A former Cottage Grove mayor and city councilor says he has the political experience to be the next Oregon House District 7 representative. His opponent has never held public office, but touts his background in health care and business.
Republicans Gary Williams and Cedric Hayden Jr. are running for the seat being vacated by Winchester’s Bruce Hanna, who in September said he wouldn’t seek a sixth term.
No Democrat filed for the seat, so the winner of the May 20 Republican primary will be in a strong position to claim the office in the November election, though Patrick Starnes, a former Douglas County resident who now lives in McKenzie Bridge, plans to run as an independent.
House District 7 consists of portions of Lane County and much of north Douglas County, including Glide, Winchester, Sutherlin, Oakland, Elkton and Drain.
Williams’ and Hayden’s contrasting backgrounds are reflected in their respective campaign literature.
Williams, 62, lists endorsements from political figures, including former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, Roseburg Sen. Jeff Kruse and Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson.
Another supporter he notes on his campaign website is Oregon’s last Republican governor, Vic Atiyeh.
Williams said he’s long been a community leader and a “regional defender of our local timber industry.” He lists his major accomplishments in Cottage Grove government as restoring downtown and the city’s covered railroad bridge, balancing tight budgets and creating a business resource center.
Hayden’s brochure has photographs of himself highlighting his success as a rancher who manages more than 1,000 head of cattle, his dental practice’s work with low-income families and his experience with having children in schools. The 46-year-old Fall Creek resident is shown on a mountain peak, with a caption stating he’s climbed the tallest peak on seven continents. “Some people talk big talk, but Cedric actually walks it,” the caption states.
Williams, a retired painting contractor, said he wasn’t paid for his 16 years in office, 12 of which were as mayor. He said he was encouraged by many to run for state office. “I have prepared early for office,” he said.
As a member of state organizations, including the League of Oregon Cities, Williams said he’s worked closely with people in Douglas and Lane counties.
“I have always been engaged in rural communities statewide,” he said.
Hayden has been a dentist for 20 years. He also operates a heavy equipment company and has a plane and pilots he contracts out to the Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service to fly over timberlands to look for fires.
Hayden said he was motivated to run because he grew tired of the bureaucracy he faced when his family wanted to expand its dental charity, Caring Hand to Mouth. Hayden founded the nonprofit organization in 2007 to help those who couldn’t afford to see a dentist.
Hayden sold his private dental practice after deciding to run for office, but said he still practices dentistry at hospitals.
He isn’t the first in his family to seek office. He is the son of former state legislator Cedric Hayden Sr., who served in the state House from 1985 to 1996 and from 2000 to 2002.
Hayden Jr. and Williams took different paths to find themselves in the GOP.
Hayden said he’s always identified himself as a fiscally conservative Republican who wants to rein in government spending, but realizes some social services are needed.
As a dentist, Hayden said he has worked with those who have special needs and wards of the state. “I do feel we have some obligation to take care of our citizens who need the help,” he said.
Williams called himself “apolitical” in his earlier years. He dropped his independent status in 1980 because he wanted to vote for Ronald Reagan to become president.
“I never thought we would see as bad a president as (Jimmy) Carter, and then Obama came along,” Williams said. “Ronald Reagan came into Washington and got this country turned around. ... He made this country feel good about itself. We don’t feel good about ourselves now.”
Williams and Hayden share the same views on some issues. Both said they want to put vocational classes back in high school, increase job opportunities for graduates and maintain gun rights.
Both say they don’t think humans cause climate change or that marijuana should be legalized.
Hayden and Williams agree timber harvests should be increased.
“Oregon was built on natural resources, and radical environmentalists have taken that away from us,” Williams said.
He said conservation groups and the Endangered Species Act have stolen certainty from communities that have long sustained on timber.
“I am angry this state has been hijacked by people that flat don’t get it about what made this state,” Williams said.
Hayden said Oregon should treat timber like a crop that is continually logged and replanted. He said residents lose out on money by not harvesting timber, and lose again when they have to pay for fire suppression after a thick forest burns.
“We need to reverse unemployment, and the solution is growing literally on trees around us, and all we have to do is manage that with common sense,” he said.
Williams said he would like to see Oregon take a harder look at energy opportunities. Hayden said corporate taxes should be cut and that new corporations would be more inclined to be in the state if they were taxed less.
“We want to get to the Legislature and say, ‘Hey, listen, we can’t tax these people out of this state and expect to have a healthy economy.’ We need to rethink this,” Hayden said.
Hayden and Williams both expressed dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act and would prefer to let the private sector handle health insurance.
Williams said Oregon became a “laughingstock” when it rolled out Cover Oregon, and he wants to build allies in the Legislature to repeal the exchange and the federal Affordable Care Act, both of which he described as “catastrophic failures.”
Hayden said the state should sue Oracle Corp., the primary contractor for Cover Oregon. Oracle officials have shifted blame for the website’s failure to state managers.
Hayden said states should have authority to decide health care reform for residents and that organizations, like his dental charity, can help those who can’t afford insurance.
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.