Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mike Caudle Interview, Part Two

Welcome back to our interview with Mike Caudle, the Democrat challenging House Majority Leader Wayne Scott for the 39th District seat that includes Oregon City and Canby. We talked in Part One about his motivations for entering the race, his views on Scott's negative impact to his district, and his positions on some of the more notable Oregon issues. In Part Two we shift gears a little and talk about the race itself and also his personal connection to the district, including an impassioned sales job for community colleges.

Rob Brading has a special place in the legislative elections, since he's running against Speaker Minnis. You are working to essentially oust the #2 man in the House. Do you feel a larger sense of party purpose in your candidacy? or is it that Mike is just a better choice than Wayne?
I would love to tell you I'm running to make a real change in how Salem works in general. If I had a list of goals, that'd be the dream goal. But in the middle of the campaign, I'm running because I think my politics fit this district better than Wayne's. I don't think Wayne is in touch with what's happening on a day to day basis with the vast majority of our citizens, and that's why I'm in this race. The larger benefit is huge: if I can manage to beat Wayne, that is a coup for the party, and that's important. That's a direction we need to be heading, we need to have a majority in the state House of Representatives.
Are Jeff Merkeley and the House Dems working with you as a key candidate in taking down the Republican power structure?
I don't have regular conversations with Jeff; he and I have sat down and met. I sit down 3 times a a week maybe with Representative Hunt. He's been--because he's closer, we talk on the phone all the time, we strategize and prioritize. He's given me a ton of support. He's come out and endorsed my campaign...he's been really helpful. Incredibly supportive. And Rob too, he's really excited and motivated.
Community college has obviously been an important thing for you personally. What kind of general role do you think they play in a district like yours, and in what ways do you believe you can support their mission as a legislator?
Community colleges play a huge role in every community, but I believe particularly in this community. They're open enrollment institutions; everyone gets in. It's a fresh start, it's a new beginning, it's a chance to move forward. They're low cost so if you want to get a low cost start to your bachelor's degree, you can do that. If you've been laid off or downsized or outsourced, you can go back at a low cost and get retrained in a professional, technical career. They play a huge role in terms of the education of the area.

But they also play a role in a ton of other ways. Our relationships with business--we have a small business development center, and we have a greenhouse program for starting small businesses. English as a Second Language programs--every segment of this community is touched by Clackamas Community College up on the hill there. It's a key piece of the district's economy, and its vitality, well being and health.

As far as what I can do, I think there are two things I can do: One, is to continue to be a huge advocate for education in general, and community college as a great place to start that education. And then, helping other legislators understand the different roles they play. Community colleges are an amazing bang for your buck investment.

There is still a need for increased financial aid for the people who are most needy. We have a program called Swindell Scholars on our campus for part time students who are highly motivated who may not be in college otherwise, who are working. It's a small program, 15 students, but you can see on a macro scale how that starts to play itself out.
What makes the Canby-OC area special to you? Where's your favorite place in the District to go?
I've lived here most of my life. Graduated from Canby High School, and living in Oregon City now. I think probably, maybe every person running for State Rep says this, but it's what I believe: It's a really unique community, because you've got the suburbia folks living in a development who are commuting into Portland every day, just trying to earn a living, matched with a lot of rural, farm, down home, country good living [--people who go to Portland every day, and people who never go to Portland...?] exactly!

Canby's a perfect example. You go from a HUGE Fred Meyer's and a Starbucks, to Millar's Highway Tire. With honestly, a big tractor sitting out front. They're servicing BMW's and SUVs and tractors and's an interesting community, both communities are interesting, and it's a really great place to be from. By nature, the people you interact with come from all those different areas. It's not the same type of vibrancy maybe that NW 23rd would claim that it has, but it's a really interesting, eclectic, set of communities. Hard working, really good living....

I love the river down here on the Willamette. I love the drive out to my parent's place...they don't live in this district, but they live on the other side of Canby from here. My house with my family is probably my favorite place right now, because I don't see them often enough. The rural parts of the county and out towards the no-man's land in between Canby and Oregon City, it's so beautiful. Sunday morning, driving out to my parent's place, it's amazing. Sun's coming's awesome.
Your website shows an extensive resume' of volunteer work. What's been your favorite volunteer opportunity?
Can I pick two? I love coaching. I coach wrestling at the local high school here. I like coaching, I love wrestling...wrestling brings in a unique type of guy. There's the really academic guy, smart, motivated, driven. And then you've got the kids who don't have the best home life or got a lot of stuff going on...they want some place to--physically, and within the rules--get all that aggression out. Just to have the opportunity to be a positive male influence in a young man's life is awesome. I wouldn't trade that for anything under the sun.

And then, I really enjoy the work that we've been doing with March of Dimes. Obviously that's been near and dear to me, around prematurity and all that kind of stuff. We do the March of Dimes walk every year, and it's just amazing...we bump into people we haven't seen in a year. And it's instantly right back to that place where we remember what we were going through and how hard it is, and how important it is for us to be spreading that message.
Clearly Caudle has an uphill battle--Scott is entrenched, empowered and old school. And based on the polling results, Caudle is virtually unknown in his district except by the very young and very old. However, Scott's support is amazingly soft and independents have an even more unfavorable view of him than Democrats. If Caudle can establish any kind of name recognition, he could take advantage of a general surge by Democratic voters and take the seat. Once you talk to him, he becomes an easy sell.