GOP candidate for Oregon’s U.S. Senator swinging through Ontario 

Republican candidate for U.S. Senator Jo Rae Perkins, right, visits with JD Strawn, who serves on Vale’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and Cheryl Cruson, vice chairwoman of the Malheur County Republican Central Committee.


Jo Rae Perkins, Republican candidate for Oregon’s U.S. Senator calls herself a Constitutionalist who supports term limits for elected officials, with no more than 12 years of combined experience.

The GOP candidate will try to best incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat who has been the junior U.S. Senator from Oregon since 2009, and prior to that was in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009.

Perkins was in Ontario on Thursday afternoon during a stop on a wing through eastern Oregon, which would take her to Burns and then back to Baker City on Friday, she said. In Ontario, she was hosted by the Malheur County Republican Central Committee, with Vice Chairwoman Cheryl Cruson alongside her at Lions Park, where people could visit in an outdoors environment. Due to COVID-19, this type of venue has been primarily what she has been looking for during her recent campaigning.

With the pandemic causing people to be afraid to get together in person, Perkins has also turned to technological tools. She has even done multi-streaming, using Zoom, Periscope and Facebook Live simultaneously. While it’s great that technology helps her reach so many people at once, Perkins says she misses the person interaction and feedback from the audience.

While in Ontario, she touched on a variety of issues. Highlights follow.


Visiting with Perkins was JD Strawn, of Vale, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission, and who also has five children in public school at the same time right now. While he said he and his wife have kicked around the idea of home school, they still want to support public schools, but it’s complicated with four kids at home doing distance learning all at once.

To this, Perkins responded that she agreed with President Donald Trump that “the [federal] money needs to follow the child.” She was referencing Trump’s statement in July when he said that school districts that stayed closed due to COVID shouldn’t have access to federal funds. Rather, Trump wanted that money to go to parents to decide whether to send their children to private or charter schools.

Perkins said the problem boiled down to a separation of church and state, as a large majority of private schools are faith-based. So now, schools reopened with distant learning and taxpayers are still paying for a public school system.

“There’s no cheeks in seats but they’re still getting roughly $13,000 per student,” Perkins said.


When it comes to improving the economy in eastern Oregon, Perkins said there needs to be more industry, as there currently isn’t enough to keep people engaged in staying or returning here.

One thing that could help, she theorizes, is infrastructure to help break up the bottleneck of ships waiting at ports to go through the Columbia lox system to get to Pendleton. She said that Lars Larson’s idea of reopening the Deep Sea Port at Coos Bay made sense.

And when it comes to other infrastructure, Perkins says she believes it could help to have short-term public-private partnerships without strings attached, such as federal funding does.

With Trump’s Rare Earth Executive Order signed on Sept. 30, Perkins says it could open up the potential for more access to natural resources in Oregon, where they are vast.

She said short-term partnerships without strings attached would be beneficial. Perkins emphasized those deals should “make sense for the region, not the government.”

Carbon emissions

One issue that eastern Oregon lawmakers and residents have been eyeballing is Gov. Kate Brown’s goal to reduce carbon emissions. Many people in rural areas of the state say the policy is too bold for less-populated areas and could do more harm than good.

When it comes to this issue, Perkins says “if we go to low on CO2, what about plants that give us oxygen?”

The Congressional candidate said carbon emissions is “a stupid battle between environmentalists and people who love the land — but they both love the land.”

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