Paul Romero of Roseburg appears in this photo from 2019.

U.S. Senate candidate Paul Romero, Jr. believes socialism is growing in the Democratic Party, and he believes Oregon Democrats are increasingly disenchanted with their party because of it.

Romero, a Roseburg resident, argues that Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley — the incumbent he’d face if he won the 2020 Republican primary — is a socialist. And he thinks some Democrats will leave the party and vote for him.

“The first thing is we need balance here in Oregon. We have two Democrat senators that for all practical purposes I don’t even like calling them Democrats. Because I don’t really see them as Democrats. I see them as socialists. And that is a problem,” Romero said.

So far, Romero is the only candidate to have filed for the Senate seat with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. He visited The News-Review on Wednesday to talk about his candidacy.

Romero, 53, describes himself as a Cajun, born in New Iberia, Louisiana. He moved to Pendleton in fifth grade and Prineville in eighth grade, he said, but left to join the Navy in 1985. He was trained as a cryptologic technician and served for 10 years. After leaving the Navy, he held a variety of jobs from car salesman to appliance repairman, and put himself through college at the University of Louisiana, where he played on the Ragin’ Cajuns rugby team at the age of 38.

Romero raised five children — three biological kids and two nieces — as a single parent after he and his wife divorced.

He returned to Prineville in 2014 and said he wasn’t too happy at the changes he saw in Oregon. While there, he made two unsuccessful primary challenges against U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, whose House District 2 seat covers all of eastern Oregon.

In 2016, Romero lost the primary with 19.9% of the vote. In 2018 he did worse, garnering 16.5% of the vote; however, that may have been because there was a second challenger that year, Randy Pollock, who received 6% of the vote.

Romero said he spent just $6,000 in the 2016 race against Walden, more than half of which was his own money.

“Now some people would say you lost. Well, I may have lost the overall election, but to me when you look at the amount of money that he spent on that election I didn’t lose,” he said.

Romero moved to Roseburg in March and said he has been working for a company called ID Integration to rebuild a business plan for local artist and inventor Oksana Davyda’s company You Walk Today. Davyda has patented a piece of equipment that Romero described as a cross between a walker and a wheelchair. Romero said he hopes to become the CEO of You Walk Today.

Though he’s been a candidate, Romero hasn’t held political office. He said people don’t want a career politician, and many career politicians lack the ability to relate to their constituents.

Romero said if he were elected, he’d propose the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management start setting up timber sales, bringing in retirees to train them on how to grade trees and do timber sales. The forests need to be managed, he said, or they become a powder keg for the next fire.

Romero is a fan of President Donald Trump, and shares many of his views on immigration. He said countries around the world protect their borders, and America should too.

“A wall at the border is going to greatly reduce everything from drugs to human trafficking to illegal immigration to the potential of terrorists moving across our borders and into our country. This is a good thing for everybody, whether they want to admit it or not,” Romero said.

He said he favors legal immigration, noting that Davyda, the woman he hopes will choose him to run her company, is a legal immigrant. He said Merkley didn’t show any concern for the conditions in which immigrants were held at the border under the Obama administration, and he asserted the cages children are being kept in at the border started under Obama.

He said he doesn’t favor separating children from their parents at the border, but said many of those children are being trafficked and aren’t with their real parents.

He said his grandparents had a summer home on Falcon Lake on the U.S.-Mexico border near Zapata, Texas, but sold it because it became dangerous to boat there due to illegal immigrants crossing.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be out fishing for bass and get shot, you know,” he said.

Romero wants a repeal of Obamacare. He said 11 million Americans went on Obamacare after it passed, but it made things worse for 350 million Americans. He said more people were insured and they had better, cheaper insurance before it passed.

He also holds traditional Republican views on other topics. He opposes abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and the risk of death for the mother. And he opposes a ban on semiautomatic weapons. He owns a Marlin .22 semiautomatic rifle himself.

“I use it for target shooting and sage rats. I love doing that. It’s something I did as a kid, and I still enjoy it to this day,” he said.

He’s particularly disenchanted with the Democrats, including those running for president. He describes them as a presidential clown car filled with candidates insisting socialism is the answer for America.

As for Congress, he wants to limit its members to two six-year terms for senators and six two-year terms for representatives.

“The longer you’re in I think the more likely you are to be corrupted, and if you look how many people are millionaires now but weren’t when they went into office, is it because they own a business and that business made them wealthy? No. That’s a problem, and it’s right there in broad daylight in front of God and everybody,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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