Veteran Republican lawmaker takes on Democratic newcomer for state Senate seat – Oregon Capital Chronicle
Peter Courtney’s upcoming retirement in early January sparked a tug of war between a veteran state lawmaker and a legislative newcomer in the race for new Senatorial District 11, which includes Keizer, Woodburn and part of Salem.
Republican Senator Kim Thatcher, who currently represents Keizer-based Senate District 13, is running against Democrat Richard Walsh, Keizer’s lawyer and former Keizer City Council member.
Walsh has never served in the state legislature, while Thatcher was first elected in 2004 and has served in the state House and Senate. His current precinct, which favored the Democrats slightly in 2020, has been redrawn heavily in favor of the Democrats, giving them about 59% of registered voters compared to 36% for the Republicans, according to Dave’s Recut Map. Democrats are also favored in the redesigned District 11 but they only have a slight advantage over registered voters: 51% for Democrats against 43% for Republicans.
With widespread concern about crime, homelessness and inflation, and dissatisfaction with Democratic leaders – Governor Kate Brown is considered the nation’s least popular governor – analysts expect that Republicans get seats in the State Senate. The Democrats currently have 18 senators to the Republicans’ 11, although Sen. Art Robinson, who represents Cave Junction, is now caucuses with Sen. Brian Boquist, an independent representative from rural Polk and Yamhill counties.
Thatcher campaigns against crime and homelessness. Walsh wants to fight homelessness and has several health care proposals.
Kim Thatcher, Republican
Thatcher, owner of two construction companies called KT Contracting and Highway Specialties, has been a state legislator since joining the state House of Representatives in 2005. In 2014, she won her current seat in the Senate.
Thatcher said she was running for the new district, even though the Democrats had an advantage, to break Democratic control of the government.
She said her priorities include reducing crime, homelessness and what she sees as excessive government regulation.
As an example, she cited Covid lockdowns and vaccine requirements. Another: An environmental cap and trade proposal that sparked Republican walkouts in 2019 and 2020.
“We tried to negotiate, but we were in a super minority, and we were told to sit down and shut up and let it roll over you,” she said.
She said one of her legislative accomplishments occurred during this year’s session. She pushed for Senate Bill 1584, which provides those wrongfully convicted with financial compensation and other forms of support, including counselling, housing and vocational training. It passed unanimously and was one of the few Senate bills with a Republican lead sponsor to pass in the last legislative session, she said.
Thatcher said she had also pushed for greater transparency, for example by sponsoring House Bill 2500 in 2009. He created the Oregon Transparency websitewhich lists public records, such as meetings, state agency salaries, and performance metrics.
To reduce homelessness, Thatcher said the Legislative Assembly should target addiction and mental health instead of focusing on affordable housing. Over the past two years, the legislature has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to increase the state’s lack of services, but the money has been slow to come out.
According to the City of Salemthere are 1,188 homeless people in Marion and Polk counties.
She said the Legislature needs to address homelessness at the community level.
“What works in Salem might not work in Portland and vice versa,” she said.
As she approached, she found that residents are most concerned about rising prices and crime.
“They don’t like the direction our state is going,” she said.
Although property crimes in Salem fell 8.4% in 2021, violent crimes – including homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults – rose 10% that year. , according to Salem Police Department.
Like other Republicans, Thatcher criticized Brown for granting early release to about 1,000 prisoners, despite most of them being nonviolent offenders. She also criticized a 2021 bill barring most mugshots from being public and said she was concerned about state police staffing.
Thatcher is deputy chair of the Senate Interim Committee on the Implementation of Judiciary and Election Measure 110, and has been in the minority party the entire time she has been in the Senate.
“Hopefully I’ll have more friends and that we’ll have more balance and that in doing so we can address some of these issues that are apparent to almost everyone, that are causing some of these issues in our neighborhoods, not making people feel safe, etc,” she said.
Richard Walsh, Democrat
Walsh, who served on the Keizer City Council from 2000 to 2011, was named the Democratic candidate for Senate District 11 when Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson abandoned of the race. He said he decided to run because he felt the district needed “effective representation” from someone involved in the community.
Housing is one of his top priorities.
It has housed people who are homeless overnight since 2019 and sees the lack of unstable housing as a big problem in the neighborhood. For three years, he advocated for Keizer to create micro-shelters, which he described as “10 out of 10 boxes with a roof over them and a small heating unit and an air conditioner.”
The city hasn’t built any, but the Salem @ the Park-based nonprofit Church, which helps the homeless with transitional housing, has joined the City of Salem in creating two micro-shelter communities. in the city. Walsh said he donates to the nonprofit and serves on its advisory board.
Walsh said he would like to expand this program statewide.
“It’s an environment where people are going to be protected and safe, and they can start their lives,” he said.
If elected, Walsh said he would also like to work on health issues. As a lawyer, he has represented many injured people battling insurance company denials. While he supports health care for all, he said that probably won’t happen next quarter, but he said he would like to make prescription drugs more affordable by joining Oregon with California and Washington to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. He would also like to push forward a bill to ensure frontline and essential workers receive workers’ compensation if they contract Covid.
He would also like to address campaign reform, limiting contributions, and would like to see an expanded booklet for voters with more information about the candidates and make them swear it’s true.
Republicans lambasted Walsh in ads, saying he had $30,000 in unpaid taxes. The sum refers to his late payment of an income tax bill in 2010 during divorce proceedings, he said.
“The minute that was final, I wrote a check and paid it all in full penalties, late fees, all of it,” he said.
Critics also pointed out that he got a DUI in 2010. He went through a diversion program and takes full responsibility for the mistake, he said.
“I admitted my mistake, admitted my fault, I haven’t repeated that mistake in the past 12 years and it will never happen again,” he said.
He attacked Thatcher for questioning Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election and sent a letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum calling for forensic audits of the 2020 election in all states.
“It was a call to make sure the election was run fairly, nothing more,” Thatcher said. “Many voters wanted that assurance and that was all the letter was trying to do. It was a call for transparency and precision in the electoral process.
As a Democrat, Walsh said he thinks he has a good chance of representing District 11 and has what it takes to do a good job.
This story was developed in collaboration with the Catalyst Journalism Project at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Catalyst brings together investigative journalism and solutions journalism to spark action and response to Oregon’s most complex issues. To find out more visit https://catalystjournalism.uoregon.edu or follow the project on Twitter @UO_catalyst.