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Democrats host U.S. Congressional hopeful
By Terri Harber
Joyce Segers, the opposing candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District, came to Baker City on Thursday to meet with local Democrats.
Segers said she seeks to “empower each citizen to be heard and truly acknowledged by those they elected as their leaders.”
This is Segers’ second attempt to unseat the incumbent, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. The Democrat from Ashland believes her chances to win are better this time around because it’s a presidential election year and more voters will be motivated to participate this November.
She also has “more determination to make a difference.”
Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District is one of the largest districts in the nation geographically. Bend and Jackson County, with the cities of Ashland and Medford, are highly populated while the number of residents shrinks moving east.
Interests throughout the 2nd District are more diverse than most people realize. Concerns about conditions in the timber and agriculture industries are only part of the whole economic picture, Segers said.
“Our incumbent congressman voted against the jobs bill that was designed to assist teachers, firefighters and police,” she said. “So many Oregonians are living on the edge and don’t know how they will make their next bill payment or feed their families.”
There are 49 million Americans living in poverty. Oregon leads the nation in food stamp use. Segers expressed frustration about the Farm Bill not making its way through Congress because of the impact on agricultural operations. It also focuses on a variety of concerns from wildfire and drought issues to rural employment development and the nation’s food stamp program, she said.
“The need for jobs is enormous right now,” she said. “People tend to forget the economy fell apart not by accident. It was greed. The loss of the middle class is like a big novel — but so true.”
The group Protect Oregon Women’s Equality and Rights (POWER) sprang from Segers’ political campaign. She describes it as a nonpartisan platform “to make sure women and men could take action and stop the trend against women’s rights that threatens our society.”
“What people don’t realize is reproductive rights also are very much an economic issue,” she said. “Women are the fastest growing population going into poverty.”
Abridging the ability for women to control these rights would result in them earning lower pay and not achieving proper levels of education, Segers said.
Veterans struggling to find jobs after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t have a highly anticipated employment resource.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have created a Veterans Job Corps. It would have employed veterans by having them restore and preserve all sorts of government lands: local, state, federal and tribal.
It also would have helped employ veterans as police, firefighters and first responders.
Republican members said the legislation would add to the deficit. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the idea originated at the White House and was most likely the reason why the GOP rejected it.
Segers’ late husband, David, was an Army veteran. He worked with other veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The ailment brought about his suicide.
Her son also spent time in the military.
“What we are doing for veterans now is minimal,” she said. “We need to do more.”
Segers has seen hard times herself during recent years. When she was widowed after 30 years of marriage, she sold her medical billing business. The new owner went bankrupt, which left her struggling to makes ends meet at times.
“I’m proud I wasn’t beaten down,” she said of the experience.
Her years in the healthcare industry resulted in her interest in advocating for people having trouble with their insurance companies and in obtaining care.
She estimates that while running her business she counseled 20,000 people about how to best deal with the care system so they could preserve their rights.
The Affordable Care Act is important because “profit is the focus of private insurance companies,” she said. “So many people have been mistreated by insurance companies.”
Segers also has been intently watching recent events in the Middle East. She traveled to Egypt in 2009 and has visited Israel twice.
Some federal legislators, mostly conservatives, now call for curtailing or halting aid to countries where there has been serious unrest against the United States.
Protests and rioting began around the Middle East on this year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It spread as the week progressed to other locations, including Africa, Asia and Europe.
Much of the turmoil is tied to an anti-Islam movie trailer created by a Coptic Christian from Egypt now living in the U.S. The killing in Libya last week of a U.S. ambassador and three State Department employees is being investigated as an opportunistic act of terror not necessarily related to the unrest, however, according to news reports.
Segers said humanitarian aid shouldn’t be curtailed because poverty is widespread in the Middle East and Africa as well. If elected she would work to stop this type of budget move.
“We need a kind of atmosphere that will allow us to be able to open, or keep open, a dialog,” she said.
People are “just not that different,” Segers also said.
If elected, “I will put people first.”
Al Ullman was the last Democrat to represent the 2nd Congressional District. He was a builder and real estate developer from Baker (now Baker City) and served from 1957 to 1981. Ullman ultimately chaired the House Committee on Ways and Means and served the district for 12 terms — longer than any other representative.