This year, Oregon voters will be able to cast their ballots in a new Congressional district created as a result of the 2020 Census. Oregon’s 6th Congressional District includes the southwest suburbs of Portland, Salem, Yamhill and Polk counties, as well as parts of Marion, Washington and Clackamas counties.
Joining us now for a debate are two candidates running in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District. Ron Noble is an Oregon state representative from McMinnville. Nate Sandvig is a vice-president at Rye Development, a company that develops hydropower projects.
The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB, I’m Dave Miller. After 40 years with five seats in the US House of Representatives, Oregon is about to get a sixth. The new congressional district includes a chunk of the Portland Metro area and stretches into parts of Marion, Yamhill and Polk Counties. This rare new open seat has attracted a lot of interest. Next Monday, we’ll talk to some of the Democrats who hope to fill it. Today, I’m joined by two of the most prominent Republicans; Ron Noble had a 28 year career in law enforcement, including time as a Chief of the McMinnville Police Department. He’s been elected to three terms as a State Representative from District 24 that includes parts of Yamhill and Washington Counties. Nate Sandvig is a military veteran who served in Iraq. He is currently a Vice President at Rye Development, that is a hydropower company. Ron Noble and Nate Sandvig, welcome.
Ron Noble / Nate Sandvig: Well thank you. It’s good to be here. Thank you.
Dave Miller: I want to start by giving each of you a minute or so to tell our audience who you are and why you’re running for Congress. We chose randomly before the show and Ron Noble, you can go first.
Ron Noble: All right. I’m Ron Noble, and I appreciate the short bio. I’m also a father of five children and grandfather of nine. I’ve lived 47 of my adult years in the new CD-6; Congressional District Six. I’ve had the fortune of being a state representative and being involved in judiciary issues, transportation issues, health care and human service issues. And after the district was formed, it became very apparent to me that these are the same issues we deal with on the federal level. In addition to military and national security issues, we’re all concerned about our community safety. We’re concerned about affordable and accessible healthcare, how we deal with our children and child welfare and senior and disability services and transportation and infrastructure. So that was one of the main reasons I decided to run for Congress. I think it’s a good fit, and I’m ready to hit the ground running.
Miller: Nate Sandvig.
Nate Sandvig: Thanks. I’m a veteran, a West Point graduate, energy executive, running to bring some normality and sanity to life in politics. I’ve been here in the Northwest for over a decade, where four of my kids were all born. I got out of the army at Fort Lewis, coming back from Iraq. I got into energy development here with the mantra, ‘I’d rather develop energy here than get shot at over there.’ So I’ve been gainfully employed in the region here, we now have 100% clean energy mandates, so focused on how to bring wind and solar onto the grid and do it reliably and cost-effectively. In terms of why I’m running, it started out as a parent’s movement here with my kids not being in school and reaching out to my elected officials who seemed AWOL on the job. I quickly realized that the Democrats were held hostage by the unions in terms of getting the kids back into school. So it’s literally turned into a taxpayer and a citizen movement for me. Some of the issues that are important to me, I think they’re important to everybody here, is the economy, getting the cost of living under control. I mean, we’re seeing it at the gas pumps and grocery stores and I think a lot of that stems from energy independence, cheap energy. Making sure we have all the above here.
Miller: Let me wrap only because it’s been a lot longer than one minute. So I want to move on to some questions, but that’s all right. But, I’ll stick with you. What would your top priority be as one member among 435 in the House?
Sandvig: Energy independence, and, we’re working to develop more sources here, cheap sources, reliable sources, cost effective sources, particularly in Oregon, bringing that home with incentives, to help with clean energy to do 100% cost effectively and reliably – that’s the number one issue. And then certainly education, law and order, and having safe streets.
Miller: Ron Noble, what would your top priority be as a member of Congress?
Ron Noble: There are several top priorities, but the first thing I think we need to take care of is our unlimited spending. If we can’t get our spending under control, our economy is going to get in the way of handling some of the other most important priorities like securing our border and ensuring safe communities.
Miller: What are we spending too much on right now?
