Kevin Stine isn’t exactly a household name in Oregon, particularly compared to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden.

Stine is better known locally as a first-term Medford councilor who decided to take on the popular Democratic incumbent with a relatively modest campaign in the primary election that will be decided Tuesday.

“I don’t think there is a huge groundswell of people who think I can win,” said Stine, 30, who recently graduated with a political science degree from Southern Oregon University. “I feel every election should have a choice.”

Stine’s uphill battle to take on Wyden is partially revealed by his campaign receipts so far, which add up to $8,375. Wyden has $6.8 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. Stine has spent $5,960 to Wyden’s $1.8 million. Paul Weaver, another Democratic challenger, has had no activity in his FEC account.

Stine, who has only held one office as councilor, said he acknowledges he’s trying to run a relatively modest campaign, enlisting the help of his wife, Casey.

He’s had interviews with the media and tried to pick up newspaper endorsements, though he hasn’t received any. Stine’s also sent out mailers to key Democrats, particularly those who have been donors to previous campaigns.

“Social media really helps,” Stine said. He’s been active on Facebook, Twitter and email.

Stine and a handful of volunteers have been phoning people throughout the state. He’s gone to rallies, particularly rallies for Bernie Sanders, where he said he’s been able to meet a lot of receptive voters.

Throughout much of his campaign, Stine has tried to juggle his campaign with raising his two-year-old daughter, Riley. Recently, though, his wife has been at home more, which has freed him up for campaigning.

“I wish I had more time and had 100 days to go,” Stine said.

Stine, who had been going to school on the GI Bill after his service in the U.S. Navy, thinks Wyden has political vulnerabilities, particularly on trade and health care, and that he would love to debate him on those issues.

However, the closest he came to debating Wyden was during an interview at Willamette Week. Stine was in the newspaper’s office, while Wyden responded by telephone.

“If you say you are ‘different like Oregon,’ why do you avoid debates?” Stine said.

Wyden responded in the recorded interview that he holds town halls throughout the state each year to directly answer concerns of residents. “Everybody in Oregon gets the opportunity to hold me accountable,” Wyden said during the recorded interview.

After additional questions from Willamette Week, Wyden said he’s got a very hectic schedule in the Senate this spring, specifically working on trade-secret legislation. When asked directly if he would agree to a debate, Wyden said, “I’m here talking and answering questions.”

Wyden served first in the House of Representatives in 1981 and became a senator in 1996.

“I would have loved to put his 35 years in office on trial,” Stine said. “I think I would have destroyed him in a debate.”

Stine has attacked Wyden’s record on supporting trade-agreement legislation, including NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Every job-killing trade agreement shows that he’s not a progressive,” Stine said.

Wyden said he has supported trade agreements because Oregon can’t be left behind as it seeks to export farm and technology products to the Pacific Rim.

Stine said Wyden’s record on health care hasn’t been great either, pointing out Wyden’s initial support for a Medicare plan supported by Rep. Paul Ryan, a fiscal conservative.

“Trying to rip up Medicare is not a progressive value particularly if you’re not going to regulate prices,” Stine said.

Wyden has made a point of distancing himself from some parts of Ryan’s proposal, particularly the raising of eligibility age and lowering of federal support.

Stine said he thinks Wyden is a good talker who generally falls on the right side of social issues, but he doesn’t think his actions always benefit average Americans.

“He’s not very transparent,” he said.

Stine describes himself as more progressive than Wyden, though not as progressive as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is compared to Hillary Clinton.

In Oregon, just under 800,000 voters typically cast ballots in the primary. “I hope to get over 100,000 votes,” Stine said. “I think that means people like my story.”

 

—Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.