Oregon Republican candidate for governor Jessica Gomez answers OPB’s questions

By OPB staff (OPB)
April 13, 2022 9 a.m.

OPB asked all 34 candidates seeking the Republican or Democratic nomination for governor to answer some basic questions about the issues. Below are answers from Jessica Gomez, a Republican business executive. These answers have not been edited.

Jessica Gomez, Stan Pulliam, Oregon Republican candidate for governor.

Jessica Gomez, Stan Pulliam, Oregon Republican candidate for governor.

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez / Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

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To start, please give us your name and basic biographical details, including your current position or job, any elected offices you have held and any key facts you would like voters to know about you.

Jessica Gomez, Founder and CEO, Rogue Valley Microdevices. Board Chair, Oregon Institute of Technology. Co-Chair, Oregon Workforce Board. Medford Housing Advisory Committee. Southern Oregon Angel Investors. Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Mother of two young children.

Why should you be Oregon’s next governor?

Oregon needs a CEO and a leader who will bring back accountability and change the direction of our state to deliver a return on investment for the tax dollars Oregonians pay. I believe that in this great country, every person deserves the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families. My background and personal story set me apart from the other candidates. I spent my early childhood in a low-income Hispanic neighborhood in New York. I struggled with homelessness as a teen in rural Oregon and reclaimed my life through hard work and education. At 26, I became founder and CEO of the first microchip manufacturing company in Southern Oregon. I have led my company through many difficult challenges, including the great recession and the pandemic. My personal and professional experience are exactly the combination Oregon needs right now.

What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing Oregon today?

Oregon is currently facing a daunting and difficult set of challenges. If I had to choose one that requires immediate attention it would be unsheltered homelessness.

What is your proposed solution to that problem? Please be specific.

According to a 2017 report from The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a chronically homeless person costs taxpayers over $35,000 annually to leave them unsheltered. I propose an “assisted living” model with multiple levels of care, similar to what we have for senior citizens, where diagnosis and treatment for those struggling with addiction and mental illness would be mandatory. Oregon currently ranks near the bottom for available treatment programs. Once we have the infrastructure to provide shelter and treatment, we will no longer allow camping on our streets and in our parks. Allowing people to live on the streets without hope is not compassionate.

Do you believe human beings are playing a part in rising temperatures?

Yes, I do. The way in which greenhouse gases affect the temperature of the earth is a little different than one may think. Many people focus on record high temperatures as evidence of climate change. We have all seen trend charts of increasing carbon concentration in the atmosphere and increasing average temperature. But I think a key element is lost while interpreting the data. The primary reason the average temperature is going up is not because the daytime temperature is going up, it is because the nighttime temperature is going up. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere prevent radiational cooling after the sun goes down. When I looked at a trend of high temperatures independent from a trend of low temperatures, I could see that there was a slight increase in the average daytime high temperatures over time, but a dramatic increase in the average nighttime low temperatures. This is entirely consistent with the greenhouse effect.

Do you think Oregon should take additional steps to address climate change? If so, what are some specific efforts you’d undertake or push for as governor?

A couple of years ago I took an in-depth look at Oregon’s contribution to global climate change. What I discovered is that if Oregon completely eliminated all carbon emissions, we would reduce the warming of the earth by no more than one one-thousandth of a degree. But this does not let us off the hook for assisting the global community in reducing climate change, but rather it should point us in the direction of where we can have the greatest impact. I believe that by leveraging Oregon’s technical resources such as our university system and community of technology companies, we can develop exportable technologies that the world can use to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. From what I have observed, our global partners have ambitious long-term carbon reduction goals, but are struggling to implement solutions for medium-term carbon reduction. SMR and methane pyrolysis technology are showing promise as clean, cost-effective medium-term energy solutions. Oregon needs to focus on becoming more resilient in the face of warmer and potentially dryer weather. Actively managing our forest lands can help prevent the release of more carbon through forest fires. As reduced snowpack is lowering water levels in lakes and rivers, we must invest in water storage, reclamation infrastructure, and low evaporation irrigation technology to mitigate the impact of water scarcity on our agricultural community and wildlife habitats.

