Girod, Cate discuss issues in town hall appearance at park

By Benny Westcott
Lebanon Local
Republican State Sen. Fred Girod (District 9, Stayton), and Rep. Jamie Cate (District 17, Lebanon) held a discussion with a few dozen Lebanon residents at Christopher Columbus Park on Saturday, Aug. 7, as part of a town hall schedule that saw the legislators also making stops in Sweet Home, Mill City and Stayton over a two-day period.
“It’s extremely important that we be able to get in touch with our base,” Girod said. “And the reason that’s important to me and Jamie, is that when we’re in the Legislature, we are surrounded by people that don’t think the same way we do. So sometimes it’s nice to get grounded.”
“We have a good chance of doing well in this election cycle,” he continued. “The governor is extremely unpopular. Even the Democrats don’t like the governor. So we are hoping to pick up seats.”
Cate, who was elected to the position last November after Sherrie Sprenger stepped down to run for the Linn County Commission, expressed disappointment in the results of the last legislative session.

A resident voices his concerns to his representatives.

“It feels like we don’t have enough to show for our efforts,” she said. “That is really a testament to how important it is to try to win some balance back in our state.”
“We are tired of seeing how much the governor can do with unchecked power,” she added. “We are tired of not having local control that our communities want and need.”
Girod touched on this public frustration, saying, “Moms are really upset about what is happening in the education community. And people are tired of losing their civil rights. Those sorts of issues are going to play in our favor for the first time in a long time.”
He noted that an important area in the next election will be Salem, with three Senate seats and some House seats “up for grabs.”
“Please pay attention after redistricting where the swing seats are going to be, because that is where you can have the greatest impact,” he told the attendees.
Cate added: “We need every person we can to vote with us and not drive out people who are more on the moderate side of the spectrum. So anything that’s going to be messaging points that gets more and more people to join us, rather than be off-putting to them and drive them away, are the messaging points we need to be sticking to.”
Girod noted that in the last election, he spent only $750 of the nearly $2 million he raised on his own campaign. Instead, he spent his money on races on the coast, Salem and Bend.
“We are never brushing you off if we say that if you want to help us, go help these people,” Cate said. “Because the fact is, we will be able to better represent you in the Legislature and your needs if we have better numbers. So helping us help you is sometimes sending you to go help others. Maybe don’t donate to us. Maybe use some of your political tax credit to help a swing seat.”
Both Girod and Cate mentioned multiple times their desire to bring “balance” back to the Legislature.

Melinda Davis, left, and Mary Ann Raschki, both of Lebanon, participate in the meeting.

“A lot of my friends are Democrats,” Girod said. “We’re really not criticizing Democrats. What we’re criticizing is the imbalance that exists in the state. There’s no check.”
Bob Thomas, 67, of Lebanon, who described himself as a “proud Democrat,” urged the officials to reach across the aisle.
“As a Democrat, you guys represent me as well as all of the Republicans in this county,” he said. “I really get irritated at the Democrat vs. Republican dynamic. I go for issues. I wish that the Legislature would do the same thing and talk about issues.”
Talk turned to gun rights early.
One attendee said, “There’s a lot of people who have been disappointed with the last term, mainly regarding Senate Bill 554 (a bill to establish firearm storage requirements), and why the Republicans did not walk out to stop the quorum. We watered it down, and it’s not as bad as it could have been, but we still lost some of our Second Amendment rights.”
“In the past couple of sessions we’ve had walkouts that were the right tool at the right time, and I think that set the expectation that it was the magic bullet of how to solve things,” Cate offered.

Bernard Pasqualini poses a question.

