In the Democratic primary next month, a freshman legislator and a public defense attorney will stand out, with a large segment of unincorporated eastern Washington County.
D-Portland, who represents a district stretching between Portland and Washington County, moved from Northwest Portland to the Oak Hills neighborhood north of the United States 26 last fall to run in House District 34. She decided to move westward into Washington County after being drawn into the same district as, D-Portland, during his redistricting last September.
Reynolds, a pediatrician, said the move would enable her to run in the district where she has served patients for over two decades. The newly expanded district includes Bethany, Oak Hills, Terra Linda, Cedar Mill, and Bonny Slope. The high-income district has an overwhelming Democratic advantage in voter registration.
Jennifer Kinzey, a lawyer and former prosecutor of Multnomah County, is the second candidate in the Democratic primary. She lives in Bethany and is for office for the first time.
After the epidemic put healthcare workers at the forefront, Reynolds leaned on her expertise as a pediatrician in the House, advocating for improved access to healthcare and childcare as a member of the Behavioral Health and Early Childhood committees. She has been a vocal advocate of pandemic restrictions and COVID-19 vaccinations, on social media.
Kinzey, the author of a series of short films about Ridehalgh & Associates' juvenile court cases, said in a filing that she has become dissatisfied with the absence of government-focused conversations.
Kinzey, an attorney and mother of a biracial child, said she understands firsthand the difficulties faced by families in obtaining social services as well as affordable and culturally-informed childcare. She said she will support those issues in the House.
Both candidates said they will support new policies aimed at combating homelessness, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and campaign financing limitations, but were on their own.
Reynolds has raised more than $23,000 for her campaign this year, including $39,000 already banked from previous years, according to campaign finance reports as of April 12. She has received $2,500 each from a political committee for Travelers Insurance, two representing doctors, $2000 from a political committee representing hospitals, and $1,000 each from the American Federation of Teachers, the state nurse's union, and the candidate committees for Barbara Smith Warner and Rachel Prusak.
She has received numerous endorsements including from Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, and a handful of Democratic state legislators and elected officials in Washington County. She has also received the assistance of the Oregon AFL-CIO, SEIU Oregon, and Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council, among others.
Kinzey has raised $1,100 so far, owing a $1,000 grant from the Campaign Committee of the Oregon House Democrats and a total of $100 million in small contributions.
Here are two candidates' answers to nine key questions asked by The Oregonian/OregonLive, which is intended to assist Democratic party voters make their choices in the May 17 primary. Some responses have been minorly edited for clarity.
After relocating in September, Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, who represents House District 34, declared following his decision that he would take office in the newly redrawn House District 27 in Beaverton.
What specific point in your record would you point to that makes you the best Democratic candidate for Oregon and your district this time?
Kinzey: My current work as a public defender puts me in the midst of our social services. Despite a failure of the Legislature to act, my district has faced waitlists for needed services for several weeks to months. I am also acquainted with culturally-informed and affordable childcare.
Reynolds: I am a legislator and a pediatrician who cared for thousands of children. My medical expertise explains what is and what is not working for Oregon families. I see this play out in my clinic and I am now involved in a team that is directing transformational expenditure to greatly increase access. I will follow through and make sure these investments truly improve the lives of Oregonians.
Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are among the most important issues for voters. City, county, nonprofit, and state leaders all have to play roles in addressing these two issues. Think about the role the Legislature can play, how do you rate the work that lawmakers have done to date, and what other, if anything, do you think?
Kinzey: More work to be done. People and families seeking housing services often wait months before something becomes available. We must invest more in mixed housing. If housing developments were required to have a certain percentage of units available at each income bracket (housing services, low income, middle income, and upper income), we might combat homelessness, increase the number of affordable housing options, and avoid zoning problems around building entire developments solely for one type of housing.
Reynolds: The results are important, and Oregon is failing our homeless neighbors. I am grateful that the legislature prohibited evictions and prioritized rent relief, keeping tens of thousands of Oregonians in their homes during the economic and public health crisis of COVID. And, while our state continues to devote unprecedented resources to expanding short-term and permanent housing, we must do more at every level of government. We need broad behavioral health services, and we need many more units of affordable housing.
Oregon leaders had fought apolitic reform and accountability law in 2020 and 2021, then appeared to slow down in 2022, when they decided not to retroactively respond to non-unanimous jury judgments. What can be done about criminal justice reform?
Kinzey: Every county has to be held accountable by a community court to discuss alternative approaches to misdemeanors. It doesn't need to cost taxpayers big amounts of money or hinder the rehabilitation of those accused of crimes. Alternative resolutions can provide the need for community help to achieve appropriate results. There is currently a chance for DAs to pursue charges and jail time for parents making progress in DHS cases, resulting in children being detained unnecessarily.
Reynolds: We must allow for the review and retrial of defendants found guilty through non-unanimous jurys. This is a complex issue and must be implemented with diligence and thoroughness. Every Oregonian has the right to representation, and we must ensure that the person with behavioral health problems receive the appropriate trauma-informed care while incarcerated and in appropriate settings. We need to, however, investigate and re-examine the imbalances in our systems.
Thank you to all of our fantastic volunteers, interns, and my legislative colleagues for coming to us for our canvass weekend, day 1.
