Who is Joyce Segers?
Joyce Segers would be the first to tell you she is not a typical congressional candidate.
"I understand I don't fit the mold that most people would expect," acknowledged Segers, of Ashland, a certified hypnotist, BodyTalk technician and the underdog Democrat against 12-year incumbent Republican Greg Walden for Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, where a majority of the voters are registered with the GOP.
"I do want to be taken seriously — I absolutely believe I have a shot in this race," stressed Segers, 61.
"The approval rate of Congress right now is about 11 percent," she added. "I don't think people want more of the same coming back ... I'm a Democrat with an independent voice."
Like all candidates, she talks about the economy, education, health care, the environment, taxes and veterans issues.
Unlike most candidates, she also talks, when pressed, about the Lemurian movement, which subscribes to the belief that Mount Shasta is a mystic power source on the planet related to Lemuria, an ancient continent reputed to have sunk beneath the ocean waves eons ago.
"I have nothing to hide — I don't feel defensive about it," said Segers, who traveled to Egypt last year with a "Lemurian Awakening group" to explore the Lemurian connection to the Giza pyramid.
"For me, it was about healing and about the whole world coming together in a peaceful understanding," she said. "That was my motivation for going.
"It is not a religion. I look at it in the same way people have talked about any mythological culture. That one happened to strike me because I'm living near Mount Shasta."
When asked about the city of Telos, which Lemuria subscribers say exists inside Mount Shasta, she deflected the question.
"A belief system to me is a very dangerous thing," she said. "I allow for possibilities. People who believe in God have never seen him."
However, in an article she wrote that was posted on the Spirit of Maat website following her trip to Egypt, she referred to Mount Shasta as "the very center of the fifth dimensional city of Telos and our Lemurian ancestors." The two articles she had written regarding Lemurians have since been removed from the website.
But she posted a comment Nov. 25 of last year that refers to Lemuria and the Egyptian trip.
"In doing ceremony with the reactivation of the White Flame of Ascension within the Great Pyramid at Giza, all doors were opened as our personal mastery increased and our connections to the changing DNA codes became even more of a reality," she wrote. "Much love to all as we brought to full circle our connection from the ancient guides of Egypt to our beloved Lemuria ... ."
Allen Hallmark, chairman of Jackson County's Democratic Central Committee, said Segers' spiritual beliefs don't concern him, albeit he conceded they may be an issue with some people.
"Joyce is a wonderful, down-to-earth person," he said. "She may have delved into some New Age ideas to expand her knowledge of the world.
"But in terms of politics, I find her to be knowledgeable, lucid and not far out at all," he added. "She is able to divide her spiritual quest from everyday life."
He likened her Lemurian interest to that of other candidates with varying spiritual or religious beliefs, including fundamentalist Christians.
"A person's religious or spiritual path, as long as it doesn't impinge on how she behaves as an elected official, doesn't really bother me," he said.
"Win or lose, I hope we have Joyce involved in local politics for years," he added. "She is sharp, and has a good head on her shoulders. Her spiritual path is her own and not a factor in the race."
Segers, the only Democratic candidate in the May primary, garnered 37,609 votes. Walden drew 74,970 votes as the only Republican candidate. The two will face off in the Nov. 2 election.
In Washington, D.C., Walden spokesman Andrew Whelan declined to comment on the Lemurian issue.
As for Segers, she said she would rather focus on issues that directly affect voters' lives, issues such as jobs and health care.
"I know I don't fit the mold," she reiterated of her candidacy. "However, my strength is bringing people together. I know how to reach out to people."
Noting she has campaigned throughout the vast district from Walden's home town of Hood River to Grants Pass, she said she also has made more than 3,000 telephone calls.
Segers, who owned and operated a medical billing business in Florida for nearly 20 years, said she wants to achieve a position where she can work as an advocate for common people.
"I remember a patient who was a diabetic (who) was going to need an above-the-knee amputation," she said. "The HMO wanted him to do it on an outpatient basis. Not even an overnight stay. The fight that ensued in order to get him to be an inpatient took two weeks.
"At that moment, I knew something was deeply wrong with our system and I wanted to help change it," she added.
Born in New York City to working-class Polish emigrants on July 4, 1949, she has a bachelor's degree in sociology from the City College of New York and has completed all but her thesis for a master's degree in communications from the University of Central Florida.
In addition to owning her own business, she also has worked in real estate before moving to Ashland last September.
David, her husband of 30 years, was an Army combat veteran of the Korean War who committed suicide in 2004, the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, she said. He was a psychologist who used hypnotism while working with veterans, she noted.
"He suffered from PTSD — he was still waking up shooting at the Chinese," she said. "He was able to use a lot of his own training to calm fears that would come up. But, ultimately, he took his life."
Her experience gave her a unique insight into how combat veterans and their families cope, she said. Their son, Brian, 34, is an Air Force veteran. He and his family live in Denver.
"What we are doing for veterans now is minimal," she said. "Physical health care, mental health care, jobs, family support — we need to do more for veterans."
Given how much money is allocated for the military, a portion of that ought to be earmarked for caring for veterans who need a hand up after service, she said.
When it comes to jobs, she wants to see the region create "green" jobs through tax incentives for small businesses.
"We're never going to compete with China or India on costs, but we are certainly able to be innovative enough and people are willing to pay a little bit more to bring jobs back," she said.
She calls for more federal funding for schools, albeit she notes the schools must retain full local autonomy.
Last week, Segers called on Walden to participate in a series of five debates throughout the district.
"They deserve to see us, face to face, and hear how we will represent them," she said of the district voters.
Walden spokesman Whelan, noting the congressman's schedule is currently full, said the Republican couldn't commit to any debates at this point.
"We can look at it as the calendar goes on," Whelan said.
Meanwhile, first-time candidate Segers said she doesn't expect to best the incumbent in a debate.
"After 12 years in office, I would hope Greg knows more than I do in some of those areas we've talked about," she said. "It is the fact he isn't doing anything with what he knows that is causing me to run."
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com.