“But there is a lot that shifts over time with the power dynamics and kind of the vibes and agendas that are being pushed in the Democrat caucus.
“Ultimately, a lot has shifted that made a walkout not the effective tool that it was previously. It would have cost us more in the long run in the war of trying to get balance back, so these erosions on our rights don’t keep happening every gosh darn session.”
Girod noted that seats Republicans won on the coast and in Bend despite “high Democrat numbers” were facing recalls if Senate Republicans walked out.
“To protect them was a primary reason that a lot of people didn’t walk,” he said.
“The Ninth Circuit Court passed a law that said that they can regulate gun rights,” he added. “I don’t like it,” Girod asserted. “My house burned down (in last summer’s Beachie Creek fires) and I lost 22 guns. I was born and raised with guns.”
He discussed his party’s plan for opposing gun bills.
“There are going to be more gun bills. There just is,” he said. “So we are going to have to try to get the numbers changed so we can stop them.”
Cate noted that Democrats proposed House rules for a $500-per-day fine for representatives who walk out.
Election integrity was another primary topic.
“In Oregon, the supermajority has been passing things that further erode voter integrity,” Cate said, noting that the recently passed (House Bill 3291) would allow county clerk offices to begin counting ballots as soon as they’re returned, rather than having to wait until 8 p.m. election night.
She added that it also allows for the elimination of the secrecy envelope, and for mailed ballots to still be received up to seven days after the election ends. She called these measures “very concerning, when the Republicans have fought so hard to get checks-and-balances restored.”
Girod added that ballots counted after the election “don’t even have to have a postmark. Now that’s a freeway to fraud.”
He went on to say, “The early counting of ballots really bothers me. I’m sorry, but people don’t keep their mouths shut. They just don’t.
“In the Legislature, there’s no one I would trust with information, because information is king. If you know that somebody is in a tight race, all you have to do is go out and tell a union or whatever to ballot-harvest, and then we’ve got a problem.”
Still, Cate expressed her faith in state elections, informing people that counting is a public process that takes place in county courthouses, and citizens can sign up to be an official “watcher.”
“Every county clerk that I have spoken with, they take their counts so seriously,” she said. “They take great pride in that. The real issue for me is having that same confidence in the processes up in the Portland metro area.”
One citizen questioned Gov. Kate Brown’s ability to issue mandates through state agencies like the Oregon Health Authority.
Girod replied that almost all agencies are under the governor’s purview, noting that the Legislature has the right to “take that power back” if they vote accordingly.
Bernard Pasqualini, 75, of Lebanon, expressed his desire for a grassroots movement.
“We went up against the most powerful nation in the world,” he said. “So, we can conquer the Goliaths of our day. And we can do it now. When we say we can’t, it really means that we don’t want to.
“And I’m tired of saying we can’t. Because if that was the case, the United States would not be what it is.”
One woman said, “We’re mad. We are angry about what’s going on. When you’ve got a district attorney that isn’t going to prosecute a terrorist in Portland, and isn’t going to prosecute unlicensed drivers as they hit and kill people … they aren’t following the rule of law.”
“All I’ve heard from you guys is poor, poor pitiful Republicans,” she told the two legislators. “We’re not poor or pitiful. We want to fight. Organize us.”
“We are trying to take back the state,” Girod replied. “Trust me, no one is more frustrated than me. I lost my house because people don’t believe in managing the forest and think that cutting the trees is bad. I’m fed up with it. What you’re voicing, I feel. And I wouldn’t be (in Salem) if I didn’t feel that. But the reality is, we have to switch the numbers, or it’s going to come out the same way.”
Cate suggested voters get involved with the Linn County Republican Party, but expressed her desire to be blind to such affiliations.
“I am a person who wants to believe that regardless of what party you are registered as, I want to care more about who the person is,” she said. “There are some amazing people who are Democrats that get elected, and they truly, to their core, believe that they are going to get in there and make a difference within their own party to have more bipartisanship and vote their conscience.
“And then they realize what a machine the supermajority is. So, as frustrating as it is for me, I would never, no matter how much I loved somebody and believed in them as a person, elect a Democrat to a Democrat supermajority that operates like this one.”
Critical race theory and immigration came up near the town hall’s conclusion.
“We have fought against critical race theory,” Cate said. “And we have fought against things that are going to just keep making us a magnet for the homeless crisis and a magnet for people who have come into the country illegally. We want to make sure Oregonians are taken care of first, and we are stable, before we compound our housing crisis.”
“We want to care for people. We absolutely do,” she continued. “But we want to do it in a manner that is safe for everybody and keeps all of our best interests in mind. Allowing more people to come in while we are in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t always make the most sense with what we are trying to accomplish.”
The mask mandate for K-12 students to start the upcoming school year was brought up as well.
One audience member called it “psychological child abuse.”
Another said, “It is a health hazard for kids to be wearing masks, and expelling and inhaling bacteria.”
“The governor is paying attention to how vocal angry parents are,” Cate replied. “It is making an impression. Keep it up.”