Dr. Jenni Neahring has made a couple of stops in The Dalles during the past month as her campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican, shifts into high gear.
Neahring, a Democrat who resides in Bend, decided to join a crowded field of candidates for the May election. She believes her unique perspective as a palliative care physician will benefit citizens in the Second Congressional District.
“I became a doctor to help people,” she said. “I love the work I do, but I decided to put that on hold because this is where I think I can really make a difference.”
According to candidate filings on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website, seven Democrats will be on the ballot, along with one independent. Two Republicans are also challenging Walden, who resides in Hood River and has held his seat since 1998.
“It’s exciting to see so many people stepping up,” said Neahring, 51, who isn’t daunted by the competition.
The Democrat who scores the most votes in the primary will face off with Walden, or whoever emerges from the Republican Party race, in the November general election.
“Everyone’s running for the right reason, they really want to make things better,” she said.
Joining Neahring on the Democratic ticket are: Jim Crary of Ashland, the 2016 Democratic nominee; Eric Burnette of Hood River; Michael Byrne of Hood River; Raz Mason of The Dalles; Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebone;Steven Cody Reynolds of Portland; and Tim White of Bend. Walden has won all of his 10 general election races for Congress by at least 61 percent and reportedly has slightly more than $3 million in his war chest for the 2018 election. In 2016, he won all 20 counties in his district, which is about 70,000 square miles that encompasses Eastern Oregon and most of the central and southern parts of the state.
Neahring is undeterred by the odds strongly favoring the incumbent. She believes that people are ready for change after a year of President Donald Trump’s divisive leadership, which Walden and other high-level Republicans have backed.
She said citizens from the district are expressing their frustrations with Walden’s key role as chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee in pushing for repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
Watching Republicans struggle and then fail to find a solution to the nation’s health care woes led Neahring to run for her first elected office.
“People recognize this is not the right path and he (Walden) is not making decisions now that are good for his district, good for the country,” she said.
Neahring said Congress could benefit by having a doctor who is familiar with the health care system and its shortcomings. If elected, she would join a small club in Congress.
“Republicans who are approaching me say that since Walden has gained power, he feels obligated to the people who put in there. He seems more focused now on that power than doing what’s best for Oregon,” she said.
Neahring is traveling around Oregon to meet with Democrats who will work her campaign and any citizen who wants to either share concerns or ask questions about her stance on key issues.
She said health care is the fastest growing type of spending and encompasses about a quarter of the federal budget.
“It’s really hard to fix anything in the economy when we’re spending so much on health care,” she said. “We are spending more than other countries and not getting a return from it.”
Neahring wants consideration given to a single-payer health care system, or some other simplified model that better meets patient needs and is more affordable.
Neahring said healthy employees who raise strong families will move the economy forward, yet another reason to overhaul the current delivery system.
Toward that end, she wants to see loopholes closed that keep generic drugs from getting to store shelves, and eliminate the “middlemen” in the marketing of prescription medications, to further reduce costs.
The main concern for people is to feel better and live longer, Neahring said, and the current health care system is not focused on what they want. She said often patients are subjected to tests and procedures that are expensive and not going to improve their quality of life.
She includes housing and transportation needs as part of the health care fix since both issues can affect a person’s stress level and quality of life.
Another critical issue tied to health care, said Neahring, is taking care of an aging population. She said the number of seniors in the U.S. will grow from the current 50 million to more than 70 million in just 12 years.
On education, Neahring, the mother of two grown children, supports public charter schools that tie public service projects and environmental science, along with other subjects, to classroom lessons.
“There are models that show we can do this, it’s a better way and it doesn’t cost more,” she said. “Our students learn how to learn, which will benefit them for a lifetime.”
Like most Democrats, she wants to stop tax breaks for corporations and is a strong proponent of environmental protection laws. She believes Walden got it wrong on tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and support for a rollback of conservation rules.
“I think there’s a change on the way,” Neahring said.
More information about her campaign is available at https://drjennineahringforcongress.com/ or on Facebook.