Connecting with Voters in Diverse SD13: Interviews with Paul Diller and Sarah Grider

As the May 15 primary nears, we asked several candidates to respond to a few questions of interest to Clackamas County voters. Below is a Q&A with both Paul Diller of Wilsonville and Sarah Grider of Newberg, who are Democrats seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Kim Thatcher, of Keizer, for Senate District 13.

Note this article previously reported the wrong date for the Primary Election.  Polls close at 8pm on Tuesday May 15th! 


Q: What in your background and experience do you think makes you particularly qualified to serve in Oregon’s legislature?

Paul Diller: It has been my privilege to teach law at Willamette University for over 10 years. During this time I have researched, lectured and advocated on a range of challenges that are facing Oregon today. I am uniquely prepared to walk into the legislature on day one and take on these challenges. These challenges are not abstract to me. I face them daily when I send two boys to public schools and know they have a shorter school year than much of the country. I see it when I knock on doors and talk to tenants getting evicted without cause. I see it in my commute to Salem and my wife’s commute to Portland, each of us facing traffic and limited public transit options. I also see the tone set by the administration in Washington and the fear it creates in disadvantaged communities and communities of color. That’s why I am running — to represent the best that Oregon has to offer.

Sarah Grider: I grew up very poor and had to overcome many barriers to get to where I am today. There are more people with the same experience in our communities than are born into privilege or the middle-class these days. Being a Veteran, a mother, someone who has worked in law enforcement, with survivors of violence and trauma, as a labor movement activist, for marginalized communities and someone who works on a daily basis with students who experience intellectual or physical disabilities gives me a broad scope of knowledge about those who are not served by our current leadership in Salem.

As an Educational Assistant, I witness first-hand what happens when our schools are underfunded and our future isn’t prioritized. Just like our crumbling physical infrastructure in Oregon should be stabilized and rebuilt, so should our educational system. By advocating and working in coalition with others in Salem, I would help to hold corporations accountable for their fair share of taxes to fund those much needed fixes in Oregon.

Q: If you are elected, how would you address these priority issues: jobs, poverty, housing and homelessness, transportation, education?

Diller: My campaign is going to be an issues-focused campaign. I hear about a variety of issues and concerns knocking on doors and talking to friends, neighbors, and voters.

Jobs — We need to have the most well-educated and trained workforce possible to continue to compete on a global level. This will require investments in technical training and STEM in our high schools and community colleges. We need to ensure that our universities engage in cutting-edge research that attracts the best talent in the world and leads to innovation in a variety of fields that ultimately creates high-paying jobs

Poverty — We need to continue to fund our vital human services, including expanded health insurance, to make sure that folks who fall on hard times have a safety net to catch and support them. Additionally, by making sure we have an economy that works for all Oregonians, these folks will be in a better position to find a job that offers wages that can support a family.

Housing and homelessness — We need local solutions for housing. The state needs to allow cities to decide what works best for them to help tenants facing massive rent increases. Cities and counties need the resources to plan for housing for all income levels and life stages.

Transportation — Right now our time is taxed in traffic. We need to repair and improve our current infrastructure, but it’s also time to invest in smarter and safer roads and high-capacity public transit for the Willamette Valley corridor.

Education — Ordinary Oregonians are facing a number of challenges. Our public schools have some of the shortest school years; too many classrooms are packed with students. Teachers need more resources, and in many schools we do not have sufficient arts, music, or physical education classes. We need to stabilize school funding, and look at every option on the table.

Grider: Tax reform to create a steady stream for our state would be a key issue. This would enable our leadership to prioritize education in Oregon which would help to expand the skilled labor pool in our state. This would help to create jobs and to end companies having to search outside the state for qualified applicants. I would work to raise the minimum wage to a level that not only is a living wage but a family sustaining, living wage.

Many families spend a lot of time apart due to transportation issues and poverty in all of our communities. I would work in partnership with industry and with highlighting some of our failing communities for areas to promote innovation and sustainable, clean energy jobs. Oregon is a state known for its beauty and industry and there is no reason that they can’t coexist.

Q: As you know, SD13 is particularly geographically and socially diverse; how would you shape your campaign to reach and appeal to all your future constituents?

Diller: I will reach out to all voters, whether in the several cities in my district or in more rural, unincorporated areas. While the district is large, issues like education and transportation matter to everyone in it. I will build a broad-based campaign that includes a number of different voices and experiences. We are seeking input from progressive groups and organizations, labor, environmental, LGBTQ, people of color, and women’s organizations. We will also reach out to religious voters of all stripes to hear their concerns.

Grider: As someone who works with marginalized communities on a daily basis, I am taking steps so that accessing my campaign is as easy as possible. I have recorded CCTV video voter statements that will air in two different localities in the district. I am also working to create my campaign materials in Spanish to reach out to our Latin population.

The motor voter generation will be eligible to vote in the 2018 Primary/General election cycle, and I am talking with local school officials to increase information about how to change your voter registry information, your affiliation, and deadlines for getting mail in ballots actually in the mail.

My poor car has driven many miles across the district, my feet have walked many miles and my friends and family have put a lot of time into reaching out to folks where they are in an effort to increase voter participation. There is a campaign “Roadtrip” coming soon in the future too. This will be held in public venues, during the evenings and weekends from one of the district to the other in an effort to increase access to me and allow people to bring their families out.

Parents of small children should be able to attend political events too! Next week I will launch my first digital Meet-and-Greet via Facebook live in the late evening, just after the kids are in bed for folks who are just too busy or work shift work to be able to engage, ask questions about the campaign and my background and issues.