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Congress on your corner

Rep. Kurt Schrader, center, and Scott Bruun, right, chat with Lorna Adkins of Salem-Keizer Transit at a Keizer Chamber of Commerce luncheon featuring both candidates for Congress. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

First rule in Keizer: Never call it Salem.

These verbal gaffes were bipartisan, as both Republican Scott Bruun and Democrat Jason Freilinger mistakenly addressed the Keizer Chamber of Commerce luncheon as Salem’s chamber on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Bruun is challenging Rep. Kurt Schrader, a first-term Democrat in Congress, while Freilinger is running against Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne.

All four were in attendance and offered up their views.

Bruun touted his roots as a fifth-generation Oregonian, and noted his experiences in recent years with cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

“It teaches you much life could never teach you in any other way,” including resolve and humility, Bruun said.

Bruun then went on to hit Congress for what he called “a house of cards that may very well crumble … and it’s not going to be just you and I picking up the pieces. It’s going to be our parents and grandparents.”

He said Congress had failed to “do anything appropriate” to correct the economy, noting a recent report of 95,000 net jobs lost nationwide and even more who are “job-locked” due to the economy.

“They put their job ahead of jobs for Oregonians and jobs for Americans,” Bruun said.

Schrader noted his prior work as a veterinarian and farmer, saying he has “had to meet a payroll for 31 years.

“As a person that’s been through some tough times, it gives me a unique opportunity to understand some of the things that are going on,” Schrader said.

His pitch? Things aren’t great. But “we’re sure better off than we were two years ago … losing 700,000 jobs a month when we came in the door.”

He said voters could choose to “focus on the negative” or acknowledge positive growth in gross domestic product and gains in the stock market. Schrader also touted his office’s role in bringing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific coast operations center to Newport, which is in Schrader’s wide-ranging 5th District.

“We forced our leadership to adopt mandatory PAYGO,” Schrader said, referring to rules requiring new spending to be offset by new revenues or spending cuts.

“Leadership didn’t like it,” Schrader said. “I’m not exactly that Nancy Pelosi clone you’re going to see on TV all the time.”

Regarding health care legislation passed last year, Schrader called it “a huge step forward from where we were” and noted a Congressional Budget Office report stating it would save $143 billion over the next 10 years.

Bruun pledged to be a co-sponsor of a bill repealing said changes should he be elected to Congress.

“I think it’s a very, very bad piece of legislation,” Bruun said, adding the current Congress has pulled “more and more power away from us … and centralized more and more of that in Washington D.C.

“What doesn’t work is the cost,” Bruun added. “… Instead of addressing that, this health care bill actually pumps it with steroids.”

Bruun countered with his own financial figures, saying the bill would add $2 trillion to the cost of health care once most of the provisions go into effect in 2014 to 2024.

Regarding reinstating the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, Bruun said the expiring tax cuts were going to hurt.

“It’’s going to hurt everyone down regardless of their income level … because Congress didn’t stay and do the job they were supposed to do,” Bruun said.

Schrader said he supported going ahead with tax cuts for the middle class, but didn’t support them for earners making more than $250,000 a year.

“You can’t be all, ‘the deficit’s out of control,’ and vote for $4 trillion of added deficit,” Schrader said. “We can’t afford to give them a tax break right now.”

On attack ads, both said they weren’t watching much TV these days. Schrader decried the outcome of the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case that struck down rules prohibiting corporations from spending money outside of traditional campaign contributions to campaign for or against a candidate. He said he would support a constitutional amendment that could result in less money being spent on the election process.

Bruun said the amendment Schrader proposes would reduce free speech and First Amendment rights, calling it “incumbency protection.”

As the two candidates left, it was time for Milne and Freilinger to take center stage.

Milne, a Woodburn Republican seeking her fourth term on the Marion County Commission, described her experiences co-chairing a task force fighting gang problems in Woodburn, her time on the Woodburn School Board, in the Oregon legislature and ultimately at the county.

She said she particularly feels property rights were important, and noted her role in establishing a rainy day fund along with contingencies and reserves.

Freilinger, a Silverton-area Democrat who works in management for T-Mobile, noted his experience working large companies and said “keeping our cities and small towns livable, and preserving our agricultural heritage” were among his priorities.

He said he wouldn’t support tax or fee increases in the current economy and he wants more county commission meetings held at night “so working people can actually go to the meetings.”

On Keizer’s urban growth boundary, Freilinger said he would support it “to the west.”

“You have Salem to the south, Salem to the east … (and) the best farmland in America to the north of here,” Freilinger said. “I do believe there’s room for in-growth within Keizer, and to the west of Keizer. I would support expansion as needed in order to make that happen.”

Milne used the question to decry Oregon’s strict land use laws in general.

“Some people might like (them),” she said. “Some people find it very anti-economic development. Some people find it anti-the ability for people to use their property, to make their property productive and to create some wealth.”