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Atkinson, Schreffler file for Esquivel's seat

The race for the Oregon House seat now held by Sal Esquivel has heated up, with Democrats Michelle Blum Atkinson and Rick Schreffler becoming candidates Tuesday, the last day of the filing deadline.

Schreffler, who was on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board from 2007-2011, will vie with Atkinson, who ran unsuccessfully for Medford City Council in 2016, in the May primary.

The victor will likely take on Kim Wallan, a Medford city councilor who is the only Republican to register, and Al Densmore, former Medord mayor and legislator, who is running as an independent.

Esquivel, a Republican, is not seeking re-election.

"I feel like I had something to offer," said Schreffler, 41. "I made the decision mainly because of family. There are so many challenges that need to be addressed."

Atkinson, 32, said of her decision to run, "I've been thinking about it a lot, and a lot of people asked me to run for it."

Atkinson, who was part-owner of Procare Software, which offers software for childcare providers, said health care is one of her priority issues, and she thinks the state as a whole needs to make health care a priority.

"What we need is better outcomes for less money," she said. "There is so much room for improvement."

She said the state needs legislation that will empower health care workers to provide the best health care possible.

"Maybe we will have to make some compromises, but we need to find a system that is going to benefit everyone," she said. "I'm an idealist, but I'm pragmatic, too."

With two young children, Atkinson also ranks education as a priority for the state, noting she is a product of the Medford School District, where her children will also attend.

She said schools require manageable class sizes, healthful meals, physical education programs and career training, particularly for technical trades to help give businesses a boost, as well.

Other issues that need to be tackled, she said, include solving the housing crisis that has led to a lack of affordable units.

"There are too many vets and families out in the cold," Atkinson said, who is also a supporter of environmental causes and wants to leave a legacy so her children can enjoy the great outdoors.

Schreffler, who ran unsuccessfully for Jackson County clerk in 2008 and is attempting to start a plastic recycling business, said that while he was on the RVTD board he pushed to stabilize rates and restore routes.

He said mass transit is an area in which Oregon needs to make more investments, particularly in creating more efficient bus routes and better train systems.

His decision to run was spurred by the various challenges families face, he said, including his own, which has at times had difficulty paying the rent and buying food. Schreffler has been married for 10 years and has two sons and a daughter.

"We have a big housing issue in this valley," Schreffler said. "Crime is also something that is a big concern."

He said he's concerned that Oregon's educational system continues to slip.

"My grandmother told me that this used to be one of the top states," Schreffler said. "Now we're near the bottom."

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

Blum Atkinson