I’m Jesse Smith, candidate for the Oregon State House of Representatives.
While I was out knocking on doors this past weekend, I spoke to a constituent who made a remark that made me think it’s time to explain the difference between myself and my opponent, the incumbent Republican Rick Lewis. There is a clear distinction between us.
For the first six months of this campaign, I have attempted to focus primarily on what I am for, rather than what I am against.
I am for the public schools. I am for the workers. I am for the environment. I am for universal health care. I am for a society, and a government, where all people treat one another with compassion, dignity, and respect.
But politics is politics; and my opponent has substantially more money and name recognition than I do at this point in the campaign. In order to mount a successful challenge, it’s my job to explain how I am different from him, and why the people of Oregon’s House District 18 should choose a new representative as their voice in the Oregon State House of Representatives.
An Inciting Remark
The remark this constituent made to me was: “So, Rick Lewis. He’s not the worst of the Republicans, is he?”
Perhaps my constituent was unfamiliar with Rick Lewis’ record.
Rick Lewis’s Record
To more fully answer my constituent’s question, let’s take a closer look at Rick Lewis’ record as a member of the Oregon State House of Representatives.
I’m going to contrast his record with my own positions and endorsements; and although it’s awkward, I’m going to refer to myself in the third person for the remainder of this post so you can easily copy, paste, and share your favorite passages on social media if you wish.
As the parent of two children currently enrolled in public school, Jesse S. Smith first decided to run for public office because he wants to see Oregon do more to fund and support its public schools.
Oregon’s public schools rank near the bottom of the nation in key metrics like student/teacher ratios, high school graduation rates, and fourth-grade math test scores. The teachers are overworked and underpaid; the facilities are outdated; and support is lacking. Oregon must do better for its public schools.
And yet, Rick Lewis voted against the 2019 Student Success Act, the largest overhaul of Oregon’s public school funding in the past two decades. More recently, Rick Lewis introduced legislation that would take away funding from public schools and instead redirect those funds to private online so-called “schools” with no accreditation, no oversight, and no accountability. Rick Lewis has chosen to oppose our public schools at every opportunity that has been available to him.
By way of contrast, Jesse S. Smith has received an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association. Jesse S. Smith even has previous experience working as a teacher at a foreign language school overseas — an experience which left him with a profound respect for the challenges that teachers face. Jesse S. Smith believes that the schools, and the teachers, deserve our support.
The contrast is clear. Jesse S. Smith is the candidate who will stand up for Oregon’s public schools.
Fair Pay for Workers
Rick Lewis voted to deny overtime pay to workers.
That’s right, Rick Lewis voted against the Farmworker Overtime bill (2022’s HB4002). In fact, Rick Lewis went so far as to support the amendment proposed by Rep. Boshart Davis, which would have required farm workers to work 22 weeks of overtime — about half a year! — before they would be eligible for overtime pay. Imagine being required to work 60 hours a week for half a year before you were eligible for fair pay. There’s nothing reasonable about that.
Oregon’s farm laborers are among the most vulnerable members of our population. These hardworking Oregonians must work long hours, often standing outside in the direct rays of the hot summer sun, or in the pouring rain and mud of Oregon’s cold seasons. On average, Oregon’s farm workers earn poverty wages of less than $20,000 a year for their hard work. But Rick Lewis believes that these hardworking Oregonians don’t deserve to be paid fairly for their work.
All labor has dignity, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tells us. We must respect the dignity of agricultural workers, and ensure that they receive the same overtime protections as workers in other industries.
If the farmers are facing tough times, then we can support the farms themselves with subsidies, tax incentives, farm-to-table programs, “Fair Wage Certified” branding, or other programs.
But we must not force manual laborers to subsidize their employers by requiring them to accept substandard wages.
By way of contrast, Jesse S. Smith grew up on a small family farm in rural Washington State, bucking hay bales and raising pigs. Jesse S. Smith understands that people who work hard deserve to be paid fairly. In his youth, Jesse S. Smith worked for minimum wage, washing dishes at a restaurant and sewing sweatshirts in a factory. Smith has been a member of a labor union, and supports the First Amendment rights of workers to organize, to peaceably assemble, and to petition for the redress of grievances. Jesse S. Smith believes in the dignity of labor.
