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A race to represent Corvallis and Philomath's House District 16 in the state Capitol in Salem pits two women who share some background similarities but little else in common.

Both Sara Gelser, 36, a Corvallis mother of four, and Cook, 53, a Philomath resident with three children and four grandchildren, started in politics because of an interest in education.

Both women are approachable and readily answer any question with candor. Both speak of prioritizing a state budget that is expected to fall $3.3 billion short in the biennium to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and keeping essential public services. But when it comes to specifics, the similarities stop.

Cook said that campaigning for her first state elected office has taught her "Corvallis and Philomath are very different places." She said she's hoping to "restore balance" to the Legislature which she sees as too liberal.

Her family has owned R&T Logging in Philomath for 30 years. She said in interviews and during a forum Monday that she would work to ensure Oregon natural resource laws do not stand in the way of logging, fisheries and forestry.

She said nuclear energy programs need to be revised as a sustainable and viable alternative. She also termed global warming an unproven belief and said any efforts to address global warming must not impose economic burdens.

Cook is candid about not yet having the answers to questions on how she would implement some of her ideas to roll back regulations or enact cuts to one of the state's most costly agencies, Health and Human Services, but she promises to pursue such answers with honesty and integrity if elected.

Both Cook and Gelser said the Public Employee Retirement System needs reform because it is bankrupting the state, and both favor bringing PERS beneficiaries (Cook is one herself) to such reform efforts.

Cook also is candid in her conservative position on social issues, opposing abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother. Gelser is staunchly pro-choice.

Cook supports Arizona-style legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration in the absence of comprehensive legislation and does not favor legalization of same-sex unions in marriage, although she does favor civil unions to ensure that same-sex couples have equal protection under the law.

Gelser is against the Arizona laws that require proof of citizenship and pointed out that such programs can impose unintended hardships, such as Oregon's allowing the state DMV to oversee who has proper documentation under the national "Real ID" program.

Their specific ideas are addressed in the accompanying candidate profiles.


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