Questions for the candidates: Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner on the environment, affordable housing and political extremism

By OPB staff (OPB)
Oct. 25, 2022 12 p.m.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Democratic candidate in Oregon’s 5th congressional district, 2022.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Democratic candidate in Oregon’s 5th congressional district, 2022.

Courtesy of Jamie McLeod-Skinner

Editor’s Note: Oregon’s 5th Congressional District has drawn considerable national attention for the November midterm elections, in no small part because longtime Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader was unseated in the primaries. That’s led some political prognosticators to declare the race a toss up between Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. OPB reached out to both candidates to get their views on issues that are top of mind for voters this November. Here are the responses from McLeod-Skinner.


Do you believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election?

No. Fact-based review of allegations of fraud have demonstrated there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Candidates who perpetuate the fraud myth are undermining public trust and preventing our government from working for the people.

Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democratic republic. We need to provide voter access and system integrity. This includes ending partisan gerrymandering, protecting and expanding voting rights, and putting into place campaign finance reform to ensure the government listens to the people and not just corporate interests – then respect the results when the ballots are counted. Spreading false rumors only promotes fear and chaos.

Protecting our democracy means respecting the peaceful transition of power. I have won and lost elections. It sucks to lose. But having worked in former war zones — where I have seen the result of failed democracies — I know the importance of respecting free and fair elections, regardless of how we feel about the outcome. Those who participated in the January 6 insurrection — and those who tacitly support it — are a threat to our country. The violence we saw against the Capitol Police on January 6th should be condemned without excuse. We need elected leaders who will protect and strengthen our democracy and ensure all voters can participate in our democratic process, regardless of political party.

How accessible do you find voting in Oregon?

Oregon’s automatic voter registration, vote-by-mail system, and paid postage is a model for the nation. The foundation of a democratic republic is an accessible and secure system of voting. Potential improvements include same day registration, more dropboxes in rural areas, automatic translation (with review measures for accuracy), assistance for voters with disabilities, and ranked choice or STAR voting to determine voter preference.

What is one policy you’d advocate for in Congress to reduce the effects of inflation in your district?

The cost of prescription drug prices impacts virtually every family in my district. Congressional Democrats recently took an important step with the Inflation Reduction Act, which began the process of lowering the cost of Insulin. I advocate for expanding that policy by having Medicare negotiate all prescription drug prices. Pharmaceutical companies should be able to make a fair profit, but not be able to price gouge, especially for lifesaving drugs.

What federal policies would you support to reduce wildfire risks in Oregon?

The risk of wildfire is severe in many parts of my district. I recently came face to face with the impact of wildfires when I led wildfire recovery efforts as Interim City Manager in Talent, a city which had lost a third of its homes and businesses to wildfire. Most of the homes lost were those of farmworkers and seniors on fixed incomes. The impact was personal for me: the fire started in the town where I graduated high school, members of my family were on evacuation alert on both ends of the fire, and a friend lost her home. I developed the city’s remarkable team, secured recovery and security resources, and managed the beginning of the city’s rebuilding process. I wrapped up my tenure with an assessment of lessons learned, to help the city be better prepared for the next crisis. That experience gave me a good sense of how the federal government can be more helpful in providing emergency resources and supporting local efforts.


Policies to reduce wildfire risks include investments in preparing for wildfire, mitigating risks, improving emergency response, and changing our long term trajectory of climate impact by investing in a sustainable renewable energy grid. Once an emergency has been declared, more rapid deployment of resources is needed and technical support for on-the-ground decision making for impacted communities.

How would help the region manage its water supply, especially as much of the district is undergoing prolonged drought?

The long-term drought we are facing is impacting our urban areas, natural resources, and causing our family farms to go under. I have engaged with farmers and water managers to both provide drought solutions and to prevent the crisis from resulting in community conflict, working across political parties to find viable solutions to improve water access for our farms and natural systems. Farmers are proud people, and the impacts of this sustained drought have been devastating.

In addition to emergency relief, we need to invest in better management of our limited resources through expanded water infrastructure, encourage more sustainable and equitable state water policy, and stem the long term impact of the drought by investing in climate impact reduction, including a renewable energy grid. We need to bring stakeholders together to find solutions.

My background as a water law attorney and a civil engineer provides me with a deeper understanding of issues and policies impacting agriculture and water management. In a number of capacities, including in my current role on the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, I have worked with Oregon’s farmers and ranchers on a range of issues, including drought relief, water access, and wildfire prevention and recovery.

Oregon has been a frequent site for political extremism in recent years. Why do you think that is, and what is Congress’ role in addressing it?

Oregon has also provided models for collaborative, bi-partisan solutions for natural resource management, such as the high Desert Partnership. In my role as an OWEB Board Member, I have advocated for investing in such partnerships because of the profound importance of collaboration to not only solve our most pressing problems, but also to avoid political extremism.

In my role on the Jefferson County Education Service District Board, I regularly work with my colleagues of different political perspectives to focus on providing resources and support for our students, families, and school districts. I am focused on bringing people together to work together to address our common challenges, rather than pitting us against each other with the dog whistles that feed extremism. That’s why I’m supported by people across the political spectrum and by the Independent Party of Oregon.

I’ve traveled thousands of miles across Oregon’s urban and rural areas, listening to thousands of Oregonians. The bottom line is that, regardless of party affiliation, Oregonians want to be able to put a roof over our head and food on our table. We want opportunities for our kids and healthcare for our families when they’re sick. We want to feel safe in our communities and not have our homes burn down or our family farms go under. Democracy is an active choice that we make. We choose to deal with the complexity of the diversity of thought rather than the danger of extremism.

Congress’ role is to invest the resources necessary to support the on-the-ground work being done to build the partnerships that foster local solutions. And we need to ensure that all voters can participate in our democratic process, regardless of party affiliation.

Do you believe Congress should take action on abortion access following the overturning of Roe v. Wade? What action, if any, should they take?

Yes, access to reproductive health care is part of our fundamental personal freedoms as Americans. As a member of Congress, I would reinstate the protection of Roe v. Wade and the other privacy-based decisions that are now at risk, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. In the interim, we need to protect the right to seek an out-of-state abortion and ensure protections for doctors who provide abortions where they remain legal. We must also ensure protection and privacy for abortion data. Congress needs to overturn the Hyde Amendment to ensure women in the military and those dependent on the Indian Health Services, as well as their partners and dependents, can have access to a full range of reproductive healthcare and choice as part of their health insurance.

A lack of affordable housing is impacting families across the country, including in Central Oregon. What specific strategies do you have for tackling this problem?

Affordable housing is a huge issue in urban and rural areas throughout the district. We need to increase housing stock and provide wrap-around services for those struggling with homelessness. Congress should invest targeted Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds into affordable housing for both rental and home ownership, to enable people to move past generational poverty. I am currently working on a model affordable home ownership project in southern Oregon, to assist wildfire survivors, using a land trust model to ensure that the project establishes long-term affordability for the region while enabling homeowners to build equity in their homes. I have also worked on projects that provide affordable housing for targeted sectors, such as teachers or first responders, that help address the housing shortage and support critical professionals within our communities.

Housing is a personal issue for me. When I was a kid, I recall that when our rent went up, it came out of our food budget. That is why I have experience working on this issue, and I’m the only candidate in this race that has experience planning, building, and project-managing affordable housing.