Senate District 30 candidates

Name: Cliff Bentz

Party: Republican

Age: 66

Residence: Ontario

Profession: State Senator

Higher education degrees: Eastern Oregon State College, bachelor of science, history; Lewis and Clark Law School, law degree

Name: Solea Kabakov

Party: Democratic

Age: 45

Residence: The Dalles

Profession: Sales

Higher education degrees: None

The sprawling Senate District 30 is the largest in the Legislature. It runs up from the Nevada and Idaho state lines before sweeping west to include a swath up to the Columbia River and down to Jefferson County and northern Deschutes County.

It’s so big it includes two time zones — most of Malheur County in the southeastern edge of the district is in the Mountain Time Zone used by neighboring Idaho.

The district was long represented by Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, who served as the Senate minority leader until his 2017 appointment to the Northwest Power and Conservation Planning Council by Gov. Kate Brown.

Republican leaders selected Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, to replace Ferrioli.

Bentz must now run to fill out the last two remaining years on Ferrioli’s term.

Senate District 30 is heavily Republican in voter registration. In 2016, Ferrioli won with 71 percent of the vote over Democrat Mark Stringer.

Fulfilling a promise to compete in even the most difficult districts, Democrats have fielded progressive political activist Solea Kabakov of The Dalles to run for the seat. A salesperson by profession, Kabakov’s website features a rainbow peace flag and calls for bringing rural voices and “social, racial, economic and environmental justice” to Salem.

The Bulletin asked Bentz and Kabakov questions on two issues and let the candidates add one or two more they think is important. Here are their responses:

Q: What can the Legislature do to make housing more affordable, while at the same time not degrading the environment that attracts so many people to the district?

A: Bentz: Educate the public on need and on benefits of adequate housing. Obtain participatory investment from local businesses that need a stable and reliable workforce. Provide paid staffing to help gather together financing in smaller communities for affordable local housing. Relax land use when appropriate. Explore tax credits for construction and lower taxes for new, affordable (lower than $250,000) homes. Understand and address impact of arrangements such as Airbnb. Stop ineffective and harmful policies such as rent control, relocation assistance and no-fault tenancy terminations.

Kabakov: We can provide stable, affordable housing if we employ creative strategies. Low or zero interest loans for property owners, and developers providing low-income housing and tax breaks to companies hiring local folks for construction and maintenance of these properties, would be strong incentives. Looking into programs that are successful in other states would be a good first step toward determining the most sensible strategy for rural Oregon. A deep examination of existing buildable land is necessary prior to decision-making around expanding urban growth boundaries in our communities.

Q: Oregon is near the bottom in terms of high school graduation rates in the nation. If elected, what will you do to move the state in the direction of improved results in education in general and high school graduation rates in particular?

A: Bentz: Save some money by imposing a five-year cap on administrator pay. (It’s currently out of proportion to teacher’s salaries) Make the long-term, expensive, and difficult fix to PERS, thus increasing the amount of money available for use in programs that excite children — CTE (Career and Technical Education) for example. Encourage and expand mentorship programs. Use the money that is saved from addressing and paying the PERS shortfall (to the extent there is any left) to lengthen the school year. Find money for retrofitting of school buildings.

Kabakov: When I was in high school I learned to weld through regional occupational programming. We too can provide occupational training for jobs in our district. Much like the Columbia Gorge Community College’s renewable energy program, which prepares people for jobs on wind farms, we can prepare our youth to join the local workforce. But here in rural Oregon this must be free of charge and available to all students. We can also expand on the free college tuition program by lowering the grade point average required to qualify to make sure more kids can make it to college.

Q: What other one or two issues affecting Senate District 30 do you think are especially important and would be areas where you would expect to be involved in the 2019 Legislature?

A: Bentz: It’s getting hotter/warmer/drier. Include in the likely carbon bill allocations to water conservation and storage, allocations to forest health, allocations to fire prevention and smoke management and desalinization studies for additional water supplies on the Oregon Coast.

Mental health management: Our mentally challenged population is ending up in prison without adequate care. Talk to any law enforcement person and the immediate topic is how to deal with those who suffer from mental illness. Our current system is inadequate and needs peer reviewed attention.

Kabakov: The No. 1 issue I encounter in our beautiful district is poverty. This comes in many forms; unemployment, underemployment, lack of affordable housing, lack of public transportation, little or no free broadband internet access, dwindling access to local grocery stores and other amenities, lack of urgent care centers, increased drug and alcohol abuse, increased suicides. I will work hard on all of these related issues to help create an environment in which we all can thrive. By combating poverty we will reduce crime, live healthier, longer lives and take pride in improving rural Oregon for future generations.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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