Oregon has experienced a high number of severe wildfires in recent years. What role should state government play in wildfire response?

Government has been complicit in creating the very conditions that have increased the likelihood and severity of wildfires by enacting policies that have contributed to our forests becoming unhealthy and overgrown. We need to focus on wildfire prevention and insist that our federal legislators align forest management policy and resources toward the goal of maintaining healthy forest lands. Oregon should embrace the skillset of our forest industry and collaborate with them to clear areas of bug-killed timber and plant healthy trees. Oregon should also prioritize the recruitment and training of additional wildland firefighting crews.

Parts of Oregon now routinely face drought conditions. What role should state government play in preventing and responding to droughts?

As reduced snowpack is lowering water levels in lakes and rivers, we must invest in water storage, reclamation infrastructure, and low evaporation irrigation technology to mitigate the impact of water scarcity on our agricultural community and wildlife habitats.

Do you support the use of body cameras by police officers to record their interactions with the public? Please explain why or why not.

Yes. I am committed to working with local law enforcement agencies and local governments to identify sources of funding – many of which already exist and can be repurposed – to ensure they have the tools they need.

President Joe Biden signaled in his State of the Union address that he wants to increase funding for police. Do you agree or disagree?

Agree

In surveys, Oregonians on both the right and the left described political extremism as one of the biggest challenges facing the state. Do you agree with them? If yes, please describe the type of extremism that concerns you and what you would do as governor to address it.

Political extremism is a symptom of our highly polarized society, and is prevalent on both sides of the political spectrum. It is a growing challenge for the state because there appears to be far too many voices promoting extremism and far too few voices advocating for unity. Everything has become more polarized because even the most basic governmental actions are viewed through a partisan lens. I believe the governor, along with all political leaders from both parties, need to lead by example and reject all forms of political violence if we are going to have any hope of reversing this trend.

In surveys, Oregonians consistently rate homelessness and high housing costs as a major problem facing the state. What role do you believe state government should play in addressing these interconnected problems?

According to a 2017 report from The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a chronically homeless person costs taxpayers over $35,000 annually to leave them unsheltered. I propose an “assisted living” model with multiple levels of care, similar to what we have for senior citizens, where diagnosis and treatment for those struggling with addiction and mental illness would be mandatory. Oregon currently ranks near the bottom for available treatment programs. Once we have the infrastructure to provide shelter and treatment, we will no longer allow camping on our streets and in our parks. Allowing people to live on the streets without hope is not compassionate.

The fact that the cost of housing in Oregon is much higher than the national average shouldn’t surprise anyone – Oregon has spent decades enacting numerous laws, regulations, and taxes that have driven up the cost of housing. The role of our state should be to foster an environment where housing is available and affordable. I will implement a market-based strategy to ensure housing is more plentiful and affordable. This will include setting a statewide goal for housing cost to median income ratio and streamlining the urban growth boundary expansion process to ensure cities have adequate land available for residential housing. My administration will work closely with local governments to reduce System Development Charges, remove unnecessary regulations, and address permitting delays that drive up the cost of housing development.

Would you support requiring people experiencing homelessness to stay in shelters if adequate shelter space exists?

Yes

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Oregon’s high school graduation rate continues to lag behind other states. What are specific actions you would take as governor to improve student performance?

The governor is the superintendent of public education in our state and I will appoint a deputy that is empowered to improve education for all students, providing them with the skills needed to compete in our global economy.

1. Reinstitute high academic standards for public education. Encourage innovation and specialization within the public and charter school system by empowering parents to choose the school that best supports their child.

2. Work with school districts to implement two-way immersion language programs beginning in kindergarten.

3. Establish a statewide youth apprenticeship program beginning in the 11th grade so students graduate with a career path and work experience.

4. Implement a universal college credit program that ensures all credits earned are applied toward a degree. Credits would be fully transferrable between any community college and public university in the state.

