Democrat Kat Stone is challenging incumbent Republican Dallas Heard in state Senate District 1.
The district covers Roseburg, South Douglas County, Curry County and parts of Coos, Josephine and Jackson Counties, and has been held by Heard since 2018, when he was appointed to fill the seat after longtime Sen. Jeff Kruse resigned. Heard was elected to the seat later that year.
Stone, 65, of Roseburg is a nurse who works for BHS Pharmacy. The Eugene-based pharmacy specializes in long-term care and she’s been traveling around the state administering flu shots.
“When I have time off I’m driving down (Highway) 101 to the little towns there and talking to people there. Registering people to vote in Coquille, Myrtle Point, Wolf Creek and Glendale and having a lot of interesting conversations with people,” she said.
Stone has been a frequent critic of county government. She said she used to believe that elected officials were looking out for the people’s best interests. Six years ago, she became convinced that wasn’t true.
Stone believes reinstating the timber severance tax is the key to restoring both state and county government budgets. It’s money she’s like to see go toward programs like mental health services and public safety.
But she said when she brought up the severance tax at county commissioner meetings, she was told this was an issue that could be dealt with only by the Legislature. So she decided to run for legislative office.
The 6.5% severance tax on timber harvests was removed in the 1990s. When it went away, she said, the money was kept by the big, Wall Street timber companies.
She said Oregonians don’t need to fear those companies will leave the state and take their jobs with them if they are taxed.
“They’re not going to pull up their trees and move to South America. Basically they’re going to be here,” she said.
Stone also wants to see campaign contribution limits, and said Heard takes too much money from the timber industry and out of state contributors.
“He has aligned himself with Timber Unity, who thinks that they are serving their own needs but they are really serving the needs of the timber industry, and Dallas serves the needs of the timber industry,” she said.
But she also criticized Democratic Gov. Kate Brown for her big money fundraising.
“Why does Kate Brown need the millions of dollars that she got in her campaign?” she said.
When asked about the COVID-19 pandemic, Stone said she would “like to inspire people to care about each other.”
“We are a community and what we do should reflect that, when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, like it has when we have faced other devastating events, like the current wildfires,” she said.
She said she believes people have a constitutional right to gather for religious practice, and should be allowed to do so by social distancing and quarantining as a group to reduce the risk to others.
She said she wants to ensure the state creates a workable plan to help small local businesses impacted by the pandemic, and to get them that help without the type of long delays seen in the “horrific unemployment debacle that left many scrambling to survive.”
Other priorities for Stone include improving laws to increase government accountability and transparency. For example, she wants to work on fixing what she said are flaws to existing laws that have allowed county commissioners to shut down video streams and block public comment at their meetings.
She wants to address homelessness by making it easier for communities to provide affordable housing and assist people with mental illness.
She also wants to boost investment in community colleges and in rural broadband internet.
Heard of Myrtle Creek is the owner of the landscaping business Emerald Lawns, which he started when he was 19 years old.
Now 35, he was the Senate’s youngest member when he joined it two years ago. He previously served as state representative for House District 2, having first been elected to that position in 2014.
Heard has not shied away from controversy, being a vocal critic of Democratic leaders in Salem.
He was one of the 11 Senators who walked out over a climate cap and trade bill in 2019, and he joined a second walkout over cap and trade legislation earlier this year.
Heard believes his community’s dignity has been stripped away through extremist forest policies rooted in East Coast elitism.
“It’s only struggling because the federal government has almost quite literally shut everything down, except for a podunk little amount of salvage logging after it’s been devastated by the frequent fires we have nowadays,” he said.
Heard said he opposes restoring the severance tax right now, because “we’re already struggling to keep our industry alive here.”
“Now if we were fully back in the forest, and everything was the way it used to be pre-Endangered Species Act, and this community wasn’t just basically hanging on by a thread, I’m fine with taxing large wealth individuals for stuff, that’s fine. I’m not a big business proponent,” he said.
He said he has a low opinion of both big government and major multistate corporations, calling them “close cousins.”
Heard favors campaign finance reform. If he’s reelected, he said he is considering sponsoring a bill next session to set a limit on campaign contributions and to bar contributions from both union and business PACs.
“Whether it’s big business or big labor, I want to cut them all out, because you get rid of the corporate lobbyists, you completely change everything,” he said.
While he acknowledged having taken campaign contributions from companies like Weyerhaeuser, he said a company can give him a check but he couldn’t care less about those contributions when it comes to how he casts his vote.
On the COVID-19 pandemic response, Heard said he recommended the governor urge COVID-safe behavior like social distancing and masks and have someone in the Republican caucus join her on stage to deliver the message.
“Otherwise people are not going to universally listen. My side doesn’t trust you and your side doesn’t trust me, so you’ve got to have both,” he said.
He said people should have been given freedom to choose, not mandates backed up by fines or license suspensions.
“Just because a disease or a virus comes sweeping through a community or a nation or whatever doesn’t mean that Citizen A all of a sudden gets to tell Citizen B I’m freaked out about it, I’m in the demographic that’s going to struggle with this, therefore I have the right to tell you you have no rights,” he said.
And he said the Legislature should be voting to “take away the governor’s dictator authorities.”
Other priorities for Heard include improving K-12 educational outcomes, which he said would come from having the money follow the child, regardless of the kind of school to which the parent wants to send the child.
He also wants to promote policies that increase the success of small business owners, and to decrease barriers to entry for less educated and lower income citizens who want to be self employed.