POLK COUNTY — Two Democratic candidates are vying for a chance to run against Republican incumbent Jackie Winters for the District 10 Oregon Senate seat in the May 15 primary election.
Winters has served the district, which spans Polk and Marion counties, covering West Salem, Monmouth and Independence, since 2002. She is unopposed in the primary. Democrats Timothy Graham, of Independence, and Deb Patterson, of Salem, want to challenge the long-serving senator. They are both running for the first time.
Graham said he’s running out of concern for the state of education and services to children with special needs.
“I believe in my heart that our kids are our future,” he said. “We have adopted two special needs children and are fostering a third. We need to do more, and we need to do better for the kids in our district and our state.”
Timothy Graham, 53, of Independence
Employment: Stay-at-home dad for the last seven years.
Education: Arizona State University, BA, liberal studies, 2012; Purdue University, master’s in aviation and aerospace management 2015.
Previous government service: U.S. Air Force, 1982-1992; Monmouth Arts & Culture, 2015-16; City of Independence Budget Committee, 2017-18.
Campaign phone number: 706-410-6249.
Campaign website: none.
Years living in district: Four.
Graham said his top concern is making sure qualified teachers are hired to teach special education and securing the fate of the Oregon School of the Deaf.
“Our biggest issue is the average reading level for a graduate from the Oregon School of the Deaf is third grade,” he said. “It’s because the funding has been chopped away and chopped away for other pet projects that there’s not enough money to pay to get qualified teachers.”
He said he would fight any effort to close the school because he believes, if properly funded, the school would produce better results from deaf students than what would happen if they attended schools in their home districts.
“If they close the deaf school and farm out all the kids to mainstream them, the state is going to actually end up paying more money,” he said. “I want to get in there and figure out and make changes and let these people know you can’t do that to our kids.”
Graham said he’s also interested in looking at teacher pay, attracting businesses through temporary tax break programs, and finding ways to help homeless people and vulnerable children, such as those in the LGBT community. He believes the Oregon Department of Human Services needs more qualified foster parents.
Graham said as a would-be rookie, he knows he has a lot to learn, but is willing to put in the time to do it.
“The first thing would be to study, to learn really quick,” he said. “Everybody needs money. It’s figuring out what we really need, what are the necessities.”
Patterson said she’s running to make changes in health care, education, and to balance protections for water, land and air with generating new jobs.
“Honestly, I believe that it is time for change in Senate District 10,” she said. “I believe that I have the experience, the energy, and the ability to serve the people of this district well at this crossroads of our history.”
Deb Patterson, 61, of Salem
Employment: Minister at Smyrna United Church of Christ in Canby since 2013.
Education: B. Mus. Yankton College, 1974; M. Mus. University of South Dakota, 1981; M. Div. Eden Theological Seminary, 1991; MHA Washington University School of Medicine, 1997; and D. Min, Eden Theological Seminary, 2007.
Previous government experience: Marion County Intellectual and Development Disabilities Advisory Committee since 2012, chairwoman since 2016; Marion County Health Advisory Board since 2017; and Oregon Nursing Home Administrators Board since 2017.
Campaign phone number: 503-400-5224.
Campaign website: http://www.DebPat...">www.DebPattersonO....
Years living in district: 8.
She said in 2017, 245,600 people in Oregon were without health care, about 6.2 percent of the state’s population. She wants to find ways to cover all.
Patterson served 20 years in health care administration as the executive director of Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries in Salem and executive director of the International Parish Nurse Resource Center in St. Louis.
“Given my experience working internationally on access to health care, I would like to help the Universal Access to Healthcare Working Group examine models which could make quality health care affordable and accessible to all Oregonians,” she said.
The state’s graduation rate — 77 percent in 2017 — is another area of concern for Patterson, who, if elected, would like to serve on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Student Success. She said as the parent of a college student and an adult with special needs, she has unique experience.
“We need to look at finding ways to connect kids with their studies and their peers that are meaningful and help them prepare for vocational success,” she said.
Patterson said another area of focus for her is affordable housing. She’s seen the homeless population grow in Wallace Marine and Riverfront parks, as well as in downtown Salem. Patterson wants to work with developers and landlords to find solutions.
She said, if elected, she would protect all citizens of Oregon.
“This is a state in which the contributions of all are needed — regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, religious orientation, sexual orientation, or national origin — and in which I will stand up for the rights of all,” Patterson said.