Three Curry County residents are vying for the state Representative seat in the general election next month, bringing the concerns of this area to a statewide platform.
The state is grappling with a retirement system that threatens to steamroll its own budget. Housing costs — and availability — are at rates not seen since at least the Great Recession.
Despite the nation’s recovery from the recession, it’s still been slow in many areas of Oregon, and citizens have let candidates know that’s still a concern.
That somewhat ties into forestry — from local forest management to chainsaw-rumbling at the national level about whether federal agencies should turn land over to Western states to manage on their own. The timber dollars are gone. Budgets are beyond strapped.
The issues are critical. Whomever gets to address them will have to do so in a bipartisan, compromising manner.
This is how three propose to do just that.
Terry Brayer said he is running for State Representative to give the citizens in District 1 a fresh voice and to bring civility back into discussions.
“I will be a representative of all the people,” he said, “as I am not a professional politician.”
Brayer, a Democrat got into the race this spring after Rep. Wayne Krieger announced his intent to retire at the end of the current session. He is up against Libertarian and Gold Beach City Council member Tamie Kaufman and Curry County Commissioner David Brock Smith, a Republican.
Brayer is basing his campaign stance on the need to work together, improvements in education, increasing jobs and expedition of timber sales after forest fires, among other issues.
“We have tried partisan politics over the past 16-plus years and it has not worked,” Brayer said. “Let’s try something new. I will work to bring all sides into the discussion and deliver compromise solutions. No one will ever get everything they want. We need to find common ground to find solutions that we need.”
Brayer wants to address the high dropout rate among high school students by enhancing vocational education using a collaboration of families, private-public sectors and school districts.
“The primary way to do this is to bring a collaboration of families, educators, business leaders and communities together to craft solutions that fit each area,” Brayer said. “Our dropout rate is a disgrace.”
He supports logging, but believes there should be a smarter, collaborative way to do so.
“I want to bring the loggers, drivers, timber industry, environmentalists and government together to come up with solutions,” Brayer said. “Especially needed are better contracts to address all the timber, not just the primary timber. With me, the timber industry, environmentalists and loggers will all have a voice in Salem. No one will dominate, but all will have a voice.”
Brayer wants to expedite approval to remove timber following fires, while maintaining environmental protections of streams, rivers and other sensitive areas.
And he doesn’t believe federal lands will be transferred to the states and counties.
“My opponents believe in this ‘magical thinking’ and want to waste time and money to have these federal lands be given to the state and county. A large portion of the forests in Curry County are under quarantine (due to Sudden Oak Death), and can only be cut down and burned, adding no economic benefit to the county.”
Other issues Brayer wants to address that affect Curry and other counties in the district include support of regulations proposed for the Smith River headwaters — and his opposition to the threat of nickel mining — simplified cannabis regulations, affordable housing and veterans issues.
“We must maintain the pristine water of the Smith River,” he said. “We need to maintain a balance for recreational use of all of our streams in Southern Oregon. Our most precious resource is the water in our rivers regarding fishing, farming, kayaking, boating and drinking water. We also need to protect our ocean waters, but the place to start is right at our feet.”
Brayer believes the complex regulations regarding marijuana and hemp need to be simplified, made consistent, reasonable and enforceable throughout Oregon.
“This district has more growers per capita than any other district in the state, but the disparate regulations have caused confusion and anger,” he said. “Marijuana is of significant local economic importance, and will be a major economic driver in the very near future.”
One issue affecting dispensaries is the difficulty to use a bank — many of which fear federal laws listing marijuana as a Schedule I drug could endanger their business if they get involved in the finances. Brayer proposes creation of a state bank, as is available in North Dakota.
As a Vietnam veteran, Brayer hopes to strengthen medical services, particularly mental health, for vets who live on the coast.
Complicating that is a lack of affordable and safe housing, Brayer said.
That solution involves “bringing a collaboration between the faith groups, private investors and government grant projects” together.
“I strongly support the efforts of Commissioner (Susan) Brown on her efforts to bring affordable and safe housing to Curry County,” he said. “I support living-wage jobs, the need for greater health care including dental for our children. We need smart, reasonable, enforceable regulations — particularly regarding clean air and water.”
In other reaches of the district, Brayer supports the development of the deep water port in Coos Bay, unless studies show an earthquake from the Cascadia Fault offshore would destroy it. He opposes the propane gas pipe proposed there, as well as the eminent domain process used to obtain land on which to build it. He would, instead, prefer to see a container facility port.
