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Christofferson: private sector experience is preparation

Aelea Christofferson, 61, of Bend does not see her time on the Cover Oregon board of directors as a detriment to her candidacy for Oregon’s Second Congressional District seat.

“I have been working for seven years to get health care for 250,000 uninsured Oregonians — Cover Oregon was not [just] a website and the only thing that failed was getting people signed up,” she said.

Last week, state officials scrapped the online marketplace for private and public insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The website was determined to be unsalvageable in spite of a $248 million expenditure.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican that Christofferson would like to replace, has called for a federal investigation into the “colossal waste” of taxpayer funding.

In order to take on the 16-year incumbent, she has to beat fellow Democrats Barney Spera, 83, of Ashland and Charles “Frank” Vulliet, Sr., 72, of Sunriver in the May 20 primary election.

Christofferson said serving on the Oregon Health Fund board and with Cover Oregon to transform the coverage system in the state has been rewarding. She said coordinated care organizations are now in place to manage the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid. Teams of physicians, mental health counselors and others now synchronize services that used to be delivered separately and focus more on preventative care to reduce the overall cost of treatment.

“We have increased the number of people who have access to Medicaid and coordinated care is very promising,” she said. “It’s actually one of my greatest achievements.”

She believes the biggest threat to health care is coming from Walden and GOP leaders in Washington, D.C., who are “saying no to sensible proposals that lower costs and improve coverage.”

She will be in The Dalles May 6 to meet with the Mid-Columbia Democratic Women and other interested individuals and groups. At the time of this interview, Christofferson’s local schedule had not yet been set but will be posted on www.aleaforcon

gress.com or people can call 541-706-0507 for more information.

Although she voted for Walden in the past, Christofferson said his days as a moderate are over and she feels his votes “farther and farther to the right” no longer benefit Oregonians.

“Congress is broken and we all know it’s broken so we need people who are going to come in and do something different,” she said.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University and a master’s in business administration from Golden Gate University.

Describing herself as a “fiscal conservative,” Christofferson founded and ran ATL Communications for 22 years.

Unlike Walden, whom she said has spent a career in politics, she professes to have gained leadership experience from the private sector and an understanding of the challenges facing businesses today. Christofferson said true economic growth can only come when the nation is balancing its budget and not burdening industries with unnecessary regulations.

“We can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” she said. “I think everyone’s going to have to give on that one. I’m not for tax increases but we are going to have to close the loopholes that affect only the wealthiest Americans.”

Christofferson believes the deep partisan divide in Congress needs to be bridged by people, like herself, who are willing to work toward compromise.

For example, she said 50,000 people in Oregon lost jobs when logging was virtually shut down in national forests within the state. She believes managed harvests would protect wildlife habitat while providing struggling families — and counties — with a steady income.

“We can clean up the forest in a way that provides lumber while protecting the environment,” she said.

Christofferson said serious discussions also need to take place between federal officials, conservationists and ranchers to protect species such as the sage grouse in a way that also accommodates beef production.

“I’m a pretty moderate Democrat and my faith leads me to protect God’s creations but I have also owned a business and know what’s needed to sustain jobs,” she said.

She believes more focus needs to be placed on job creation and ensuring that high-tech firms and others have the skilled workforce they need to compete in the global marketplace. With 600,000 unfilled jobs in the nation, she would like to see more vocational training programs in high schools to help students succeed in life.

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