Julian Bell

Doctor joins race for Senate seat

Ashland doctor Julian Bell, who ran for governor in 2016, is the third Democrat to file for one of the most highly contested legislative seats in Oregon, Senate District 3.

Bell joins Medford Councilor Kevin Stine and former Jackson County Commissioner Jeff Golden as they appeal to voters leading up to the May primary.

Incumbent Sen. Alan DeBoer said he will decide in January whether to seek re-election. So far no other Republicans have filed in the race, which has required more than $1 million in campaign contributions in recent years. The district includes much of the south county, including Medford and Ashland.

Bell, 46, is running on a progressive platform, supporting universal health care in Oregon and a greater reliance on energy that's not supplied by the fossil fuel industry as part of his concern about climate change.

"These are basically the issues of our times," Bell said. "To deal with them, we need to go to the place where laws are made. The place is the Legislature."

Bell is a lung specialist at the intensive care center at Providence Medford Medical Center and has lived in the valley since 2010. If elected, he said, he plans to cut back on his hours as a doctor.

Bell's candidacy for governor has been his only political run to date.

Before DeBoer was elected, the Senate seat was held by the late Alan Bates, a physician who kept up a busy schedule with his Medford medical practice and his legislative duties. Bates died in 2016.

"Doctor Bates set a heroic example, but you could say he may have worked himself to death," Bell said.

While legislative sessions demand a lot of time in Salem, Bell said he wants to live in this county and continue to work here to keep involved with his constituents and his family, which includes his fiancée, his 3-year-old son and his 6-year-old daughter.

His involvement in medicine has given him a first-hand look at the potential benefits of universal health care in Oregon as well as the pitfalls of the current system that often works against patients.

"My goal is to have health care that is less expensive, and to offer better care and to make it available to more people," he said.

He said other countries in the world have health care systems that could serve as a model for Oregon, including Canada, England, France and Japan.

The health care system in the U.S. results in 60 percent of the nation's bankruptcies. At the same time, it causes confusion, frustration and leads to out-of-control costs to patients.

"The resource being exploited is the person looking for health care," he said.

If the U.S. as a whole followed the French model for health care, it could cut medical spending in the country by up to $1 trillion annually, Bell said.

This country has set up an unwieldy health care bureaucracy, Bell said, citing Medicare, Medicaid, veteran's health, private insurance and a lot of uninsured.

Oregon should create its own universal health care model even if surrounding states don't follow suit, he said. While Canada rolled out its universal system with just one province, today each province manages its health care differently while still offering a universal system, he said.

Ultimately, Bell said, Oregonians and their employers would pay less for a universal health care system that is managed effectively.

A supporter of clean energy, Bell said moving to a model that relies less on fossil fuels would ultimately cost the state less in the long run and would help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. He said a greater reliance on natural gas has hidden costs, including a large amount of it escaping into the atmosphere. Methane, from which natural gas is derived, is a more potent greenhouse gas, he said.

In addition, the transport and production costs to bring oil to Oregon are high. He said producing the energy in Oregon makes more sense.

"I think creating 95 percent of our energy is a reasonable target," he said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on

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