Voters in state Senate District 2 will have a fairly clear choice in the November 6 election. But just because it's clear doesn't mean it will be easy.
On one hand, you have Republican Herman Baertschiger, a very (very) conservative business owner whose main goal seems to be cutting more trees in order to create more timber-related jobs (which is, by the way, the business he's in).
On the other hand, you have Democrat Jim Diefenderfer, retired after 31 years in the aerospace industry in California, with a grand total of four years of residency in Oregon and some rather vague goals of attracting non-timber manufacturers to Southern Oregon.
It's a tough call for us, because we think we will end up disagreeing with many of his positions, but in the end our endorsement goes to Baertschiger, who clearly knows the area, has a long history of involvement in the community and would more likely represent the viewpoints of the majority of the conservative Senate district that includes portions of both Jackson and Josephine counties.
Baertschiger, 53, has operated his own timber-related company since he was 19 years old. He has experience on a variety of local boards, including an irrigation district board, the Grants Pass Airport Advisory Board, Josephine County Forestry Board and the Josephine County Emergency Management Board. He's also been involved in a number of community organizations, including current efforts to resolve Josephine County's financial crisis.
Diefenderfer, 59, was a last-minute addition — literally, filing about 90 seconds before the deadline — to the ballot to provide some Democratic presence in the race. He worked for 31 years for Northrop Grumman aerospace company and is chairman of the Josephine County Democratic Party.
Diefenderfer agrees with Baertschiger that jobs are the top priority, but says his opponent is too focused on timber jobs. His solution is to attract manufacturing jobs to the area; potentially a fine idea, but he has no real plan in place to do that, other than vague assurances that he still has connections in California. He lacks any real history in the area and, along with that, the kind of deep ties and understanding needed to be an effective representative.
Baertschiger has the local connections and history in spades, along with an impressive involvement in community projects. He expresses admiration for the budget work state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, has done as co-chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. We hope that means he also recognizes that Richardson has found ways to make sometimes difficult compromises with legislative Democrats in order to avoid the kind of gridlock that has paralyzed Congress.
Baertschiger comes by his conservatism and focus on timber jobs the old-fashioned way — he earned it, in the woods and as a small business owner. He can earn more respect and help move the state forward if he is willing to occasionally challenge his own preconceptions, along with the dictates of his party leaders.
Baertschiger's community involvement and efforts to do what's best for the community earns him our endorsement, along with our hopes that he would go to Salem intent on doing the same for the state, even if it means budging out of his comfort zone occasionally.