A ‘geek’ for politics

Christopher Proudfoot was no stranger to the political process when he entered the student government race as Collin LaVallee’s vice presidential running mate two weeks ago.

Christopher Proudfoot was no stranger to the political process when he entered the student government race as Collin LaVallee’s vice presidential running mate two weeks ago. LaVallee, the federal affairs director for ASPSU, became a presidential candidate after entering as the vice presidential running mate to Theo Malone, who was forced to drop out of the race because of academic ineligibility.

Proudfoot, 26, is a self-described “geek” for politics and began canvassing for major national political races before he was even old enough to vote—he canvassed for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race. He also canvassed for John Kerry, President Barack Obama and Janet Taylor in a Salem mayoral race.

Though he transferred to Portland State just last fall, he immediately began working for ASPSU, helping with the efforts to register students to vote in the November 2008 election. Proudfoot said that he was inspired during his student orientation to get involved when ASPSU President Hannah Fisher spoke to the students.

“Hannah spoke about the mission of the student government with such enthusiasm and passion, I knew I had to find the office and be there,” Proudfoot said.

After the election, he went on to assist ASPSU Equal Rights Advocate Debra Porta with a campaign in support of anti-bullying legislation, and he was an intern to both LaVallee and Legislative Affairs Director Zach Martinson.

“Chris interned all year for me, and I think he is a really great person and has really complimented the dynamic within ASPSU,” Martinson said. “I think he has some real potential and that he will benefit ASPSU, in whatever form that is next year.”

Proudfoot was born in Arizona but moved to Oregon when he was 9 years old, living in various places across the state. He began his college career as a part-time student at Chemeketa Community College, but only enrolled off and on mainly due to a lack of financial means to pursue school full time, he said.

While at CCC, a friend working in the financial aid department told him that the Oregon Opportunity Grant had been fully funded by the state, which finally put Proudfoot in financial situation that enabled him to attend school full time. He took every political science class available at CCC and then transferred to Portland State.

“What I love about PSU is that you can sit in class next to a freshman on one side and a 40-year-old with a family and kids on the other,” Proudfoot said. “There are so many different life experiences brought to the classroom which really enriches the class atmosphere and discussions.”

Proudfoot regularly joins the student government in Salem to lobby the state legislature for students’ needs, such as continued financial aid support. One-third of Proudfoot’s financial aid for school comes from the Oregon Opportunity Grant and his ability to attend school depends upon its continued provision. Proudfoot has even spoken about the need for funding support for higher education in front of the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Proudfoot attributes much of his desire to make a difference through activism to his family. His father, a journeyman lineman, was severely electrocuted on the job in an accident when Proudfoot was only 2. His father lost his leg in the accident and was left with many other lingering health problems.

The company he worked for fired him and after 27 appeals in the court system the Proudfoot family was vindicated, not with money, but with recognition that a person should not be discriminated against in the work place based on a disability, Proudfoot said.

Proudfoot said a portion of Arizona state law that accompanies the Americans with Disabilities Act is based on the case involving his father, who has since resumed his work as a journeyman lineman.

“I grew up around the court system and with an activism mentality,” Proudfoot said. “My parents believed that if they didn’t do something, what happened (to my father) could happen to someone else.”