Four democrats traded few barbs, but flexed ideological and intellectual muscles and made promises for progress in the hopes they could be the candidate who can turn a Republican state senate seat blue.
Physician Julian Bell of Ashland, licensed clinical social worker Athena Goldberg of Medford, “Immense Possibilities” host Jeff Golden of Ashland and Medford city councilor Kevin Stine all touched on their experiences and ideas as they voiced varying degrees of support for universal healthcare, disdain for the Jordan Cove Pipeline project and raising the gun-buying age to 21 to an audience of roughly 100 Tuesday night at a Jackson County Democrats forum at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Ashland.
Moderator Julie McFadden, chair of the Jackson County Democrats’ Campaign Committee, said the race could gather national attention because democrats could get a supermajority in the state senate with the Senate District 3 seat, which will be vacated by Republican Alan DeBoer at the end of his term.
“These candidates have stepped forward at a critical time,” McFadden said.
Pointing to special interests and a degree of cronyism, Golden rattled off a list of issues that the state senate hasn’t tackled despite years of democratic majority, such as a mental health system in need of improvements, growing class sizes in public schools, poor high-school graduation rates, a public-employee retirement system in need of reform and a dearth of affordable housing.
“I’m a proud democrat, but I’m a proud and dissatisfied democrat,” Golden said, adding that he won’t take special interests’ dollars.
Goldberg similarly promised to be a voice that won’t “join in the helplessness,” saying that for her “complacency is not an option.”
Calling himself “not a business-as-usual candidate,” Bell advocated for a single-payer healthcare system, clean energy infrastructure and a state-run nonprofit bank, modeled off one used in North Dakota — which he advocated as a way to address rising housing prices in the area, suggesting ideas such as incentives for builders through the bank or low-interest mortgages.
“A lot of progressive ideas are hobbled because they’re not well-capitalized,” Bell said, claiming that his strategies were more than lip service. “If you actually want to fix climate change, it’s a big undertaking.”
Stine, who works as a Community Support Specialist for ACCESS, issued the only barb of the evening, suggesting that Goldberg, who works as Director of Behavioral Health for AllCare Health, lacked compassion when she said at the forum, “I deal with the homeless on a daily basis.”
Calling mental health an “invisible disease,” Stine said “you don’t ‘deal’ with the homeless, you ‘deal’ with pests.”
Stine attributed some of the problems to rising housing costs, which dissuade prospective mental health practitioners from moving to the area. Following his involvement on Medford’s city council towards a recently-passed excise tax, housing was the issue was among the ones he was most familiar with. He advocated for ways to provide city councils the tools they need at the state level.
“This has to be number one,” Stine said. “We don’t have the ability to just let this go.”
Saying he has a better understanding of independent voters in Southern Oregon, Stine told the crowd he can cast a wider net in the general election.
“What I’m bringing to the table is electability,” Stine said. “We’re representing more than the people in this room.”
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.