Over the past 15 months, I have traveled throughout our district, meeting with folks across the political spectrum to talk about their hopes and concerns. Regardless of party affiliation, we all want our loved ones to have health care when they need it, want our kids to have opportunities, and want our veterans to get the care they’ve earned. We can be proud that the people of our district are generous, hard-working, and welcoming.

But those common needs and values are not being addressed in Washington DC. Our current representative no longer votes in our interest. After 20 years, we’re worse off. It’s time for a change.

Making health care accessible and affordable is a top priority for our communities. Over half of the people in our district rely on some kind of government-funded program for their health care. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) isn’t perfect, chipping away at it and destabilizing the insurance market isn’t the answer. We need to support our families and small businesses by fixing the system and controlling the cost of pharmaceuticals.

Greg Walden voted to repeal or defund the ACA, in part or in its entirety, over 50 times. He was one of the main architects of the attempt to repeal the ACA last year, without a viable alternative. Had he been successful, one-in-five people in our district would have lost their health coverage.

Pre-existing conditions must remain covered. An estimated 27 oercent of adults in Oregon under the age of 65 would be uninsurable without these protections (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation), and 64 percent of our farmers and ranchers (per a USDA study) have pre-existing conditions. Our current representative voted to take away these protections.

That’s not right.

In the past 20 years, 4,500 Oregonians have died from an overdose on opioids. While I applaud the recent small steps taken, public health officials have said it’s not a solution. Why hasn’t our current representative done more? As the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the health care industry, Greg Walden has accepted $26,000 from pharmaceutical companies just in this election cycle, and over $1 million in contributions from pharmaceutical and health products companies in his career. They are the ones that helped create the problem.

Can we trust a representative who takes so much money from Big Pharma to once and for all solve this major health crisis impacting our communities?

Our veterans’ healthcare system is broken. The three major VA medical centers that serve the veterans of our district are among the lowest rated in the country. They are overworked and underfunded. When veterans do get care, they tell me it’s good care. But it shouldn’t take multiple calls to your Congressional representative to get an appointment with your doctor. While some of Greg Walden’s efforts have made small, incremental changes (like bringing in scribes to take notes for doctors) they’re not enough. We must improve access and care for the veterans of our district.

We are successful when we work together. I support models like Better Together—a collaboration between government and locally-managed organizations to improve educational outcomes for youth. Government needs to know when to help—and when to get out of the way. I support more programs like this one—such as providing an exchange of public service for college education or trade school—to improve lives in our district.

Economic development is critical to strengthening our communities. We need to invest in infrastructure, with more rural broadband so people have access to tele-health and online learning. We can create good jobs in sectors like sustainable forestry and renewable energy. The national economy may be on the upswing, but our district hasn’t recovered from the 2008 recession. Almost half of the people in our district live at or near the poverty line. Ten years is long enough to wait for positive change.

We’ve waited long enough for things to improve. It’s time to bring to our district real change for the better.

— Jamie McLeod-Skinner is the Democratic candidate for the Second Congressional District seat now held by Republican Greg Walden.

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