Kate Lieber, Oregon State Senate (District 14) – Candidate Interview
WCD: What inspired you to run for office?
Kate Lieber (KL): I am what I call an accidental politician. Naturally, I am alarmed and deeply concerned about the broadening divisions in our country. Over the last four years, hatred, bigotry, assaults on civil rights and worker’s rights and disregard for our environment and democracy have all flourished.
Despite the division and dysfunction at the national level, I had believed that we in Oregon were generally OK, that the discord affecting many parts of the country was not prevalent here. But when the Oregon State Legislature was forced to a standstill by a Republican walkout on two separate occasions because of climate change legislation, I decided I had to get involved.
Governor Brown urged me to consider running. She and I collaborated years ago when she was practicing family law and I was a prosecutor, so I did some research. Throughout my career as an attorney, volunteer and board chair, my intention has always been to get things done. I’m confident that that kind of attitude is exactly what our state government needs, and I’m looking forward to getting things done for my district. Our state faces some daunting challenges and hard choices in the months ahead. Working people, families and small businesses need their government to step up. I want to be in Salem to make sure we do.
WCD: Your campaign listed three priorities before the pandemic – Affordable housing, Healthcare and Education. Have those priorities changed because of COVID-19 disruption?
KL: Those remain our priorities, along with a new one – recovery. The COVID crisis has shone a light on the widening cracks that already existed in Oregon’s public policy and economy. Job losses, reduced wages and business closures have added pressure to Oregon’s already troublesome lack of affordable housing. Stay-at-home and social distancing rules have kept employees and customers at home, threatening the future of thousands of businesses statewide. At-home learning continues to compromise access to adequate education. And diminishing access to healthcare will have profound long-term implications for the well-being of Oregonians for years. This may be especially true when it comes to mental health.
To deal effectively with these challenges, we need to think differently and act urgently. We need to resist the temptation to pinch pennies because of reduced state revenues and focus instead on long-term initiatives and policies that support small business, get people back to work with a living wage and improve economic prospects for our state for years to come.
We need to ensure that everyone has access to the healthcare they need, that children have equal access to a high-quality education everywhere, and that we address the economic, mental health and addiction issues that have led to our homelessness situation.
Dollars that are spent with Oregon businesses need to stay in Oregon. Let’s do all we can to support small business, grow employment and wages and rebuild an economy that works for everyone. Imagine what your community would look like if eighty percent of its restaurants closed. There is a lot of work to do, but I’m ready to collaborate, think creatively, and get things done to build a more just Oregon for all.
WCD: Which elected official, past or present, do you most admire? Why?
KL: I miss President Obama. His stirring speech at the Democratic convention reminded me of the way he led – with hope and humanity. He and his family sacrificed so much to serve our country. Against impossibly high standards as the first African-American family to occupy the White House, they set the example for humility and service.
With hard-earned moral authority, President Obama – and Michelle! – led us toward a more equal and more prosperous America. He didn’t subscribe to the notion that for me to win, you have to lose. His America had a place for everyone. I admire that and believe that the Obama presidency will go down in history as one of our most consequential.
WCD: What are residents in your district saying they need from you and state government?
KL: The people and families that live in District 14 have a wide range of incomes and experiences. But across the spectrum, I have learned that they all share the same concerns: they worry about and want security for their families and their children. They long to see a robust economic recovery, to see their kids get back to school safely, to get back to work. They worry about the cost of, and access to, healthcare for themselves and their kids. They look forward to supporting local businesses and to planning for a more secure future.
All of this is possible but, as I said before, we need to think differently and act urgently. This unprecedented situation has presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our future. I’m determined to do all I can to ensure that working families, small businesses, and everyday Oregonians have a champion in Salem and aren’t left behind.
Learn more about Kate Lieber, Candidate for Oregon State Senate (District 14), at her campaign website.