The Dalles Jo Rae Perkins wants to take Jeff Merkley’s seat in the U.S. Senate to help regain control of a federal government that is usurping states’ rights and bankrupting the nation.
Although the Republican candidate doesn’t think changing the “don’t do anything that will threaten re-election” culture in Washington, D.C., will be easy, she said it has to be done. With the national debt now at roughly $17 trillion and regulations in place that are crippling economic development, Perkins believes voters in 2014 will be ready for change.
“Borrowing 40 cents on every dollar spent by the federal government is the wrong direction for the country to take and contrary to the core principles of the Founding Fathers,” she said. “What is happening in D.C. right now is an example of why our Founders wanted a very limited central government.”
As a result of not following the constitutional framework set up by the Founders, Perkins said all three branches of the federal government now regularly overstep their boundaries. This overreach results in the imposition of unfunded mandates on states and creates enough uncertainty to keep businesses from expanding and creating more jobs.
“People are tired of career politicians – they want someone who is honest, genuine and lives in the real world,” said Perkins. “There needs to be more people in the Senate with backbone who are willing to say, ‘This is outside of what the federal government is supposed to be doing.’”
She is Merkley’s first challenger for the 2014 election. The Democrat took office in 2008 after beating Republican Gordon Smith, who served two terms in the Senate.
On Wednesday, Perkins visited The Dalles to meet with GOP leaders and learn what concerns the community has that can be addressed at the federal level. She lives in Albany with husband, George, a self-employed carpet installer, but has been on the road almost constantly in recent weeks to learn more about issues that are unique to local and regional economies.
“I am hearing over and over that we need to get back to basics,” she said.
Perkins is a noticeable figure in her yellow campaign Corvette and hopes that people will approach her during stops to share their concerns.
She recently graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, setting her up to pursue a long time interest in public service.
“I have always loved politics and wanted to run for an office,” she said. “I don’t believe in working my way up the ladder so I am going for a federal office because that’s where I feel that I can make the most difference.”
Before returning to college, she worked as a financial planner and advisor, as well as in real estate.
Perkins doesn’t plan to give Merkley her “playbook” yet by unveiling details about her platform on energy, foreign policy and other national and international issues. She said this early in the race, her time will be spent doing more listening than talking.
She did say during a Sept. 4 interview that she believes the free market, not the federal government, should determine much of the nation’s direction on energy policies. She also does not believe in Congress picking “winner and losers” by the allocation of subsidies.
She is a strong supporter of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects gun ownership rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which offers protections against illegal searches and seizures.
An indicator of her future platform can be found in Perkins’ signing on to the “Contract with America,” an agenda of conservative proposals that, among other things, encourages senators and representatives to make sure every new law adheres to the Constitution. The contract also seeks to simplify the federal tax system and replaces the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, with something less burdensome and expensive.
“I am making a promise to voters that I will read every bill before I vote for it,” said Perkins in reference to several bills introduced under Democratic leadership that have been more than 1,000 pages and unveiled only hours before the vote took place.
Any bill that she is expected to support must be free of “pork barrel” spending for unrelated projects – Perkins is adamant on that point.
“Every spending measure needs to stand on its own,” she said.
With Oregon a “blue” state that leans toward liberal candidates and Merkley an incumbent, Perkins acknowledges she has a big hill to climb to capture his Senate seat.
“How do you climb a big hill? One step at a time,” she said of spending the next year on the campaign trail.
She said it is interesting to note that Merkley repeatedly says at town halls and other public functions that he is “considering” proposing one bill or another to address a problematic issue.
“He’s been in office for five years, what is he waiting for?” she asked. “It sounds good to say that when you are out campaigning but we are no better off than when he took office — in many ways we are in a worse place.”
It is time, said Perkins, to send people to the nation’s capital who will stand their ground and not cave to pressure from “establishment politicians.”
“It is time for real change,” she said.
“You have to honor and respect them for their years of service but there is a reason the Founders didn’t believe people should spend their life in service,” she said.
Perkins said she will serve only 12 years in the role of Senate before following the lead of the Founders and returning to her regular life. She and George have two grown children, ages 32 and 33, and five grandchildren, with a sixth on the way, so there will be plenty to do when she is not needed in D.C.