Two state politicians paid visits to supporters in Seaside as they enter the home stretch of the campaign season leading up to November’s general election.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., stopped at local locations last weekend to hear from voters during their different campaign tours.
Bonamici held public meet-and-greet sessions during seven of her eight campaign stops so she could have smaller, personal conversations with supporters, Campaign Manager Evyn Mitchell said.
Bonamici said she enjoys going out on tour to visit with constituents and to encourage them to keep in touch. From a campaign standpoint, the stop in Seaside also was an opportunity to ask for support and implore people to turn in their ballots.
Some of the main issues and concerns voters expressed to her on the tour were the economy, jobs, education and health care, she said.
Bonamici talked about the importance of nurturing small businesses, because they tend to be the crux of the coastal economy.
On education, she said it would take a few hours to explain what might be the cause of Oregon ranking so poorly in education when compared with other states nationally and what can be done to improve it.
“My sense is that it’s very much connected to the economy,” said Bonamici, who is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
In January, she introduced the Whole Child Resolution with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., “to call attention to educating the whole child and making sure that students have a healthy, safe atmosphere and the support at home, and access to health care,” she said.
She spoke of the importance of focusing on the positive aspects of state education, rather than just the challenges, such as a lack of early childhood education in the region, large classroom sizes and high-stakes testing requirements.
“Despite those challenges, they (state schools) are doing some great things. ... Let’s celebrate the successes and then work on how we can improve public education,” she said.
Bonamici also addressed partisanship in Congress. While she couldn’t answer what all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are doing to overcome that roadblock, she said, “I know what I’m doing about it.
“I’m building relationships and building common ground on specific issues and working together across the aisle to get legislation through,” she said.
She named a few examples, such as her work with Republican Susan Brooks, of Indiana, on funding for public defenders and the legislation she crafted with Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., to improve coordination of local, state and federal agencies on research on harmful algae blooms and hypoxia events.
She talked about the need to bring back a sense of integrity to Congress that would manifest itself through politicians being straightforward and honest.
“Don’t say different things to different people,” she said.
A few of her supporters who attended the event said they appreciate that Bonamici is accessible, she listens and she works with others from different parties.
“She goes with the issue, rather than the party, and that means a big thing today,” said John Bell, of Beaverton, who was visiting Seaside and wanted to meet with Bonamici.
Lois Fitzpatrick, of Seaside, agreed Bonamici has a willingness to work across the aisle. She said the congresswoman also makes herself available to constituents, something she would factor into her vote.
Merkley paid a quick visit to the Flashback Malt Shoppe & Gifts as part of his “Jobs and Opportunity Tour.” His goal was to hit 50 towns in seven days and conclude with a rally in Portland Nov. 3.
Seaside City Councilor Tita Montero briefly introduced Merkley, expressing her gratitude that he visited outlying and smaller municipalities during his tour.
Merkley spoke to the small group of supporters gathered at the shop about jobs, infrastructure, education and other areas he believes need to be addressed.
He and his opponent, Republican candidate Monica Wehby, have very different sets of values, Merkley said. His campaign slogan is “Working for the Middle Class.”
He wants to see the creation of more family wage jobs. That can be accomplished through encouraging manufacturing to come back through methods like the Bring Jobs Home Act; nurturing small businesses; and legislation such as his crowdfunding amendment to the 2012 JOBS Act, which enables small businesses and startups to get funds online, he said. He believes the economy on the coast, in particular, could benefit by securing more funds for dredging.
Most importantly, he said, the state must invest in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, jetties and docks. Infrastructure is important for the long-term viability of Oregon’s economy, he said.
Merkley also criticized the “new ‘silent filibuster’ that’s haunting the Senate,” and said he is proposing a transition back to a talking filibuster method being required instead.
Lastly, he touched on the need to expand the Federal Pell Grant Program and ensure students are given the lowest possible interest rates on their student loans, so college is more affordable.
Ballots for the general election have been sent out. They must be returned by mail or in person by 8 p.m. Nov. 4. The drop site in Seaside is City Hall on Broadway. For more information, visit www.co.clatsop.or.us/clerk/page/november-4-2014-general-election.