Longtime Rogue Valley television personality Pete Belcastro will run as an independent against Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, he announced Tuesday.
If elected, he will work to develop green industry, increase funding for higher education and reform Oregon’s tax system and spending, he said.
Belcastro, who worked for 19 years as director of Rogue Valley Community Television before leaving last year, said it’s “irresponsible and unsustainable” that the Democratic majority in the House has increased spending by $620 million a biennium during a tight economy.
He acknowledged it could be hard to unseat Buckley, a two-term incumbent who had no opposition in his last race, but said Oregonians have always appreciated an independent voice.
“If nothing else, I love raising hell,” he said. “You can’t lose. I look to have fun and enjoy it and let people see what they think.”
Belcastro is a native of Southern Oregon who has worked in commercial TV as sports broadcaster, anchor and reporter and served as president of the Ashland Rotary. He has a master’s degree in political science from Southern Oregon University.
He noted he has been in the public eye for decades, likes to work with people, knows the issues from countless interview shows and is at least as well known as Buckley.
Buckley, he said, is “for one-party rule. He voted for every tax and fee that came up and what good has it done this community?”
“People have to decide that. If you think everything is going well, vote for him, but if you live paycheck to paycheck, we need to have a discussion about our direction.”
Buckley, in an interview Tuesday, said, “I’m already doing everything he mentions in investing in education, energy and the way we collect revenue, and I’m proud of being a Democrat and of what we’ve accomplished. As for higher education, I’m at the lead in reinvesting in our system.”
Belcastro works at Lithia Realty in Ashland and is studying to get his “green broker” certification, meaning expertise on renewable energy systems. As a legislator, he would work for tax incentives for sustainable energy, he said.
“We’ve got to have green, sustainable, environmentally friendly jobs,” such as Portland has achieved, and higher education in the region must meet the demand for classes in green technologies, he said.
As a party member, he said, Buckley has large sums of campaign money available, “and that’s why so few people run for office. Parties have a huge advantage. I’m just a citizen, just a guy who thinks he can do better.”
Belcastro said Oregon’s tax system greatly needs reform, but added that bringing in a sales tax wouldn’t fix it or stop the state’s “up and down mode,” as it reacts to good times and bad.
In a statement from his Salem office, Buckley, the majority whip and chair of the Education Committee, said, “Pete is a good guy and I welcome him to the race. Having an opponent is good for the democratic process and hopefully will provide voters an opportunity to affirm my efforts.”
Buckley pointed to accomplishments in K-12 and higher education, health care, improved care in mental health, seniors, disabled, autistic and developmentally disabled children, as well as civil rights for all Oregonians.
He said he worked for the environment with investments in alternative energy, expansion of the Bottle Bill and setting up recycling of electronic components.
“I welcome a spirited debate with Pete and am anxious to hear in what way he believes he could do a better job,” said Buckley.
Belcastro said he’s received offers of contributions from members of both parties and independents and will soon have a Web site. His contact number is 621-7036.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.