“I believe my 30 years of experience in corrections and 20 years of management and budget experience is the foremost reason to (vote for him), regardless the issue at hand,” he said. “We need budgets that make sense and deliver results to more people than the bureaucrats. I can bring our divergent citizenry together to achieve the self-sufficiency and stability we all want to rejuvenate the district — and do it without wasting taxpayers’ money.”
Family: Married, Kathy for 43 years; two children, four grandchildren
Born: Denver, Colorado
Home: Nesika Beach
Education: 1974: Bachelor of Arts, psychology, California State University, Fullerton; 1977: Master of Science: counseling and pupil personnel service credential, CSU-Fullerton
Career: Retired California Department of Corrections, officer to correctional administrator; eight years managing multi-million dollar budgets, writing rules and regulations and union negotiations.
Other boards: 12-year volunteer for Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife
Current chairman of the Nesika Beach-Ophir Neighborhood Watch
Gold Beach City Councilor Tamie Kaufman is running as a Libertarian candidate to fulfill a dream she’s had since she heard a speech by Newt Gingrich that encouraged citizens to get involved in local politics.
“Then, in a meeting with Judge Margolis, members were asking about sentencing guidelines, and why people are getting such weak sentences,” Kaufman explained. “He said he didn’t create policy, he only followed it. I realized if the law isn’t working, it needs to be changed. That was my ‘aha’ moment.
“I knew two years ago,” she said of the particular seat she wanted to pursue. “Because I’m a Christian, I believe that God gave us gifts, and we get to give those gifts back to God.”
She faces County Commissioner David Brock Smith on the Republican ticket and Nesika Beach resident Terry Brayer on the Democratic ticket for the state seat.
Kaufman has been involved in local politics ever since Gingrich’s statements, serving over the years as a city councilor, chair of the planning commission and budget committee — all the while attending classes to finish her degree.
“I get a lot of positive feedback,” Kaufman said. “One thing people are pointing out is that I have a lot of courage. It is true, as a third-party candidate; to stand up to the good ol’ boys takes courage, makes a good rep, the courage to stand up and say, ‘Hey!’”
She attributes her 11 years on the city’s planning commission as the most influential period of her political career.
“I think that trained me more than anything,” she said. “It was a phenomenal experience.”
Kaufman wants to demonstrate that she understands the importance of “listening to lots of people, disseminating information and determining what applies and what doesn’t” in making decisions. And she wants to apply those skills to the realms of housing, mental health and criminal justice at the state level.
“I know what it’s like to be a landlord,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be a tenant. We need to have enough supply to keep the prices down. So many expenses will kill your ability to have affordable housing. There’s a balance there.”
She wants to address housing — especially affordability and availability, which are affecting almost every city in Oregon — in the Legislature.
Kaufman said she does not support rent control or the end of the 30-day no-cause notice, as some legislators do in Portland.
"I believe my experience and understanding of both sides will assist in stopping this kind of legislation and instead finding a middle ground," she said. “Rent control is a temporary fix to a problem (housing availability and affordability) that is probably going to solve itself in the next year or two if we let the economy do its job. I’m going to have some really good conversations about that. We need to come up with reasonable answers.”
She added, "As part of the landlord/tenant coalition I am working to bring the two sides together for reasonable compromise. This is a very contentious issue with both landlord and tenant sides. I believe my housing experience will help get the side talking and finding a better solution. On rent control specifically, Speaker Kotek, from Portand, is seeing hikes in rent way above what it was and she is concerned about abuse. In our area, rents are just now returning to 2008 levels, yes it is high, but it still doesn't cover many of the landlord's expenses because property is expensive here. The Portland area already has enough housing starts the problem will resolve itself with supply and demand within a couple years. We do not need state wide rent control. We need more build-able land and affordable systems development charges."
Kaufman believes communication and dialogue are also often missing at the state level, where critical talks need to occur, notably regarding management of forest lands. Kaufman thinks the O&C lands should be addressed as a separate issue under the guidance of the Association of O&C Counties.
“Representative (Wayne) Krieger said the only two important things that matter are natural resources and a pro-life stance, and people don’t care about your stance on abortion,” she said. “They care about housing, jobs, where they’re going to live and work — that’s what people are worried about right now. Natural resources are important, but not as important as he told me it is.”
Kaufman cites among her assets that she’s a rule-follower who works with honesty and integrity.
“I look at what the people want, not my own personal agenda,” she said, citing her experience in government, education and business as reasons enough to secure a state seat.
“I’m a good elected official, not particularly a good politician,” she said. “Politicians brag about themselves. I generally do things as a team member. I’m not going to take credit for something done by a team.”
