Republican Jessica Gomez announced Tuesday she's running for Senate District 3, pitting the political newcomer against perennial candidate Curt Ankerberg in the May primary.
Gomez, a Medford resident who is founder and CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices, made the decision following months of rumors that Sen. Alan DeBoer wouldn't seek re-election.
"I was really under the impression that he was going to run until the last minute," she said. "He struggled a lot with that decision, and that's why it took so long."
Gomez, who has worked as an aide for DeBoer in Salem since the end of last year, said she expects DeBoer to endorse her candidacy.
Ankerberg has run unsuccessfully in nine elections since 2009, including Medford School Board, City Council and Jackson County commissioner. He last ran for the School Board in 2017.
A Medford accountant who has worked for large accounting firms, Ankerberg, 64, has criticized DeBoer for waiting until the last minute to announce he's not running again, and he also criticized Gomez.
"When I found out he wasn't going to run and that he was going to try to put a liberal Democrat in his position to run for the Republican primary, and nobody else would step up to the plate, I decided to run," Ankerberg said.
Ankerberg and Gomez are the only two Republicans who have filed for the May primary. There are four Democratic candidates for the District 3 seat: Julian Bell, of Ashland; Athena Goldberg, of Medford; Jeff Golden, of Ashland; and Kevin Stine, of Medford. The deadline to file is 5 p.m. March 6.
Gomez, 40, said she changed party affiliations from Democrat to Republican in May 2017. She said she was an unaffiliated voter for a long time but became a Democrat about 10 years ago so she could vote in primary elections.
"I'm more of a moderate Republican," she said. "I believe fiscal responsibility and work are important for the health and prosperity of the country."
Gomez said she decided to run because she wants to help the community that supported her when she started her business. Since then she has joined various organizations, including being appointed by the governor to serve on the Oregon Business Development Commission. She chairs the Rogue Workforce Partnership and is a member of The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County.
Because of her business background, Gomez said she's seen first-hand the struggle to provide health care for employees and the need for greater economic stimulus in the state, particularly helping small business owners succeed. She said the Legislature continues to pass tax bills that hurt small businesses.
She said providing health care is important to the residents of Oregon, but the costs of the Public Employee Retirement System and Medicaid, which is administered through the Oregon Health Plan, are becoming so huge that it is detrimental to the educational system and the infrastructure budget of the state.
Her moderate leanings also make it easier for her to work with Democrats in Salem, she said.
"Instead of pointing fingers at each other, what can we really agree on for our community?" she said.
Gomez said she is ready to debate the issues with Ankerberg but is not going to run a mud-slinging campaign.
Ankerberg said Gomez doesn't have the temperament to bring about change in Salem.
He said, "Jessica Gomez may be the sweetest person in the world, but her politics are just wrong, and who does she represent: She is being financed by the Chamber. She is their vehicle. She is their Trojan horse."
Ankerberg said he has far greater business credentials than Gomez and more education.
"She's pretty," he said. "She's a nice presentation, but there's nothing there."
Ankerberg said Democrats have failed to adequately address PERS, which is saddling local schools and the state with tremendous debt. He said Gomez doesn't have the stomach to do battle with Democrats, including taking the difficult position of capping retirement benefits to reduce the debt.
"You have to be able to take the punches," he said.
So far, he said, he has seen the state worsen its problems by growing government faster than revenues received and allowing corruption in various state agencies.
"They want to tax their way out of the problem," Ankerberg said. "They're not seriously addressing these problems and taking care of them."
In previous runs for office, Ankerberg has been criticized for not having the right temperament to be in public office. In 2010, Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker filed a complaint with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office against Ankerberg following a confrontation in Walker’s office over disputed petition signatures.
While Ankerberg said the account of the interaction with Walker was overblown, he said, "I do have the temperament to deal with these issues."
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.