Sen. Ron Wyden, 67, is up for re-election this year. The incumbent was first elected to be one of Oregon's two U.S. senators 20 years ago, in 1996. His career in Congress began 35 years ago in 1981 in the U.S. House of Representatives, a post he was re-elected to seven times, never with less than 70 percent of the vote. He currently serves as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and was previously chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.
Even though his long, successful career in Congress speaks for itself, the father of five, including two grown children, nine-year-old twins and a three-year old daughter, has not slowed down. In fact, in the last year, he introduced new legislation that perhaps only a veteran statesman would dare to put forward. Wyden is working to make Oregon, and the country, a better place. His work to return commercial flights to Klamath Airport, restore Oregon salmon runs, encourage federal hemp legalization and reschedule cannabis, are important locally and set a precedent for a larger national impact.
Sen. Wyden is approachable and strives to communicate and be present for Oregonians in every region. His frequent visits to Central Oregon and open discussions are remarkable considering that he rarely misses a vote on Capitol Hill. He's concerned with local issues, such as getting more Oregonians to high school graduation, noting that schools with high graduation rates have specialized counselors who work with struggling students. Recently, Oregon was identified as the state with the lowest graduation rate in the country.
Wyden is forward thinking about issues that affect Oregon specifically, such as potential natural disasters in the coastal tsunami zone. He secured $5 million for a West Coast earthquake early warning system. He also introduced the Recreation Not Red Tape (RNR) Act building upon Oregonians' ideas to support infrastructure on public land, increase access and require adoption of a consistent permitting process.
Federally, Wyden rejects the sprawling expansion of U.S. domestic surveillance. However, his biggest controversy may be breaking rank with the White House on Obamacare, directing the Oregon Health Authority's attention to Section 1332, of which he was the architect. It allows states to opt out of the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance. Wyden wrote that he believes the heart of real health reform is affordability and not mandates.
The Oregon primary nominating ballot for the Democratic Party includes three Democratic candidates for U.S. Senator. Wyden's opponents include Paul Weaver, a member of the National Rifle Association from Toledo, and Kevin Stine, a Medford city councilor since 2014, age 30, the minimum age to be elected to the Senate. The Republican primary ballot includes Bend's Sam Carpenter, an author and businessman, endorsed by the Oregonian newspaper.
Wyden's visits to Central Oregon this year include three town halls in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson County, and a technology roundtable in Bend. He also stopped by the Giving Plate, highlighting new tax reforms to encourage farmers and businesses to donate food to charitable organizations.
Vote for Wyden.