Doyle Canning decided to run for Congress because she wanted to give her kids a better future.
For her, it began a year ago when two things happened. First, the United Nations issued a climate report which said the world has about a decade to move off of fossil fuels if it wants to avoid catastrophic climate change. Second, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court following controversial hearings over allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I have a young daughter, she was 5 last year. Her name is Almina, and I had to really look her in the eyes and really think about her future and her options, and I knew I had to do something, something bigger than I had ever attempted before,” she said.
Canning is entering the race for Congressional District 4 from the left, bringing a primary challenge to Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, who has held the seat for three decades. She made a campaign stop in Roseburg on Wednesday to visit with supporters and carved out some time for an interview with The News-Review beforehand.
Climate change is the central issue for Canning. She supports a proposed Green New Deal as a way to get the country off fossil fuels while creating new jobs.
“I’m running because I have a vision, a vision for this country and a vision for our district that we can lead the transition to renewable energy, that our communities need investment and job creation and industries in renewable energy — jobs that will last for generations to come,” she said.
She said while fighting climate change has received more urban support, she believes it’s rural areas that can and should benefit most from a clean-energy economy.
She said southwestern Oregon’s forests, fisheries and agriculture are being harmed, but Douglas County has the resources to turn the problem around and should reap the rewards.
“We can lead this transition. We have world class wave energy potential and wind energy potential on our coastline,” she said. “We have some of the most important forests here in this district on the planet for cooling the climate. These are tremendous assets that need investment.”
Making those investments would lead to wealth and lasting prosperity for the communities of District 4, she said, especially for Douglas County.
Canning’s campaign is 100% financed by individuals. She’s refusing any corporate donors.
“We have over 700 donors now, and our campaign is relying on support of individual contributors who want to see bold, progressive change and not just the status quo business as usual but something truly, truly different and are ready to back a campaign that fights for that vision,” she said.
Those contributors raised $67,503 for her campaign through Thursday. That compares with $944,864 raised by DeFazio, much of which has come from business interests and unions.
Many local supporters who came out to see Canning on Wednesday are opponents of the Jordan Cove Energy Project, and she said she will stand up for them in Washington, D.C.
“Here in Douglas County, it’s because of the people here and the grassroots activism here that Jordan Cove has not yet been built. People here have been leading that fight without the support of the establishment of either party,” she said.
Other top issues for Canning include providing early childhood education for all children and free public college tuition.
She favors a Medicare for All plan that eliminates private insurance.
“I totally support a Medicare for All system that will simplify how health care is financed and remove co-pays and deductibles and high premiums and instead offer people world class healthcare that we have in this country — without insurance companies as for-profit middlemen denying coverage and gouging us for lifesaving care,” she said.
She plans to pay for all that by ending what she calls corporate welfare.
Canning also wants to see federal leadership and investment in housing. She noted that Eugene and Roseburg, both in District 4, are both experiencing a housing shortage and a homeless problem. Eugene was recently named the city with the highest number of homeless people per capita in the country.
Rural issues are close to Canning’s heart. She grew up in small New Hampshire towns and attended a two-room schoolhouse. She currently lives in Eugene, where she moved because her husband, Justin Francese, pursued a doctorate at the University of Oregon and persuaded her it would be a great place to put down roots and raise a family. Canning and Francese have two children, the youngest being a 4-year-old son.
Canning earned a law degree at the U of O Law School and clerked for U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken.
She also spent 20 years as a community organizer, aiding farm workers, veterans opposed to the Iraq War and communities fighting fossil fuel industries like coal mining and pipelines. She was one of the founders of The Center for Story-Based Strategy, a Eugene nonprofit that trains movement leaders to effectively spread their messages through storytelling. She also coauthored the book Re:Imagining Change.
Asked whether she would stand squarely on the left or reach across the aisle, Canning was unapologetic about where she stands.
“I’m a Democrat and I’m going to fight for our values to not be caging children and be tearing babies from the breast of their mothers at the southern border,” she said. “Our values are to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law and the oath of office, and that’s why I’m running, is because we need leadership who is willing to hold the moral center and fight for the soul of our party and our country.”