We asked the two candidates for State Senate, District 8, the same set of questions to give Advocate readers one more look at our potential representatives before heading to the polls. We gave them a word count and no other direction.
Betsy Close is the incumbent. A Republican from Albany, she was appointed to the seat in 2012 after her predecessor resigned midterm; she served as a state representative prior. Sara Gelser is the challenger. A Democrat from Corvallis, she has been a state representative and prior to that she served on the school board.
So, in their own words:
What are two or three of the biggest challenges you see for Oregon?
Betsy Close: As a resource-based state (agriculture is 25% of Oregon’s economy) state government must strive not to place burdensome regulations on producers employing Oregonians to avoid job-loss. Oregon must provide first-rate education in the early foundational grades. Essential are reading, math, and language. Children deserve the gift of knowledge and skills.
Sara Gelser: Our public schools are working hard to meet the needs of many kids. We need to lower class sizes, reduce disparities in discipline policies, address school absenteeism and narrow the achievement gap. Oregonians need access to affordable post-secondary training programs, and Oregon’s farms and small businesses need support.
What are two or three opportunities you see for the state?
Sara Gelser: Oregon should lead the nation in giving everyone a fair shot at prosperity. This means ensuring equal pay for equal work, increasing the minimum wage and a statewide paid sick leave policy. Oregon should continue building a clean energy economy and promoting our state’s agricultural sector.
Betsy Close: I recently sat in hearings that documented how our Oregon wood products (beams, plywood, lumber, engineered wood products) are highly valued across the world. The last two summers’ devastating wildfires have caused huge losses of forestlands. We must protect the family wages jobs that this industry provides in our rural counties. Through better resource management techniques, we’ll utilize production and protection together.
What are you hoping to achieve in office?
Betsy Close: I passed Senate Bill 1574A to include opportunity for high school freshmen and sophomores to gain college credits. I will move to include the vocational/technical coursework to serve our Voc/Tech students who, increasingly cannot find these courses offered in high schools. The job market is moving towards advanced technical training.
Sara Gelser: I hope to continue standing up for working families and the most vulnerable in our communities. In particularly, I’d like to continue efforts to support our schools to close the opportunity gap, improve access to training in the trades, and improve our community based mental health system.
What do you think of your opponent?
Sara Gelser: While I respect my opponent, there are clear differences between us regarding access to women’s health care, education funding, protecting our environment and creating an economy that works for everyone
Betsy Close: Serving in public office requires dedication and sacrifice. We both seek to serve our constituents well and to make Oregon better for its people, though we do not always agree on the ‘How.’