Noble: Right now, we’re just spending without thinking and without accountability. I think some of the decisions with ARP [American Rescue Plan] dollars were correct, but I know that there’s a lot of concern about how those dollars ended up, where they ended up and not into the hands of the people that needed it. I had the most recent experience of helping my son with his taxes this year, nothing else changed in his tax situation, but he’s getting double the amount of money back. And quite honestly, he doesn’t need it. He would tell me he doesn’t need it. So I understand the need to meet people where they are and give them a hand up, but I think that we need to kind of slow down just the blank check from the federal government and let people keep the money in their hands to begin with.
Miller: Including, perhaps, fewer tax cuts.
Noble: I think we need to take a look at how much the federal government spends in general. I’ve been asked whether or not the federal government should have a balanced budget requirement. I know my experience in Oregon is that the state of Oregon is required to have a balanced budget, but the state of Oregon spends quite a bit of money, and all we do is raise more taxes. And so I think it’s combined…a balanced budget requirement, and at the same time, we need to take a look at what we’re spending money on and ensuring that we’re using it the way the Constitution was designed, and specifically for the federal government, I think we need to leave more money in the hands of people and to the states, and the federal government should be taxing only to provide those things that deal with Constitutional requirements and dealing with national security, border security, and then interstate commerce and ensuring that we are not over-regulating, but promoting interstate commerce and business in the economy.
Miller: Nate Sandvig, you noted that one of the things that really drove you to enter this race is education, in particular schools in Oregon, but the federal government is relatively limited in terms of its role in dictating the way K-12 schools operate, that’s largely left to states. So if education is what drove you, what would your aims be with regards to education as a member of the US Congress?
Sandvig: I think having some leadership and some rhetoric around the issue, just getting kids caught up with the basics, dealing with the consequences of bad policy, not based in science, keeping our kids out of the classroom for so long. So I’m certain you could find some federal funding maybe to help with mental health, suicide, addiction, issues of this bad policy. But again, it boils back to the economy and the budget and trying to create an incentivized real infrastructure, raises, shared prosperity for everybody.
Miller: Ron Noble, you and Nate Sandvig both talk about affordability. Affordable housing in particular has become a major issue in Oregon and in many other states; it is, to some degree, a nationwide issue. Is there a role for Congress in terms of affordable housing?
Noble: You know, I think there is a role in that, supporting the states. I know that in Oregon, we have some unique land use laws and I enjoy those. I enjoy the protection of farmland and forest land, but we have very little buildable land, which means our housing supply is down, which creates elevated prices, and then the homelessness issue, I think Nate talked about it as well, and we have addiction and mental health, and other issues as well, that surely our pandemic has not helped with that at all. But the federal government, I think can support states, I think we need to take a look at over-regulation right now, as has been reported recently, the inclusionary zoning law that passed a few years ago in Oregon appears to have shut down most developments in rental homes, in rental, at least apartment complexes in the Portland area. And the same with some of our rent control in dealing with rental availability. So I think we need to take a look at how we regulate. I think, they’re overly involved in that as well.
Miller: I don’t understand… I want to make sure I understand what you mean. You’d like to see some kind of federal preemption so that states couldn’t have control over zoning decisions like that?
Noble: Oh, no, no, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give that impression at all. I think the federal government can provide assistance with research, development and support. I don’t think the federal government should be directly involved in the housing markets in individual states.
Miller: Nate Sandvig. Where does climate change sit in your list of concerns for this country?
Sandvig: I guess I might be somewhat of a unicorn here. I certainly believe climate change is real. That’s motivated me along with energy independence with doing renewable energy here. It certainly creates a lot of jobs and provides clean energy. I think wind power is one of the cheapest forms of energy out there in terms of new capacity, new energy. And then we want to plug everything in. So I think the challenge is, we need to be realistic about how we balance the grid with clouds, with night and the wind doesn’t always blow. So we need storage. Here, In Oregon, we’re blessed with two very large batteries that fuel hydropower batteries, pumped storage, hydropower and trying to find a way to incentivize those like we have wind and solar with the investment tax credit and the production tax credit. So, again, I think that’s focusing on the grid and then we’re gonna try to plug everything in on, but you know, being a wholistic and I think there’s a lot of challenges with batteries. We certainly don’t want to be fighting lithium wars in 10 years. But really, with my experience and expertise, I think that they can really power our economy, particularly in Oregon in the Pacific Northwest.
