Barney Spera knows it is unlikely that he will topple Republican Greg Walden from his Second Congressional District seat - but he is running to get his message out.
"I decided to get involved in this election because I just got angry," said the Democrat from Ashland.
"Money is power and power is money and I have no illusions about unseating Walden. But I would like to get a discussion going."
He is facing off in the May 20 primary election with fellow Democrats Alea Christofferson, 61, of Bend, and Charles "Frank" Vulliet, Sr., 72, of Sunriver.
Spera, 83, worked for Pan American and United Airlines, rising to the rank of senior purser before retiring after 58 years on the job.
During his career, he was president of Transpor t Workers Union Local 505 from 1967-76 and International Representative from 1977-78.
He is the only opponent to Walden who has held a public office, serving as a city councilor and then mayo r o f Millbrae, Calif., between 1972-76.
Topping Spera's list of things to change in America is an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 or more per hour for all workers.
He said it is immoral for one of the richest nations on earth to have 45 million people living at or below poverty level. He said people should not have to choose between buying food and the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy.
"This is America, it shouldn't be that way," he said.
He said employees really need to earn about $23 per hour to cover the cost of housing, childcare and food in today's world. But even doubling the current national minimum per hour of $7.25 would be an improvement.
"Businesses and corporations pay poverty wages and then spend billions per year in advertising," he said. "I really believe the way to reduce the national debt is to raise wages to a livable level and then people would be paying more taxes and creating more jobs."
He said the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago says for every $1 rise in the wage, that individual has $2, 800 of disposable income to spend Spera, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1952-54, is strongly opposed to the "senseless wars" of the Middle East, which he believes have drained needed resources from domestic programs.
"This country would be debt free and poverty near non-existent if we had heeded President Eisenhower's warning to 'Beware of the military industrial complex,'" he said.
The sovereign freedoms of Americans must be defended, said Spera, and the nation should stand up to dictators and eliminate terrorist groups. But the death of so many innocent civilians in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan - as many as four million by some counts - is an unacceptable tragedy.
He does not believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, goes far enough. Instead, he contends there should be the "single-payer plan" that most "civilized" countries have adopted in some form or another. Under that system, the government, rather than private insurers, pays all health care costs.
"Every year, almost one million Americans declare bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills," said Spera, who believes that wealthier citizens should be called upon to cover the costs of providing the less fortunate with coverage.
He also wants to help 11 million illegal immigrants either get into a guest worker program to become citizens. He said Walden and other GOP leaders are blocking a Senate immigration reform bill, which is going to cost them millions of Hispanic and Asian votes in the 2016 presidential race.
Spera climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan at the age of 79 and is getting ready to climb Mount Shasta in California in the near future. He would also like to climb the capitol steps in Washington, D.C., to represent struggling families in Oregon and across the nation.
He decided to take on Walden after the 16-year incumbent voted to extend a government shutdown in the fall of 2013 due to stalemated budget talks between Democrats and Republicans.
"More than 800, 000 federal workers were sent home without pay and I thought that someone had to run against him," he said.