can accomplish a lot when we work together."

Bend resident Lemas is an independent retailer who says he is running to change the direction of Congress. He describes himself as the nation's toughest Democrat.

"I've had enough of career politicians ignoring their constituency in favor of big banks and big oil," he wrote in Oregon's Voters' Pamphlet, and that "it's time to repair Congress, a Congress that has been rendered incompetent by partisanship, greed and conflicts of interest."

Mock, a naturopathic physician from La Grande, supports changes in military policy, health care and energy policy.

"We should not be occupying sovereign countries against their will," she wrote in the Voters' Pamphlet. "The cost of war is depriving Americans of domestic needs, including health care and social services."

Hake did not file a statement in the Voters' Pamphlet.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

Share This Story