Miller: Ron Noble, you opposed efforts at the state level to pass cap and trade legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions. What efforts would you support at the federal level to combat climate change?
Noble: Well, I think first of all, the climate has been changing since the existence of the earth and I’m not a climate change denier, I think we have a responsibility to take care of our amazing natural resources, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. You mentioned cap and trade. Part of the issue there is that the Mid-Atlantic Cap and Trade Alliance on the East Coast was falling apart because these states were pulling out, at the same time we were trying to consider doing the same thing, and I think it was an unwise decision. I am for new technology. I think the private sector is the ones to develop new technology and looking for ways to be cleaner. I expect that we will eventually move off of fossil fuels, but I think we need to do it in a way that is unique and sensitive to the different needs across the nation and that’s where the federal government comes in. I was talking to a group in Portland that were suggesting that I should get an electric bike. But I can’t haul hay with my electric bike, out here in Yamhill County. So there are different needs and different transition periods in the way it works throughout the nation.
Miller: But what role should the federal government play in the transition you’re saying will come, away from fossil fuels?
Noble: I don’t think that they need to control where we’re headed. I think they need to encourage investments, private investments are needed to encourage and… I guess my concern is, right now, at least in the state government, and I see it somewhat federally, is this – the government is trying to control where we’re headed. There is a lot of new technology out there from hydrogen fuel cells and other things that just aren’t being pushed as much as just the electric grid. But 40% of our electric grid comes from coal right now. And so we need to strengthen the grid. Then when electricity does fail, out here in rural America, we have no energy – when a tree falls down across the line or there’s a fire. So there are some ways that we need to encourage this to be done that are smart and I think the federal government can encourage states. Then the grid itself, I mean there are major grids that are, that are coordinated through federal regulation across the United States.
Miller: We just have about three minutes left, so I’ll give each of you about a minute and a half for this. But Nate Sandvig first, you haven’t held elected office before, what experience do you have that has prepared you to be a member of Congress?
Sandvig: I went to West Point where a fair amount of people have been, Eisenhower, so we went to one of the premier leadership institutions in the world and in terms of working with people, teams, managing people.
Miller: He did become a General, Eisenhower did.
Sandvig: Yeah. Well I worked in a very large organization and then working on these very large, billion dollar projects in the region, a lot of consensus building. I think a lot of it comes down to education and looking at issues objectively, the pros and the cons and coming to some decision based on more practicality, certainly with the economy and the cost of life in mind. But just trying to take a little less,... take a little of politics out of you know, running the government, and trying to do it, where people can go about their lives and not have to be worried about what’s going on in DC all the time.
Miller: Ron Noble, you do have experience as a state lawmaker. As I mentioned, elected three times to the State House. What exactly would you apply from your time in Salem to D. C.?
Noble: Probably the biggest thing I learned is that being in the legislature was real similar to walking a beat as a police officer. And if you’re going to be effective in being able to understand the problem you’re addressing, you need to listen to the other side, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to change your mind, but it gives you a better picture of the problem you’re trying to address and the different solutions that are out there. I think I’ve been very effective at doing that in the state legislature and that’s absolutely what I’ll take to Washington DC.
Miller: Ron Noble and Nate Sandvig. Thanks very much.
Noble / Sandvig: Thank you. Thank you.
Miller: Ron Noble and Nate Sandvig are two of the Republican candidates running for Oregon’s newly created Sixth Congressional seat. We actually invited two other candidates, Amy Ryan Coarser and Mike Erickson to join us on this conversation but they declined to participate. As I noted, we are actually going to be having a conversation with Democrats running for this seat, this coming Monday. Tomorrow on the show, we’re going to talk to two members of Portland-based bands about the challenges and the joys of being on tour, again.
If you don’t want to miss any of our shows, you can listen on the NPR One App on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. There’s also our nightly rebroadcast at eight PM. Our amazing Production Staff includes Elizabeth Castillo, Julie Sabatier, Rollie Hernandez, Senior Producer Alison Frost and our Managing Producer, Sheraz Sadiq, Nalin Silva Engineers the show. Our Technical Director is Steven Kray and our Executive Producer is Sage Van Wing. Thanks very much for tuning in to think out loud on OPB and KLCC. I’m Dave Miller, we’ll be back tomorrow.
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