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Oregon House District 11 2022 Primary Election: Democrats

Nina Brenner

Nina Brenner, a resident of Scio, is a retired database analyst and software engineer who has lived in Linn County for 14 years, 30 in the central Willamette Valley. Along the way, she has earned an associate’s degree from Linn-Benton Community College in agriculture, a bachelor’s in computer science from Western Oregon University, and a master’s in biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She worked as a systems and data analyst for Hewlett Packard, and has a K-12 teaching credential. She also has run a home business focusing on word processing. Her political experience is as a Democratic Linn County Precinct Committee member.
“My goal is to ensure that my children and grandchildren, as well as you and yours, can thrive for generations to come,” she says.
Contact: [email protected] / Twitter @brenner4_hd11

Mary K. Cooke

Mary K. Cooke is a Lebanon resident who has lived a year in the district. Her family is “three wonderful dogs” and she enjoys spending spare time “having fun with the neighbors and their children.”
A native of Portland, she graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. She has worked in sales, marketing and advertising for more than 30 years. She has been a neighborhood leader for Linn County Democrats, and has been active with the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, the Lebanon Downtown Association and Toastmasters.
Contact: (541) 525-0162

Renee Windsor-White

Renee Windsor-White, of Lebanon, did not submit a completed questionnaire. A graduate of Eureka College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, she went on to earn a master’s degree from Yale University Divinity School in pastoral ministry. She is an interim administrative assistant for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oregon and Southwest Idaho, and provides pulpit supply for First Christian Church in Silverton. She also co-directs Asian Dogs Rescue Allies.
Contact: [email protected]

Describe your view of the proper role of government under the U.S. and Oregon constitutions and how you, as a state representative, would carry out your responsibilities as a legislator accordingly.
Cooke: Once a person has taken an oath of office, it is his or her responsibility to uphold the law in the most consistent way upon his/her conscience, meaning that one must have integrity. No such privileges should be abused in any way. As a House representative, it would be my duty to serve the people of District 11 in such a way as to represent all people, whether they were of my party affiliation or not.
Brenner: The role of government is to ensure that people have the wise counsel and resources they need in order to thrive in the present and for generations to come. As a state representative, I would vote according to the Democratic Party platform.

Why did you decide to run for the District 11 House seat?
Brenner: I’m running to provide representation for progressive voters in HD-11.
Cooke: The more knowledgeable I become about our area and the community at large the more passionate I am. A lot is at stake for this community, and someone needs to stand up and let their voices be heard.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Oregon in the area of budget/state finances and what solutions would you propose to address those?
Cooke: The state received more revenue than expected which it pays back to Oregonians through the kicker program. This may make planning for years with lower revenue more difficult.
Brenner: Oregon needs stable funding for infrastructure and services to Oregonians, and fair taxation.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Oregon in the area of education and what solutions would you propose to address those?
Brenner: Provide stable funding for public schools K-12 and beyond. Ensure that families and their students have housing and access to nutritious food, transportation, and other supports to ensure students can learn.
Cooke: Learning loss and behavioral issues are some of the largest challenges in education right now. The Student Success Act has helped provide means to address learning loss. It included an Early Learning Account that focused on high-quality early care and education for underserved children under the age of 5 and their families. We also need to recruit more counselors in all schools to work with students to address behavioral problems and to educate staff, so they have the tools to respond effectively during episodes of bad behavior.
Teacher recruiting and retention is another problem that needs to be addressed. Addressing behavioral issues will certainly help but there is also the large workload to contend with.

