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Underdog Christofferson holds out hope of upsetting Walden

Despite its status as Oregon’s "Red Zone," with a heavily Republican voter registration, Democrat Aelea Christofferson believes there is some chance Oregon’s 2nd District will hand her victory in her race against longtime Rep. Greg Walden. 

Campaigning Saturday in Talent’s Downtowne Cafe, Christofferson told a tiny crowd she thinks voters should stop writing off the race, as she is a serious candidate with a $110,000 war chest and her focus is on creating realistic jobs for these times — infrastructure and clean energy — rather than harkening back to long-gone lumber work. 

“Jobs are the main thing,” she said. “Eastern Oregon hasn’t seen the recovery the rest of the state has. Almost all counties with 10 or 11 percent unemployment are in my district. It used to be heavily into lumber jobs, but it’s a fantasy we can go back to the jobs of 20 years ago. Mills got automated and forests were mismanaged and heavily logged and need restoration. Saying the spotted owl did it is missing the point.” 

Christofferson assailed her eight-term opponent, saying Walden “keeps floating this misrepresentation that if we just get the environmentalists in line, we’ll get our lumber jobs back.” 

Christofferson just sold her ATL Communications, which she founded and managed for 23 years, during which time she was on the boards of Cover Oregon and Oregon Healthy Fund. She has a bachelor’s degree in constitutional law and master’s in business administration from universities in California. She worked in Washington D.C. on the staff of Pete Stark, a longtime Congressman from the East Bay.

Her background in business, law and health care, she said, qualifies her to propose reforms for health care. The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") is here to stay, has massively cut the rolls of uninsured in this state and, she adds, “we should now improve what we have, starting with doing all kinds of tweaks on Obamacare instead of using it to make anti-Obama points.” 

On the contentious issue of choice, Christofferson dismissed it, saying, “It’s irrelevant how I feel about abortion. I don’t have a right to make that choice for anyone else. It’s for the person and her doctor and pastor to sort it out, not the government.” 

Queried by Talent mayoral candidate Darby Stricker on the controversial Supreme Court ruling that “corporations are people” and may spend liberally on campaign ads, Christofferson said she disagrees — and that “money is a disease that politics has” and can only be brought under control by strong campaign finance reform. 

She said she supports net neutrality and GMO labeling, but not Measure 96 on education funding. 

Asked about equal pay for both genders, Christofferson scoffed, “It’s so amazing we’re still fighting about this. The difficult thing is proving it (took place). It’s going to have to happen at the local level.” 

During her decades in the telecom business, Christofferson worked with Walden and, she says, found him “very noncombative. He wants to look like a really nice guy and he is. I voted for him in 1998 because, back then he was a moderate and accessible. Then he decided to head the RCC (National Republican Campaign Committee) and moved further right. Fifteen years ago, we worked together on hunger and now he’s supported big slashes in food stamps and Oregon is one of the hungriest states.”

Congress is “broken” and has ceased to have any meeting of minds, she says. If elected, Christofferson wants all freshmen to band together as a bipartisan force to fix it. 

Stricker said she likes Christofferson’s “fresh approach, willingness to collaborate (with the other party) and isn’t going there pre-loaded. We need to unlock the deadlock there.” 

Dan Goyette, owner of Downtowne Cafe and host of the event, said there’s always going to be a segment of the population disillusioned with Congress and the federal government but “people now are hungry for change. She is a fresh new choice for movement in a new direction.”

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.