The race for Oregon House District 6 pits Medford City Councilor Kim Wallan against Michelle Blum Atkinson, a former small-business owner and community volunteer.
District 6 encompasses most of the city of Medford. The seat is open because Rep. Sal Esquivel is retiring. The district has a Republican registration advantage of more than 2,000, although non-affiliated voters outnumber both Democrats and Republicans.
Wallan, the Republican nominee, has a law degree from Willamette University, where she also earned an undergraduate degree. She is a former member of the Medford School Board, and was elected to the City Council in 2016, where she has served as president of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. She also has served on the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, among other positions.
Atkinson, the Democratic nominee, was a co-founder of Libraries for All, the group created to campaign for the taxing district that now supports Jackson County Library Services. She also has served on the school board of Kids Unlimited Academy and on the Jackson County Library Advisory Committee. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Oregon.
Both women are solid candidates, differing mainly along partisan lines. Wallan offers more specifics on dealing with the unfunded liability in the Public Employee Retirement System, proposing several steps including allowing wealthy recipients to opt out of receiving benefits, calculating monthly benefits based on a longer period of employment and capping payouts to the highest-income employees at retirement. She also questions — with some justification — why state Supreme Court justices, who will retire with PERS benefits, are allowed to rule on the legality of changes to the system.
Atkinson points to fees the state pays on its pension fund investments, which she says totals more than $500 million a year. Reducing those fees could save more than $30 billion over 20 years, she says.
Both candidates advocate taking action to address the problem of wildfire smoke in the region, supporting work to reduce fuel loads in forestlands and using controlled burns. Wallan leans more toward salvage logging and commercial timber harvest.
Overall, we believe Wallan’s experience in elective office as well as her legal training gives her the edge and will make her a more effective legislator. We recommend District 6 voters send her to Salem.
In District 5, Democratic incumbent Pam Marsh faces Sandra Abercrombie, a Republican with no elective experience who has run before but has not mounted much of a campaign this time. That’s not surprising, given that Democrats enjoy a registration edge of nearly 10,000 votes in the district, which encompasses Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Jacksonville, part of the Applegate Valley and the south edge of Medford.
Marsh has been an effective lawmaker since she was elected in 2016 to replace retiring Rep. Peter Buckley. She represents her district well, and voters should give her another term.