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Two newcomers vie for Richardson's seat

A Grants Pass pastor and a retired research analyst from Central Point are vying for the District 4 seat held by state Rep. Dennis Richardson, who's running for governor.

Republican Duane Stark, 36, is a former Richardson aide who currently serves as an outreach pastor at River Valley Community Church. Sixty-eight-year-old Darlene Taylor, a Democrat, spent her career in tech and defense fields and recently served on the Oregon Women's Commission.

Stark said his primary legislative focus is combating what he calls an "ever-expanding, invasive government."

"I feel like our government is beginning to expand into more and more areas of life," he said. "It's pretty straightforward — I'm a conservative all the way around."

Taylor was more specific, citing job development, affordable education and infrastructure projects as her main priorities.

"Part of what I'm going to be working toward is lifting (local) families up as much as we can," Taylor said, citing large numbers of the county's population living in poverty. "If we can help with child care expenses, medical leave — it's a real concern."

Both candidates seem to be on a similar page when it comes to unfunded mandates, at least with regard to the federal Common Core standards in math and language arts.

"I think, at the state level especially, given that I'm running for a state office, we need to be very careful about causing additional stress or duress on our counties," Stark said. "We need to be very careful passing any bill or law without funding for it."

"I see Common Core as a bit different than a true unfunded mandate — if you don't want the money, don't take it," he said.

Taylor expressed similar sentiments with regard to adopting the standards.

"If they have expectations of us to do this as a state, they need to send some money our way (to fund its implementation)," she said.

Taylor, whose daughter is a middle school math and science teacher, also expressed concerns with the standards themselves. "Students need to have more individualized work in our public education system," she said. "Teachers should not be teaching to the test. I just think Common Core is wrong."

When asked how he would help boost Jackson County's economy from the state House, Stark took a characteristically conservative tack. 

"We have to figure out how we can appeal to businesses," Stark said, citing Oregon's regulatory environment as a major impediment. "It's a confusing process for many — it's not welcoming to new, young ideas, to entrepreneurs."

Stark said he's a proponent of tax reform to create consistency and allow for long-term business plans.

Taylor, on the other hand, opposes tax reforms that would benefit large corporations and wants to focus on infrastructure building, saying she's circulating a proposal with local companies to start a research partnership that could employ students.

"A lot of it has been put off for too long," she said.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.

Darlene Taylor
Duane Stark