During the pandemic, students in Oregon suffered significant academic and emotional losses. But no public assessments have shown how the districts they received to address these problems, nor has the Oregon Department of Education told the public how the money is being used to meet their greatest needs. What kind of oversight or policy, if any, would you support to ensure funds are allocated to help students recover from the disease?
Kinzey: Transparency. Education needs to have a receipt showing where it went. Many individuals who have individual education plans for special educational services or needing extra help in school aren't able to access the services they need. When they are, it may only address one obstacle out of many. We must ensure that our resources are being used to assist all of our children so they can succeed.
Reynolds: We need improved government accountability and transparency to monitor the impact of a policy or an expenditure with clearly defined, and regularly updated metrics and objectives. Despite heroic efforts by teachers, schools, and families, distance learning just did not work for some students. The Oregon Department of Education and individual schools must evaluate and update where our students are and what students need to achieve their full potential. Together, we must work to ensure that every Oregon child is capable of achieving an equitable, trauma-informed educational system.
Oregon voters have shown they prefer limiting the importance of money in politics. Yet plans to set limits on campaign contributions have repeatedly reached a deadlock. What you would advise people who might be skeptical about legislative's willingness to push back against opposing limits?
Kinzey: My donors are individuals, with the exception of the Democratic Party of Oregon, who granted me $1000 worth of help to campaign. None of my donors are averse to campaign finance reform. While Democrats are known to be more progressive, they still benefit from the current system of campaign contributions. It is difficult to bite the hand that feeds you. I have no issue and continue to support campaign finance reform with contribution limits and transparency.
Reynolds: I understand voters' cynicism. It certainly appears that powermakers want to maintain the system they suspected of helping them in the first place. Nevertheless, we must listen to the voters who supported campaign finance reform, including limits on campaign contributions. The objective is to create a truly representative government with elected leaders from all over the country. I will work to develop this policy.
Oregon has tens of thousands of public records legislation exemptions, making it a country that is less transparent. Is there any public records exemption you think should be removed? Or is there a new public records exemption you believe legislators should add?
Kinzey: Some exemptions are necessary, like those that involve privileged communication to clergy or medical professionals. Some are unconcerned, as is the business seeking government assistance. I believe that the greatest step we can take, other than to eliminate old or completely unnecessary exemptions, is to increase the number of exemptions that may be disclosed at a judge's discretion. Some mediations require confidentiality, and others require that information. This is because it is important to prevent the system from being abused.
Ironically, it is extraordinarily difficult to locate meaningful assessments of Oregon's public records exemptions. The list of record exemptions on the Oregon Department of Justice website is 28 pages long! I believe there is more transparency in government, at all levels. I do not believe that my lack of knowledge on this subject would make me aware which exemptions should be added or removed, and why. However, I am eager to participate in an open dialogue on this topic in order to advocate for the removal or addition of exemptions that interfere with accountability.
If you were elected, which committee would you most expect to serve on, and why?
Kinzey: I am interested in serving on the Behavioral Health, Early Childhood, Housing, Human Services, and Legal Committees. If I had to pick one, I would say Revenue. All of the good intentions and words on a page will not get far without the appropriate funding.
Reynolds: I intend to continue my work on the House Behavioral Health and Early Childhood committees as well as the Joint Subcommittee on Ways and Means for Natural Resources. I will seek an appointment to House Health Care. This suite of appointments will enable me to examine healthcare policy, address the unique needs of children, and to transform therapy for mental health and substance use disorders. I will continue to use public health as a member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee.
Before making campaign calls, Jennifer Kinzey (middle) poses for a photo with Melissa Aguilar and Kylie Cin.
A lot of Oregon lawmakers' work in the last two years involved distributing billions in federal help and windfall state revenues to help with the pandemic response and other state spending priorities. What is the main concern or need in our state that was not addressed during this time? How would you deal with it?
Kinzey: Social services addiction recovery, domestic violence education, housing, mental health (including access to family therapy), individual educational plans, child behavior services, and residential care options for foster care have all been shamefully ignored, as they haven't had to cut their services due to the epidemic. These programs are vital to ensuring that Oregonians get the help they need to help them recover. We must use this money to increase the number of beds or people who have provided these services so that everyone who wants the assistance can be
Reynolds: As a result of the legislative session that is guiding Oregon's recovery from the epidemic, we must make every effort to make sure that these dollars do what we promised. We must restore trust in government agencies and processes through improved accountability and accountability. We must defy long-overdue resources and the need to hire, hire, and retain attorneys to defend all Oregonians.
Some Oregon lawmakers would rarely interview journalists if they wanted to understand their policymaking and how it might impact Oregonians. All-virtual hearings, which included no opportunities for impromptu public questions and no opportunity for media questions, made some lawmakers even more inaccessible. What the heck would you interact with journalists?
Kinzey: I believe in transparency. It may be busy, but I am happy to invite you along as I work to ensure that the public has transparent access. Public discourse, effective talking to the people who are experiencing difficulties, and sorting out solutions, is what I love about politics.
Reynolds: I keep an eye on key areas that I am working on and I will continue to do so. I was first elected in 2020, and my legislative practice was whole in the era of remote hearings, so I have little experience with impromptu questioning. I certainly appreciate the possibility to discuss current policies and my arguments for future legislation, as well as my support or opposition to several bills and programs.
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