Politics doesn’t always suck

 

Last updated 11/1/2022 at Noon

T. J. BROWN

Sisters resident and veteran Douglas Maines with candidate for U.S. Congress Jamie McLeod-Skinner, last weekend at Eurosports.

On Saturday, I met the adorable Gizmo, a yellow lab puppy. He’d brought his humans Jennifer and Doug down to Eurosports for a last-minute gathering of political candidates.

I hoped to meet Jamie McLeod-Skinner, running for U.S. Congress for the new Congressional District 5 — that’s us, folks! Some friends and family have been working hard, as volunteers or professionally, to elect her and candidates like Susan Cobb and Morgan Schmidt.

Holding Gizmo’s leash was Sisters resident Douglas Maines. He served 27 years in the Coast Guard, including a tour in the Middle East during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I served with some good people,” he said, calling the rollout “an interesting experiment in human behavior.”

Does Maines lean toward any particular party?

“It depends on the candidate,” he said. “I vote based on who I think is going to do the public the best service. My voter registration card says NAV.”

Mine, too. It stands for non-affiliated voter.

“I don’t vote party lines,” explained Maines. “I will go home with my ballot and sit with my computer and do my research when I vote. My personal opinion is that’s what a responsible voter should do.”

We talked about issues veterans face: waiting for benefits, military family difficulties, problems in the VA (Veterans Administration), health care, and housing.

“If veterans didn’t have to go to the VA, if we had good public healthcare that they could just drop into? That would be awesome,” said Maines.

Nearby stood candidates for city, county, and state levels, all the way up to Washington D.C. Cobb for Sisters City Council, Oliver Tatom and Schmidt for County Commission, Emerson Levy for state representative, McLeod-Skinner for Congress. I asked, What’s one concrete thing you’d like to see them do?

Maines thought a moment. “I would like to see them efficiently run the government,” he declared.

We laughed.

“I chuckle when I say that,” he said. “I’m sort of a conservative that sits in the middle and votes either side. But I have to balance the budget with my wife. Politicians have to balance the government’s budget, and not waste money. If you’re going to spend money, have it mean something to people.”

McLeod-Skinner and Maines got to talking. He paused a moment, emotional. “I had a friend of mine, just recently, got medical coverage for the burn pits that he flew over in Vietnam. Why did that take 40 years to happen?”

McLeod-Skinner, a member of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, laid out her vision: “So this is the deal. When you serve your country, your country will serve you back. Men and women who serve in uniform, you’re taken care of,” she elaborated. “You take that oath, you’re on assignment on behalf of your country. You’re protected while you’re there, you get what you need. You should be protected and respected when you come home.”

McLeod-Skinner said she believes in “first, diplomacy when we can, and then, fighting when we must. We don’t want to put our people in harm’s way.” Absolutely, Maines agreed.

Supporting the VA is “really important to me,” said McLeod-Skinner. Maines brought up expanding access to health care for veterans.

“I also believe we need to be investing in affordable physical and mental health care for everyone,” McLeod-Skinner said. “These investments are pennies on the dollar. We know preventive health keeps things from getting really bad, with much higher expenses.”

Mental health included. “I talk to police officers, and their number one issue? Mental health. If more resources are available, it helps everyone.”

Housing and homelessness affect Sisters Country across the board.

“Our veterans are struggling with that incessantly,” noted McLeod-Skinner.

I brought up the issues with Morgan Schmidt, candidate for Deschutes County Commissioner. Her partner, Ben, is a Navy veteran, like my dad and my uncle Phil (may he rest in peace). She plans to increase support for the county’s Veterans’ Services Office.

A former pastor, Schmidt showed deep concern about houseless issues, but also about development in unincorporated Deschutes County (outside city limits). She opposed some decisions by current county commissioners that favored developers’ interests.

“I will do my best to protect our rural and agricultural communities from sprawl — while working with our cities to make sure we get the housing we need,” Schmidt said.

Back to McLeod-Skinner. “People say, ‘Government can’t pay for everything.’ I agree!” she said. “I think government needs to know when to help and when to get out of the way.”

Maines replied, “I believe in responsible government... Spending money on meaningful things that will benefit the most people.”

McLeod-Skinner agreed. And, she insisted, “Accountability, so people aren’t milking the system.”

Maines nodded. “That’s why I’m voting for you,” he said.

As they parted, McLeod-Skinner said, “And again, thank you for your service.”

Conversations lightly edited for space and clarity.

 

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