The contrast is clear. Jesse S. Smith is the candidate who will stand up for the rights of working Oregonians.
Polls show that 79% of all Americans, including a substantial majority of independent voters, and even 59% of Republican voters, believe that a woman should have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. We cannot know every individual’s circumstances, and most people agree that we should leave these private, highly personal decisions up to the individual. Even in the very same conservative-leaning Oregon House Districts that favored Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, a clear majority of voters opposed 2018’s anti-choice Measure 106. The takeaway is that abortion access has broad bipartisan support among Oregon voters: notably including independent voters, of whom there are many in our district.
Rick Lewis is out of step with the majority of voters on this issue. Rick Lewis has repeatedly introduced or supported legislation, including 2022’s HB 4042, that would restrict abortion access, make it more difficult for women to obtain abortion services (even including pill-based medicinal abortions), and insert government control into the doctor-patient relationship.
In the wake of the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, abortion access has been suddenly and severely restricted across these United States. Abortion remains legal in Oregon thanks to 2017’s Reproductive Health Equity Act; but legislators like Rick Lewis wish to take away our rights.
By way of contrast, Jesse S. Smith has received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon because Smith believes that women have the right to bodily autonomy.
The contrast is clear. Jesse S. Smith is the candidate who will stand up for the rights and liberties of Oregonians.
Rick Lewis has failed in his duty to stand up and protect the lives of Oregonians.
At a time of historic pandemic when more Oregonians died of Covid-19 than there were casualties on 9/11, Rick Lewis has spent the past several years repeatedly trying to impeach Oregon’s Governor over mask mandates.
At a time when gun violence is increasing, and despite mass shooting events like the 2012 incident where a shooter opened fire with a stolen AR-15 at the Clackamas Town Center Mall, Rick Lewis skipped work at the Oregon State Legislature to oppose passage of commonsense gun safety laws. Yes, that’s right: Rick Lewis participated in a Republican boycott of legislative proceedings, denying a quorum and thereby preventing the passage of commonsense gun safety legislation (2020’s HB4005A) that would have required firearms to be stored securely: legislation that would help to prevent future incidents like the Clackamas Town Center Mall shooting. (The bill passed in the next year’s session as 2021’s SB554.) Rick Lewis would rather skip work than do his job to protect the lives of Oregonians.
By way of contrast, in the early days of the pandemic Jesse S. Smith used his social media presence to distribute plans for sewing DIY face masks. More recently, Jesse S. Smith has written in support of commonsense gun safety regulations: including restrictions on the sale of deadly military equipment to civilians; and reasonable regulations such as background checks to limit the sale of dangerous weapons to mentally disturbed individuals or hardened criminals.
The contrast is clear. Jesse S. Smith is the candidate who will stand up to protect the health and safety of all Oregonians.
Rick Lewis recently supported a bill (2021’s SB461) that would unfairly give a tax break to the very wealthiest Oregonians. Such a tax break for the wealthy would come at the expense of everyone else, by shifting the tax burden onto Oregon’s middle class and hard-working families.
By way of contrast, Jesse S. Smith (who has a Master’s degree in Business Administration) once wrote a book titled Principles for a Self-Directed Society. Now in its second edition, Principles describes a framework for progressive taxation, in which a greater share of the cost of public services is paid for by those who have already benefited the most from our economic system.
The contrast is clear. Jesse S. Smith is the candidate who believes in an economy based on the progressive principles of equality of opportunity, and basic fairness for all.
In what way is Rick Lewis not “the worst of the Republicans,” as one constituent put it? When we take a look at his record, Rick Lewis is opposed to the very policies that the people of his own district support.
A better question might be, “How could Rick Lewis possibly be any worse?”
The contrast is clear. Jesse S. Smith is the candidate who will stand up for the rights, the freedom, and the dignity of working families and all Oregonians.
Please donate to Smith’s campaign today if you can; and if you are a resident of Oregon’s House District 18, please be sure to vote for Jesse S. Smith in the general election this November.