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The battle for Oregon House 16, which includes Corvallis and Philomath, is a contest of relative political newcomers.

Democrat Sara Gelser, who held the seat since 2005, decided to challenge Republican Betsy Close for the District 8 seat in the Senate, leaving the House post up for grabs.

Corvallis attorney Dan Rayfield is the Democratic nominee. He is making his second run for the Legislature, following an unsuccesful bid to unseat Republican incumbent Frank Morse from the District 8 Senate post in 2010.

The Republican nominee is Jacob Vandever, a political science major at Oregon State University making his first run for elected office. He was a late entry into the race, filing for the GOP primary in March after Brian Cooke dropped out due to a question about his eligibility.

In a district that skews heavily toward the Democratic side, Rayfield has a prohibitive fundraising advantage. According to the latest filings with the Oregon Elections Division, Rayfield has amassed $80,000 in campaign contributions to Vandever’s $2,500.

Both candidates have mounted relatively low-key campaigns, with lots of door-to-door canvassing and no television advertising. Rayfield has been holding twice-monthly chats with voters at a downtown Corvallis bakery, while Vandever says he hopes to launch some Internet advertising in the final weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

The Gazette-Times asked both candidates to respond to a short questionnaire. Their answers are below.

Dan Rayfield

If elected, what would your top three legislative priorities be and how would you achieve them?

Oregon should be a leader when it comes to providing high-quality education, providing family wage jobs, and protecting the quality of life we enjoy. These are priorities that almost all Oregonians agree on. I am committed to providing the leadership necessary to help us make progress toward and eventually realize these goals.

I believe we need to continue to build relationships — among community members, legislators, and other stakeholders — and focus on solutions that all can agree on. For instance, most would agree that decreasing the size of classes in school and supporting early childhood education would lead to better outcomes for our children. This is the sort of low-hanging fruit that can yield real and tangible results for Oregonians. Building relationships around these commonsense issues will enable us to tackle more complex and difficult problems as they inevitably arise.

What makes you a better candidate for this position than your opponent?

As a husband and a father, I have spent that last three years starting a family with my wife. We have experienced the aftermath of crippling student loan debt while raising our son, buying a home, and attempting to attain the same standard of life our parents had. We’ve experienced the tension that comes when large medical bills loom over your household budget. And most importantly, we’ve begun the planning that is necessary to ensure that we will be able to retire down the road and that our son will eventually leave college debt-free.

As not only an attorney but also a small business owner, I’ve personally experienced the ups and downs that come with owning and managing a small business. We are the type of small business that when revenue is down over several months, as owners, we don’t take salaries. We’re the type of small business that if we want to retire, we need to plan ahead. We’re also the type of small business that has experienced the yearly increases in health insurance costs that are unsustainable in the long term.

This is the new reality for many families and many small businesses in our current economy. It’s these experiences, my values, and my commitment to the community that make me the better fit for state representative in Corvallis and Philomath.

How would you reach across the aisle to achieve bipartisan goals?

As a child, I grew up with a father who was a Republican and a mother who was a Democrat. From an early age I had to rationalize their differing viewpoints. Over time, I realized that they both wanted the same things — good schools, a good-paying job, to be safe, and to have health care. The difference between them was how they thought we should go about achieving these goals.

Problem-solving in the Legislature is no different. While we may have different ideas about how to achieve a goal, we need to keep in mind that the end goal is the same. Building relationships founded on common goals, the willingness to compromise when necessary, and being able to think outside the box are essential tools to attain solutions that work for everyone.

Jacob Vandever

If elected, what would your top three legislative priorities be and how would you achieve them?

If elected, my top three legislative priorities would be: campaign finance reform, improving our K-12 absenteeism rates in Oregon, and controlling the cost of higher education.

Campaign finance: Currently Oregon allows unlimited contributions to political campaigns regardless of the source. I would work to place a limit on political contributions to lessen the influence of special interests on our politics and make sure the voices of everyday folks are heard.

K-12 absenteeism: Oregon has the worst absenteeism rates in the nation. I would work to increase the amount of classes that students are excited about going to. This means putting a focus on increasing access to the arts, career/technical classes, and computer science/coding. The most important thing we can do is instill a love of learning in our students and get them excited about going to school again.

Cost of higher education: I would support renewing the tuition freeze that we saw recently from the Legislature. We need to simultaneously have the state invest in higher education while taking a look at the factors driving up the cost of college. I would also fight to make sure that OSU’s statewide public services are properly funded as these are a boon to our entire state.

What makes you a better candidate for this position than your opponent?

My goal is to be the most accessible and transparent member of the Oregon Legislature. Many people are disenfranchised with the current state of politics, and I would actively work to change that. I will be an independent voice in Salem and will not be afraid to stand up to my party when they are wrong. When other politicians spend their time fundraising, I will work every day to keep learning to make sure I make the most educated decision when a vote comes. The only group I will be beholden to is the people of House District 16, and I will do my best to listen to them.

How would you reach across the aisle to achieve bipartisan goals?

I choose my position on issues based on what I believe, not based on where that position falls on the political spectrum. There are plenty of issues that are important to me that I know I could find Democratic allies to work with on. Expanding LGBT rights and finding solutions to LGBT homelessness, combating poverty and addressing wealth disparity by increasing social mobility, and protecting our environment are all issues that I would be interesting in working on.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or


Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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