“I’m constantly working on myself,” she added. “I’m always a better person than I was three weeks ago. Honestly, I believe this will be a good quest, it’ll be good for the district. There will be an opportunity in Salem to write our own bills and champion things as a team.”
Born: Buffalo, New York
Hometown: Gold Beach, 39 years
Career: Property management, real estate, local government
Education: Gold Beach High School, Bachelor’s in philosophy, politics, economics in 2015, Eastern Oregon University
Boards and committees: Gold Beach City Council, Oregon Citizens Review Board, state Manufactured Housing Coalition, PFLAG member; former city planning commissioner and budget committee member.
David Brock Smith
Curry County Commissioner David Brock Smith is banking on his extensive experience in local government to boost him to the state level in the November election, in which he is running for State Representative.
The seat is being vacated by Rep. Wayne Krieger, who is retiring at the end of his term, when his replacement will be sworn in. Smith, who has been a county commissioner for the past three years, is up against Tamie Kaufman on the Libertarian ticket, and Democrat Terry Brayer for the state seat.
“The (person elected) needs to be an experienced voice for District 1,” he said. “Someone who understands the rural issues and the divide that exists with Portland, who can articulate those issues in the legislature. This is something I have been doing for years.”
Some of those local issues on which he has assisted included the acquisition of $1.6 million to buy a dredge for the South Coast ports, reworking regulations to enable cranberry farmers here to ship frozen products to China and his work in forest issues.
“The state needs to be more engaged in O&C issues,” he said of the challenges trying to harvest timberlands. “There’s a disconnect in what’s happening to counties and at the legislature. My experience, to have those conversations on both sides of the aisle, and explain the pros and cons and effects of their policies on our constituents, is a great benefit.
“The legislature needs to take positions,” he said this spring. “There’s not a lot of that work being done — if any. When was the last time you heard the House OK’d a letter to advocate for more timber harvests? Never. That’s what needs to happen.”
Other local projects he’s worked on include ReHome Oregon, to get low-income residents repairs on their homes, the Wild Rivers Coast Forest Collaborative that brought stakeholders together to craft an acceptable agreement to harvest timber, and the state’s new Sudden Oak Death Task Force.
This year, he secured from the state $250,000 — $50,000 in the form of a block grant — to address Sudden Oak Death, which could devastate the forests and economy of Curry County. If it escapes county boundaries, it could put the state’s agricultural economy at risk, as well.
He was instrumental in securing a $100,000 grant for the mental health court proposed by the district attorney, and held three Public Safety Summits throughout the state to brainstorm ideas among law enforcement officials about issues facing them today.
Smith’s focus has broadened into social issues, such as affordable housing, public and mental health, law enforcement, education and veterans issues, he said.
At the legislative level, Smith wants to start with reexamining the state land use system.
“Land use laws are geared for the I-5 corridor,” he said. “Reform needs to happen. It’s not the fix, by any means, but for rural Oregon to have economic growth, we need to not stifle growth, but be creative.”
Smith wants to address unfunded mandates issued by the state and address the financial problems of PERS, the state retirement program.
“I don’t have the magic bullet,” he admitted, “but we have to start with cuts at the state level. PERS is out of control.”
He is “adamantly opposed” to the proposed 2.5 percent corporate sales tax, Measure 97, on big businesses — those that make more than $25 million a year — and is estimated to raise $5 million per biennium for education and mental health.
His work at the Capitol, bending ears and shaking hands, is secondary to the communication skills he uses to get work done, Smith said.
“It’s often said in meetings here, I’m only as good as the people I have around me,” he said. “My colleagues around the state and Capitol have a lot of experience, guidance and input they offer me. It’s my job to follow the Constitution and do what’s in the best interest of our citizens. I’ve done that. I’m able to work with a bipartisan group of legislators to accomplish things.”
Smith said it’s natural to go from county commissioner to the state level.
“I just want to be able to continue my work for the people I already serve,” he said. “I already have fantastic working relationships with the commissioners (in the area). They’re the ones who implement all the state services and policies that come from the legislature.
“I’m going to miss my work here; I really am,” he said. “But I feel my time and energy are better spent in Salem.”
Married: Melissa, four children
Born: Coronado, California
Hometown: Port Orford; third-generation, returned 26 years ago
Education: Pacific High School, 1995, attended SWOCC and SOU; graduated with honors from OSU and AOC’s County College certification courses.
Career: Former restaurant owner, current county commissioner
Other: Board member Port Orford-Langlois School Board, Port Orford Rotary Board; chair of the Association of Oregon Counties and numerous committees throughout the region.