Crime rates and the role and need for law enforcement have raised concerns in recent years in Oregon. What do you see as necessities for the future of law enforcement in our state? How do you intend to implement your ideas, if elected?
Cooke: Law enforcement is constantly under scrutiny but not much has been done about the laws they enforce. Over the years the police have been put in a position of being the “fix all.” They are expected to do so much more than the jobs that they were hired to do. Illicit narcotics like meth and heroin are too easily accessible and lead to violent crimes. Drastic changes need to be made in our mental health and drug rehabilitation system. Mental health disorders and drug addiction go hand in hand. Services for mental health and drug abuse are lacking nationwide, and that is no exception in Linn County.
Brenner: Thriving, engaged communities have lower crime rates. I would support policies that ensure all citizens in HD-11 have safe and comfortable housing, living wage employment, adequate transportation, recreational and educational opportunities, and excellent nutrition and healthcare. This would take the burden of dealing with social services off of law enforcement so they can focus on hard-core criminals.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Oregon in the area of transportation and what solutions would you propose to address those?
Brenner: All people, but especially those of us in rural communities where we have longer distances to travel, need affordable, reliable, and convenient transportation to get where we need to go in our own towns as well as nearby communities. I would seek the guidance of experts in the field as well as community members’ ideas.
Cooke: Significant congestion in many of our communities and aging infrastructure (especially bridges) are the biggest challenges in transportation. Public transit systems could be the answer but adding new roadways may be more economical.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Oregon in the area of environmental protection or lack thereof and what solutions would you propose to address those?
Cooke: With the drought that Oregon has undergone for the past 20 years, the heatwave we experienced last summer, the wildfires the year before and other signs, it is clear we have already been heavily impacted by climate change. However, there is a lot that Oregon state government can do to reduce its effects on our community.
Fossil fuels are the main culprit of our ecological collapse. More electric car charging networks need to be installed. The federal government has allocated $52M for this purpose and is only the beginning of reducing the fossil fuel effect on our environment.
Farmers need to be educated in regenerative agriculture. Good land use planning can help prevent carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere.
Brenner: One immediate and urgent environmental threat is factory farming and CAFO (confined animal feeding operations). We need a moratorium on these until we can figure out if and how they can be a part of our economy while preserving local waterways and natural resources, as well as family farms. Legislative action could update land use laws to locate CAFOs in industrial zones instead of on pristine farmland.

The lack of affordable housing and homelessness have become big issues in Oregon. What do you see as necessary steps to address these issues?
Brenner: One essential component is to have incentives for builders to construct high-quality, affordable housing. Another essential component is to have wraparound health, mental health, employment, and social services to help Oregonians transition to secure and stable housing.
Cooke: The role of state government is implementing intelligent zoning laws. With high-density housing we can provide low-income housing to more people per household. We need to use public money wisely by providing tax credits like the “Affordable Housing Construction Excise Tax” to developers to help fund future affordable housing projects.
Also, we need to educate the public as to why homelessness occurs whether it be due to economic collapse, domestic violence, or low wages that make it difficult to live. We need the public’s support to also provide shelters and social services to those that are marginalized.

What are top issues you see in the area of healthcare in Oregon? How would you address those, if elected?
Cooke: Substance abuse and mental health are two issues that I would like to see addressed if elected. There needs to be treatments with scientists and statisticians alongside each other to see which programs and treatments work.
Also, state reps need to pressure our federal representatives to get disability claims resolved in a few months. These are three major causes of homelessness. I would also like to see dental added to Medicare benefits. Also, we need to continue to try to lower drug costs.
Brenner: Ensure all citizens have access to primary and preventive care, as well as resources to address mental health and substance use disorders and support recovery. Improve the health of our communities by supporting policies that ensure HD-11 residents have access to safe housing; educational and recreational opportunities; living wage employment; high quality nutritious food; and convenient transportation.

In addition to the areas above, what are the biggest issues you see facing rural Oregon and, particularly, the residents of the 11th District?
Brenner: The two Linn County factory chicken farms that are in the permit process should be halted until there can be a legislative solution to locating Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in industrial zoning instead of EFU (Exclusive Farm Use) where the pristine waterways, farmland, and scenic country roads in HD 11 would be irrevocably damaged.
Cooke: Economically disadvantaged rural communities are often left to the wayside because our federal government supports corporate needs with subsidies.
After learning that the corporate giant, Foster Farms has been slated to move into our area I’m concerned that nothing will be done to prevent them from coming in and without regulations.
Millions of chickens means tons of poultry manure that contain ammonia gas that will not only enter the air but is also detrimental to our water quality and quantity. All of which has a negative effect on the health and welfare of the people living nearby.

What is your sense of the level of citizen awareness/involvement in the 11th District? What, if anything, needs to be done to improve in this area and, if you think this is a problem, what do you propose to do about it?
Cooke: I’m impressed with the level of awareness in this community. They certainly have needs that need to be addressed and with the right legislation we can make that difference for them.
Brenner: The events of the last few years have resulted in more people learning about and getting involved in government at all levels. Many of us had the opportunity and equipment to learn how to Zoom and use technology to connect with each other.
Perhaps ensuring access to wifi and equipment can enable even more people to participate and get involved. Expanding on the Affordable Connectivity Program would be one way to accomplish this, as well as partnering with local libraries.

In the field of candidates in this year’s primary election, what sets you apart from the other individuals running for this office?
Brenner: This year the Linn County Democrats have collaborated to make sure progressive voters have options when selecting a candidate. All of us care about our community and neighbors. You can’t go wrong voting for a HD-11 Linn County Democrat!
Cooke: I am a fresh set of eyes and ears. I have been listening to the needs of the community and they don’t seem satisfied with how the incumbent is voting.