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Tech owner runs for governor

Medford high-tech business owner Jessica Gomez announced Tuesday she will run for governor of Oregon in the 2022 Republican primary.

“We need new leadership at a time when we’re recovering from the pandemic,” said Gomez, founder and CEO of Medford-based Rogue Valley Microdevices.

Inconsistent policies and information from the current state leadership have hurt the economy of Oregon during the pandemic, she said.

Gomez, who describes herself as a moderate Republican, was named as executive of the year by the Portland Business Journal in 2020 and is chair of the Oregon Tech Board of Trustees.

Her website is jessicagomezforgovernor.com.

Gov. Kate Brown will not be running in 2022 because she will have served the maximum number of terms.

Gomez isn’t the first Republican from Southern Oregon to run for governor.

Former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who died in 2017, ran unsuccessfully in 2014. Former Senator Jason Atkinson ran unsuccessfully in 2006.

Oregon is a tough state for Republicans to win the top seat. The last time a Republican held the position was in 1987, when Victor Atiyeh held office.

The last six Oregon governors have been Democrats.

Other Republicans who have announced their candidacy include Bud Pierce, Paul Romero and Darin Harbick.

Gomez ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for the Oregon Senate seat now held by Ashland Democrat Jeff Golden, and she was considered for an appointment to Medford City Council in 2019.

Gomez said many areas of the state have suffered as a result of the pandemic, fires and rioting. She said there is much that can be done to help local economies without piling on new taxes and regulations.

“The negative impact to our communities is painfully clear,” she said. “What is crucial is that we make the best decisions moving forward.”

Gomez said her priorities will be to build strong and resilient communities, improve public education and increase the safety of communities.

She said her emphasis on the safety of communities is partially the result of increased concerns about homeless people.

“We’re being severely impacted by this issue,” said Gomez, who said she was homeless as a teenager.

She said the state already has resources in place to help reintegrate many of homeless people back into society, but she said a new structure needs to be developed to better focus those resources.

She said the education system in Oregon must better train young people so they can get jobs once they finish school.

“Higher education, and especially community colleges, are underfunded in Oregon — this must change so skyrocketing tuition and student debt does not prevent all Oregonians from reaching their full potential,” she said.

Gomez said she wants to create a universal college credit apprenticeship program that could be transferred to any community college or public university in Oregon.

She said the pandemic left a lot of parents with no option but to drop out of the workforce.

“Day care is expensive and there is not enough availability,” she said.

Oregon must do a better job of providing affordable day care for parents so they can get back into the workforce, she said.

Gomez said many Oregonians are feeling frustrated by Salem leadership, and that frustration has led to walkouts by Republicans as well as angry protests at the Capitol.

“It’s one thing to protest and another thing to destroy property,” she said.

That discontent is a result of Salem leaders not listening to other voices as they weigh legislation, Gomez said.

“There is a lot of frustration to go around,” she said. “But it is not appropriate for people to go into the building,” she added, referring to an attempt by protesters to storm the state Capitol Dec. 21.

State Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Independence, is facing expulsion from the House after letting violent protesters into the Capitol in December while the Legislature was in session. They sprayed chemical irritants at police who finally expelled them. Outside, protesters broke windows on the Capitol and assaulted journalists.

“Again, there was a lot of emotions and a lot of frustration,” Gomez said.

Other candidates from Southern Oregon who have run for governor have spent considerable time in the Portland metro area, which is needed to win the governor’s race.

Gomez said she plans to spend time up there as well to raise her profile with this large voting block that predominately supports Democrats.

“It is time for Oregonians to work together to build a future in which we can all be proud,” she said. “I firmly believe the strength of our state lies in our differences.”

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.