Congressional race: Who's the true conservative?
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. The first part highlights the Republican candidates who have filed statements in the Voters’ Pamphlet, and the second article will look at the Democratic candidates.
Republicans have 11 choices in the May 19 primary election to replace U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.
In campaign ads and in the Voters’ Pamphlet, many of the candidates make a point of calling themselves “true conservatives,” showing their support for President Donald Trump, the Constitution and the Second Amendment, while opposing abortion and liberals.
Candidates who submitted statements in the Voters’ Pamphlet for the 2nd Congressional District race, which spans all of Eastern Oregon and into Jackson County, include Knute Buehler, Cliff Bentz, Jason Atkinson, Jimmy Crumpacker, Justin Livingston, Travis Fager and Jeff Smith.
Candidates who didn’t submit a statement in the Voters’ Pamphlet include Mark Roberts of White City, Glenn Carey of Klamath Falls, David Campbell of White City and Kenneth Medenbach of Crescent.
Atkinson, a former state senator and state representative who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, said he has tried to maintain a positive campaign, while Buehler attacks him and other opponents.
Chairman of The Dove Christian Broadcast Network and a Central Point resident, Atkinson said he’s been working hard to find a balanced approach to the controversy over the Klamath River, while making sure farmers get the water they need. He produced a 2014 documentary on the controversy, “A River Between Us.”
He said Buehler doesn’t have the knowledge or background on the Klamath River issue — he says Buehler even sought advice from him — even though Buehler now criticizes Atkinson for wanting to remove dams.
“When he ran for governor two years ago, Knute called and asked me what his position should be,” he said.
Atkinson said Buehler has flip-flopped on many issues, including the Second Amendment and his support for Trump.
“God help us if he were a member of Congress. I’m not afraid of Knute Buehler and Nike’s money,” said Atkinson, referring to political contributions to Buehler from the sports brand.
“With that kind of ego, flip flopping and throwing people under the bus, he (Buehler) will not serve the people of Southern Oregon,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson called himself a “true conservative,” earning an A+ from the National Rifle Association, and said he is 100% pro-life.
If elected, Atkinson said he would fight to get Southern Oregon back to work as the country pulls out of the economic downturn.
He said he will continue to fight to retain the tanker base in Jackson County and to make sure that forests are being properly maintained to prevent devastating forest fires.
“In order to fight for Jackson County, you have to know these issues in and out,” he said.
Buehler, who lost to Kate Brown for governor in 2018, said he has a record of standing up to Democrats and liberals.
“No one in this race has been tougher on Kate Brown and the liberal establishment,” said the Bend doctor. “I’ll be just as tough on (Rep.) Nancy Pelosi.”
Buehler said he regards Bentz as a good guy, but criticized him politically. “He’s a get-along, go-along tax-and-spender in Salem,” he said.
He also criticized Atkinson for wanting to rush to take out the dams along the Klamath River without enough regard for the farmers who depend on the water.
Bentz, who has been both a state representative and a state senator, said his experience as a farmer, rancher, small-business owner and lawyer make him especially suited to replace Walden.
His father was in the logging business, and his family has a more than 100-year history in Oregon, he said.
“I have the record and the experience that best suits the district,” Bentz said.
He said his legal career has given him a first-hand look at water rights, an issue that affects many rural Oregonians.
Last week, he said he made the six-hour trip from Ontario to Klamath Falls to discuss water rights with farmers and ranchers, while still maintaining appropriate social distancing.
He said he’s proud of transportation bills that he helped shepherd through Salem, and he said he will work hard to get federal transportation dollars for Oregon.
Bentz said he has heard other candidates refer to themselves as “true conservatives.”
“I’m happy to report that under most of the definitions that I fit in nicely,” said Bentz, who fled to Idaho in 2019 when Senate Republicans staged a walkout in Salem in protest of a climate bill.
Justin Livingston, who has been a Bend city councilman and has been active in Deschutes County politics for years, said he grew up in rural Marion County and has a good understanding of the issues of rural Oregonians.
A fiscal conservative, Livingston said government should focus on its core services to provide the dollars needed to maintain roads and other infrastructure needed to move goods and services.
He said he supports continued improvements to Highway 97 to provide an alternative to Interstate 5, which many believe will be severely impacted someday by a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
“We also need to get back into the woods and get our forest management practices better,” Livingston said.
While applauding Walden’s work for Oregon, Livingston said he thinks the 2nd Congressional seat offers an opportunity for a high-ranking Republican to provide leadership for Oregon as a whole.
He supports expanding Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, where U.S. Air Force pilots train. He said he would like to see more modern military jets flying out of Klamath Falls to expand the capacity of the base.
Fager, a La Grande radio station operator who has no political experience, said he loves his country but sees so many institutions, including Congress, that are “in the process of decay.”
“We’ve got a lot of flaws that need correction,” he said.
He said he views Congress as a kind of board of directors that should be running the country like a business.
“We need a better board of directors,” he said.
He said he takes issue with the size of the $2.2 trillion bailout to help get the economy back on its feet as it struggles through the pandemic.
“I’m a common American who knows how to balance my checkbook,” he said. “Somebody’s operating in fantasy land.”
He said the bailout has a vague goal, and he’s skeptical about its effectiveness and worries about the additional debt the country has accumulated.
“We shot a cannon ball off into the mist and haven’t hit anything,” he said.
The bailout has failed to adequately help small businesses or the many Americans who have found themselves without a paycheck, he said.
He also said the government has mishandled our civil liberties and denied us the opportunity to move around during the pandemic, pushing society more toward being risk averse in the name of public safety.
“It’s like the taxpayers are being held underwater,” Fager said.
Crumpacker, a commodities trader who lives in Tumalo, said he doesn’t have any political experience and thinks that will resonate with voters in the congressional district.
“People in the Republican Party are frustrated with career politicians,” he said. “I’ve never run for public office, and I’m a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump.”
He said he’s received endorsements from Oregon Right to Life and the Oregon Firearms Federation.
Crumpacker said Buehler didn’t support Trump in 2016 and isn’t a supporter of the president’s immigration policy.
“He’s pro-choice, and I’m pro-life,” he said.
One of Crumpacker’s main goals if he wins the seat is to get the federal government to allow better management of lands in Oregon and to open up the forests for more logging to add jobs and help get the state economy out of the current slump.
He said better management of forests, which he thinks the Trump administration would endorse, will lead to less risk of catastrophic wildfires.
“It is no longer just becoming a Republican issue,” Crumpacker said. “After this economic shutdown, we’re going to need more opportunities for jobs.”
Smith, a computer programmer and small business owner from Elgin who hasn’t run for a political office before, said he’d like to end the over regulation of the healthcare industry by the government.
“My number one priority is to lower the cost of medical care,” he said.
He said he would like to double the number of doctors and nurses, while giving them more decision-making authority to treat their patients.
Smith blames government regulation for pushing health care costs higher.
Government oversight has also helped destroy mills and the logging industry in Oregon.
He said wants to kill the Endangered Species Act, saying it gives federal judges too much authority over logging in federal forests.
Instead, states should be given the authority to devise their own logging and forest management rules, rather than the federal government, he said.
Logging operations were sharply curtailed over the past 30 years because of rulings that protect the spotted owl, he said. But since those rulings the barred owl has done more to push the spotted owl out of its territory than logging operations, Smith said.
Smith said those who look at the Voters’ Pamphlet can decide for themselves if he is a true conservative. He supports Trump, is pro-life, pro-second amendment, pro-first amendment and wants to protect social security.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.