News & Events
Candidates differ about health care
Debate presents men hoping for Senate position
BY PATRICK JOHNSON AND DANIELLE PETERSON
The two democratic hopefuls for Oregon Senate District 9 answered questions in Silverton on April 23 as part of a series of debates set up by the Marion County Democrats.
The forum, called the Marion County DemoForum, was held during lunchtime at The Home Place restaurant in Silverton.
Steve Frank, a retired postal worker and current Stayton city council member, and Bob McDonald, a retired doctor from Silverton, are both hoping to win the Democratic primary for District 9, which includes parts of Marion, Linn and Clackamas counties.
The primary is scheduled for May 20.
The seat is currently held by Republican Fred Girod, a dentist from Lyons and former Stayton council member, who was appointed to the seat after Roger Beyer resigned earlier this year.
At the forum, Frank said he thought that it was time for Democrats to end the “regressive agenda” and replace it with a “progressive and cooperative Legislature.”
Frank said he would work to find solutions for all Oregonians in issues ranging from growth to fiscal responsibility to workers rights.
McDonald, on the other hand, focused his talk on health-care issues – playing to his strengths for the hometown crowd.
“Many families in Oregon are just one illness away from losing it all,” he said. “Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcies.”
Most of the questions from the crowd of about 20 people focused on health care, and McDonald’s opening remarks were interrupted four times with applause, showing that there was a home-court advantage for the former Mount Angel physician.
When asked how they would specifically address health-care issues in the state, each candidate had a different approach.
McDonald said the most recent suggestion is to see employers pay the state for health-care services instead of paying insurance premiums, since most of the health-care costs are for chronic conditions.
“The goal would be to make the expense less than what the employers are paying on insurance premiums,” he said.
Frank said the question pointed out why there needed to be progressive candidates in the Senate.
“The guiding light, the key to all of this, is getting someone in there as president who will take the lead and make sure that every single person in our country has affordable health care that they don’t have to pay for,” Frank said. “It’s unacceptable we don’t have universal health care. We need to elect people so they can change the way things happen.”
Frank said the lead in the health-care debate needed to be taken by the federal government, which is why he is backing Hillary Clinton.
“They will give us leadership, our Democratic candidate for president,” Frank said. “I like Hillary’s plan more, but I will certainly back Obama if he gets the nomination.”
McDonald spoke more about specifics in health care, such as the cost of new technologies and how the state of Oregon could take the lead in the national health care debate.
Silverton resident Ray Hunter asked the two candidates how they were going to handle special interest groups, and used the beer and wine industry as an example, saying a tax increase could go to pay for state troopers.
Frank said he thought the last legislative session was a good one because of the fact they were able to get more state troopers on the road.
“We are at a time when we have lost a lot of our money due to this ill-conceived war in Iraq,” he said. “We have lost hundreds of billions of dollars. That money could have been spent toward paying for healthcare, could have been spent fixing infrastructure or meeting the needs of our citizens. There is only so much you can do in the state legislature.”
McDonald said he felt that Roger Beyer had voted with his pocketbook and not his conscience. McDonald added he would do what he felt was best for all Oregonians, not just special interests.
The topic of the new ethics law also was raised by Stayton mayor Virginia Honeywell, both candidates said they supported the new law and thought it was important.
“I don’t know why an official in a small town shouldn’t have to follow the same ethics rules as someone in a big town has to,” McDonald said. “Why is it such a hard issue for people in small communities? What is the difference?”