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Challengers Line Up For Senate Seat In Dist. 12

POLK COUNTY -- After running unopposed in the May primary, Republican Brian Boquist and Democrat Kevin Nortness are facing off for the Oregon Senate representing District 12.

POLK COUNTY -- After running unopposed in the May primary, Republican Brian Boquist and Democrat Kevin Nortness are facing off for the Oregon Senate representing District 12.

The two are seeking the seat held by Gary George, R-McMinnville, who is not running re-election.

Boquist, 49, from Dallas, has served in the State House representing District 23 since 2005. He said he is disappointed in how little gets done in that branch of state government. He said he first ran for the House position because he believed people in Salem weren't getting things done.

Now, he said the House is still at a place in history where it hasn't been possible to create long-term solutions because the legislators and those in charge of the budget are disconnected in the process. He said the legislators come up with solutions, but end up being unable to fund them.

Boquist said he believes he will be able to do that in the Senate, where he could have more control over outcomes.

"It's time for somebody else to have at it," he said.

Boquist currently works for International Charter Inc. of Oregon as an international businessman, is a small farmer and serves in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Boquist said he believes he is the best candidate for the position because he does not want to raise taxes or create a larger government. He said he wants to create revenue and job programs in the district without negatively impacting families.

In Polk County, he believes the biggest issue is the budget crisis looming from the loss of O & C timber revenue.

"Polk County is not at this point any different than any of the O & C counties," Boquist said. "We have to find a sustainable way to (create revenue)."

To help the rural economy, he said he would like to see the return of field burning that was banned by the governor, or to simply find alternatives to boost the area's seed crops to provide more jobs.

Nortness, 54, of Willamina, has served on the Willamina City Council since 2007. Through this position, he serves as the city's finance committee chairman and in the past worked on that city's planning commission and budget committee.

He currently works as a litigation consultant at Nortness Consulting and this is his first run for a state office.

Despite several attempts, Nortness could not be reached for comment for this story.

However, his campaign volunteer, Ross Swartzendruber, said Nortness is the best candidate for the District 12 Senate seat because he is more in tune with working families. He said Nortness often represents them in his work and has helped union workers.

"He knew he could be more involved and represent the district better," Swartzendruber said in regard to why Nortness is seeking the position.

Swartzendruber said he has seen Nortness help jump-start downtown Willamina and supported families and workers.

The focus of Nortness' campaign is on economic security, affordable health care and energy independence. Swartzendruber believes Nortness would say the most important issue affecting Polk County is self-sustaining energy.

"Polk County has quite a few examples of entrepreneurs actually doing it by themselves with help by the state," Swartzendruber said.

Nortness did not return repeated requests for information from the Itemizer-Observer.

"He's very busy with his lawyer consulting and doing his government work with his council," Swartzendruber said.

He said Nortness has five children and he has trouble getting a hold of him himself.

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In the only other Senate election Polk County residents will vote on, Democrat Joanne Verger of Coos Bay is running unopposed in District 5. The district includes portions of Northwest Polk County.

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