Oregon, like much of the rest of the nation, has a child care crisis. What role should the governor play in this situation, and what are specific steps you would take as governor?

In Oregon we only have a 61% workforce participation rate. This means that out of all people that are of working age, only 61% are employed, or looking for work. This is the lowest it has been since the early 1990′s. I believe the high cost of childcare is contributing to this issue. In Oregon, full time childcare can be upwards of $1,500.00 for one child. With inconsistent school schedules due to COVID and the growing financial pressure on families, many parents have chosen to stay home. As Governor I would encourage employers to offer at work childcare for employees by removing the regulatory barriers that make childcare expensive and, in some cases, impossible for employers to implement on site. This would be tax deductible for both the parent and the employer.

Do public employee unions have too much influence in Oregon? If you answer yes, please tell us which unions in particular concern you.

I believe that public employee union leaders have too much political influence in Oregon. This is a problem for both Republicans and Democrats and impedes our ability to develop and implement policy that is healthy for all Oregonians. The unions select and fund Democratic candidates during the primary, and once elected if those holding office don’t support the policies being pushed by union leadership, the unions will support their primary opponents during the next election cycle. Once you accept union money, it is very difficult to have an independent voice. This is part of the reason we have been under single party rule for so long. Simply put, the government controls the people, the Democrats control the government, and the public employee union leaders control the Democrats. That’s how Oregon works.

As governor, would you support the creation of campaign finance limits in Oregon? If no, please explain why not. If yes, please can us specifics on what limits you would endorse.

All of the campaign finance limit policies I have seen are either biased against a particular party or too easy to circumvent. The rules will change but little will be accomplished. Even if you limited campaign spending, dark money will take over, essentially removing any control candidates have over the direction of their own campaigns.

Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election?

Yes

Would you support creation of a sales tax in Oregon?

No

Do you support the use of tolls to help pay for infrastructure constructions in the Portland region, including a replacement for the Interstate 5 bridge?

No

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, would you as governor push for new abortion restrictions in Oregon? If yes, please specify what type of restriction you would propose.

No.

How would you describe the relationship between rural and urban Oregon today?

There are clear signs that our urban/rural divide has reached a tipping point. Some Oregon counties have even gone so far as to vote to leave our state and join Idaho. Many Oregonians living outside the tri-county area feel that their rights are being trampled on and their needs are ignored. Living in Southern Oregon, I know first-hand that despite the desperate pleas from rural Oregon, state leaders continue to implement policies that are ideologically driven by and designed for urban centers.

What’s one thing you would do as governor to bring rural and urban Oregon together?

As Governor, I plan to spend a lot more time traveling throughout our state and building relationships with local officials and residents. During one of my trips to Eastern Oregon, one of the community leaders said to me “we are so glad you are here. Please don’t forget us when you become Governor.” I will be a Governor who really listens and empowers communities to develop solutions that work for them. I am a big believer in flexible dollars and local solutions, and I will be just as dedicated to meeting the needs of rural Oregon as I am to meeting the needs of our urban centers.

What’s the best thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?

Governor Brown has done a lot of work to support early childhood education. I believe that this investment will serve Oregon children well, giving them the best chance of success as they head into our K-12 system.

What’s the worst thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?

Governor Brown has done several things I don’t agree with but most importantly she did not focus on improving the operation of government. More than one state agency failed in its responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that should have been foreseen. Too many decisions were driven by ideology instead of taking a balanced approach.

Name another Oregon leader, either current or in the past, whose approach to public policy you admire and why.

I admire former Mayor of Portland Vera Katz. She had the grit, determination, and leadership that can only be forged by overcoming adversity. She escaped Nazi Germany with her family as a child, battled cancer more than once and was the first woman to become speaker of the Oregon House. As Mayor, she helped transform Portland into the beautiful city we all once enjoyed so much. She had a vision for Portland and knew how to bring people together and build consensus to make her vision a reality.



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