Saxton works toward bi-partisan goal

With an endorsement from the Oregonian and a focus on education, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton is hoping to unite Oregon this fall.

When asked how he will unite Oregon, Saxton said, “I think most of it is the kind of leadership.” Saxton grew up in rural Albany and later moved to Portland, working for the law firm of Ater Wynne and later being elected chair of the Portland Public Schools board.

Experiences such as these, Saxton said, are what give him a unique insight into the rural-urban divide. “If I’m in La Grande, I’m likely to talk about the importance of high tech,” Saxton explained, “and if I’m in Portland I’m going to talk how agriculture is still an important part of Oregon’s future.”

Saxton believes the key to Oregon’s success is to diversify the state’s specialized economy. “The economy has gone through some evolution here,” Saxton explained, “instead of the diverse economy that it should be the state has become far too reliant on high tech.”

Saxton envisions an economy with room enough for biotechnology and high technology as well as new takes on the traditional economic standbys, the agriculture and timber industries.

The key to any rejuvenation of the economy, in Saxton’s view, will be to work from the ground up, for Saxton that means education. An example of how the economic health of the state and its academic institutions are linked is the commercialization of research programs in academic institutions.

Saxton would like to loosen Oregon regulations on research funding, which he says are outdated, to allow the biotech industry to grow up in Oregon like it has in California and Washington.

K-12 education is an important part of the equation as well, according to Saxton.

“It’s frustrating, we’re spending a lot of money on [schools] but we’re just not doing very well,” Saxton said, “the state imposes way too many mandates.”

Saxton sees a great principal as the foundation to a great school. “In Portland I was one of the founders of the Principal Training Institute,” said Saxton. “You have to recruit and attract the right people, but it’s not that easy.” Saxton insists that new principals need help to develop the necessary skills for their important work.

Saxton has experience inspiring people to action. “We had 30,000 people march through the streets of Portland for public education, the largest rally for public education in the country,” Saxton said of the March for the Schools, a demonstration overseen by the Portland Schools Foundation of which Saxton was a key participant.

Saxton said the “One Oregon” campaign is more than just drawing together rural and urban or private and public sector though. Saxton wants to return to the bipartisan Oregon politics of Niel Goldschmidt and Tom McCall. “When the election is over, I don’t want to be a Republican, I want to be an Oregonian,” Saxton said.

“I’m a Republican but I work just as well with the Democratic leadership,” Saxton said.

“After the last election both parties said to themselves ‘We need to do something different,'” Saxton said.

With the debate over the Snake river dams a recent memory, Saxton says he is generally opposed to the removal of dams “I don’t really think there’s going to be removal of any of the big ones,” likewise, he is not looking to build new ones either.

“You have electricity, you have flood control, transportation, irrigation, you have a variety of purposes, you want to minimize the impact on the fish … there’s a balance there,” explained Saxton.

“I think we have to be really responsible and careful with our environment,” said Saxton. He is in favor of the protection of watersheds “the science is so clear about the effect of [harvesting along streams] on water and habitat,” Saxton said “I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing on that.”

Saxton also has a neutral position of gambling and state gaming. “I understand it’s a form of entertainment,” said Saxton. “When you talk about the cigarette tax and the beer and wine tax, it’s a series of things with the cigarette tax and the lottery, ‘Well we can’t get the voters to approve a general tax increase, but what small group of the population doesn’t have enough of the voice to stop us from taking them on?’ It doesn’t make it right that you can do it.”

“Oregon has had very few contested primaries for Governor,” said Saxton. “This is the first election in a long time where you actually have a contested primary that you can’t predict for certain who’s going to win.” This May will see six different candidates battling for two gubernatorial ballot positions.

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