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New congressman has work to do

As expected, voters in the 2nd Congressional District elected Republican Cliff Bentz to succeed Rep. Greg Walden, who is retiring. The outcome was all but certain as soon as Bentz won the May primary, because Republicans enjoy a nine-point registration advantage in the sprawling rural district.

Bentz will be a freshman in Congress, but he’s no newcomer to lawmaking. A lawyer from Ontario, Bentz served 10 years in the Oregon House and two in the Senate before resigning to run for Congress.

Bentz will join the minority caucus in the House, but he’s not stranger to that role, either: He was in the minority for most of his time in the Legislature.

Bentz is conservative, but he is no ideologue, and he has a history of working productively across the aisle to get major legislation enacted. He was instrumental in helping reach a compromise to pass the $5.3 billion transportation package that is funding transit and road projects across the state.

He also worked to pass reasonable concessions to rural residents that exempted sparsely populated areas from the state’s self-serve gasoline ban so residents could pump their own gas when there was no attendant available, and increased speed limits on specific stretches of remote highways.

Bentz doesn’t support all Democratic efforts to impose limits on carbon emissions, but he acknowledges that climate change exists — a better starting point than outright denial of the science. He should give consideration to reasonable measures to limit emissions and encourage alternative energy development.

When the new Congress convenes in January, it’s important that Bentz hit the ground running to advance the interests of 2nd District residents, including continued health care funding, federal contributions to wildfire risk reduction projects and — especially crucial to Southern Oregon — rebuilding after the devastating fires that destroyed thousands of residences and many businesses. As a member of the minority party in the House, we expect Bentz to use his negotiating skills to serve the interests of his constituents.

It’s important to note that Bentz’s district could look different after 2021 if Oregon gains a sixth congressional district as a result of the 2020 Census. When that happens, it’s entirely possible that parts of Southern Oregon will no longer be in the 2nd District at all.

But at least for the time being, Bentz will be our new congressional representative.