Sparacino challenges Golden for state senate seat – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Oregon State Sen. Jeff Golden, left, is defending his seat in the Oregon Legislature against challenger Randy Sparacino, the mayor of Medford.

Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino, a Republican, is challenging Sen. Jeff Golden, a Democrat, for the District 3 seat in the Oregon State Senate that covers Ashland, Jacksonville and most of Medford.

Sparacino said a supermajority of Democrats in the Oregon Legislature has adopted Portland-centric laws that don’t fit other parts of the state, including Southern Oregon. Legislation is unbalanced because Democrats aren’t listening to Republicans, he said.

“I want everyone to be involved in the decision-making process. That’s the type of legislator I would be in Salem,” Sparacino said. “I want to ensure that I’m listening to all sides of every story and looking at all sides of every piece of legislation before I ultimately make a decision on how I’m going to vote.”

Golden said Oregon and the whole country have become increasingly polarized. He said both Democrats and Republicans need to work harder to understand that those with whom they don’t agree have good intentions.

“We have a significant portion of people in this district who think that another big portion aren’t just wrong — they’re evil, and they should be ignored,” Golden said, adding that he’s committed to listening to everyone.

Both Golden and Sparacino have extensive experience in the community. Golden previously was a Jackson County commissioner and has worked as a river guide, homebuilder, Mail Tribune columnist and producer of public radio and television programs. Sparacino worked his way up to chief of the Medford Police Department, then became a policy analyst for the city of Medford and later the city’s mayor.

Sparacino faults Golden for backing a bill in the Oregon Legislature that resulted in a wildfire risk map that listed most of rural Southern Oregon at high or extreme risk of wildfire. The map has been withdrawn for further work, but is scheduled to be released again next year.

The map labeled broad swaths of rural areas at high or extreme risk even if individual property owners had reduced wildfire fuels on their lands. Urban areas like Medford, Talent and Ashland aren’t listed at heightened risk even though the 2020 Almeda Fire tore through populated areas along Interstate 5 and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in the Rogue Valley.

Sparacino said Golden was warned the map would be flawed and would create problems. The map was released without adequate input from the public and local governments, Sparacino said.

Golden said he supports the withdrawal of the flawed map. He said the bill that includes the wildfire risk mapping also includes grants for landowners to make their properties more fire resilient.

“We need a map because we have limited resources, and we needed to know where they had to be focused,” said Golden, adding that he is working on fixes to issues created by the bill.

Sparacino said the state and Southern Oregon are doing a good job detecting wildfires and aggressively attacking fire starts. But he said more work is needed to reduce fuels in overgrown forests, including those on federal lands.

Golden said big timber companies should pay more for the Oregon Department of Forestry’s work to protect their private lands.

ODF fights fires on private property plus federal Bureau of Land Management land.

Sparacino said the wildfire risk reduction bill also includes building regulations that are another example of the Oregon Legislature’s top-down approach.

For many years, he said, the state government has imposed onerous, time-consuming regulations on builders that drive up the cost of constructing homes and businesses. As Medford mayor, Sparacino said, he convened a group of stakeholders to come up with ideas for streamlining development in the city. The Oregon Legislature needs to ease regulations, he said.

“We need to review all those regulations to make the initial process of building a home more affordable,” Sparacino said. “Because when you make building more affordable, you open up that entire spectrum of affordability. Right now, we focus a lot of our attention on subsidized housing, but we’re missing the middle.”

In the Legislature, Sparacino said, he would fight to preserve Oregon’s mortgage interest tax deduction.

Golden said every place that is attractive to live struggles with high housing costs. He said Oregon needs to continue urging Congress to allocate federal money for housing. He favors cutting back the state’s mortgage interest tax break for high-income Oregonians. Golden said housing projects that use grants and land trusts can help create affordable housing.

On crime, Golden said he helped secure $25 million from the Legislature to fight illegal marijuana grows, water theft and the exploitation of farmworkers.

He said continuing to invest in mental health, addiction treatment and education would help alleviate some of the causes of crime and homelessness.

Sparacino said supporting law enforcement will help ensure neighborhoods are safe. Police officers have been demonized and have become demoralized in some areas, he said.

“I think it’s time to ensure that our law enforcement officers are respected and given the tools they need to do their jobs,” Sparacino said, noting he’s been endorsed by a range of law enforcement and victims’ rights groups.

Sparacino said he believes in the rights granted by the Constitution.

On the issue of guns, he said, Oregon should focus on enforcing its existing gun laws. Sparacino said he’s opposed to late-term abortions, but Oregon has strong laws protecting abortion rights and, as a former law enforcement officer, he supports the law.

Sparacino said he believes Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election.

Golden said he backs investments in early childhood education and community colleges. He said he supports bold action to address climate change.

Golden backed legislation that would have required many businesses to buy greenhouse gas emission allowances from the state. The state would have cut back on emissions allowances over time.

Oregon Senate Republicans blocked the legislation in 2019 and 2020 in the Democrat-controlled Legislature by fleeing the Oregon Capitol building. The state Constitution requires that a two-thirds majority be present to vote on bills.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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