District 17: Lucca stresses connections, capitol experience in Salem

Sean C. Morgan

Marc Luccaof Stayton is running against incumbent Sherrie Sprenger, Bruce Cuff and Linn County Commissioner Cliff Wooten in the House District 17 Republican primary. Democrat Dan Thackaberry of Lebanon is running unopposed in the primary and will face the winner of the Republican primary in the fall. Ballots will be mailed May 2 for the May 20 primary election.

Of The New Era

Marc Lucca, 34, has connections and experience working at the Capitol, he said, and he will stay true to his values.

Lucca has worked as a legislative assistant to Rep. Kim Thatcher, the most conservative legislator in Salem, he said. He also has worked for Fred Girod, Gordon Anders, Juan Thompson and Max Sumner.

He primarily functioned as a policy adviser and wrote legislative concepts with elected officials, he said. His job was to find answers to problems and work them into legislation.

“There are a couple of bright stars, people who stay in the news,” Lucca said. “They consistently stay true to their values.”

Normally, “the culture of Salem changes them, or they listen to too many voices that are entrenched,” Lucca said. “I have a six-year history of not letting Salem’s culture change me. Voters can be confident they have a conservative voice that’s not going to shift.”

With Thatcher, Lucca was part of the introduction of introducing 10 bills, collectively called Sensible Immigration Reform, last year, he said. They couldn’t get a hearing on the bills. “This year, it’s the law.”

He knows the process, Lucca said. He has built relationships with both Democrats and Republicans and can blend solutions with conservatism to get things done in Salem.

Lucca is stressing public safety in his campaign.

He is the only candidate in this race endorsed by Crime Victims United, he said. “I support mandatory minimum sentences and making criminals serve their sentences.”

With Thatcher, he worked on a program that would reduce the number of convicts eligible for early release, he said.

He warns against supporting the Legislature’s referendum on crime in the fall, he said. It was referred to voters by the Legislature in an attempt to neutralize another “tough-on-crime” measure from Kevin Mannix in the fall.

“It’s soft on crime and hard on our initiative system,” Lucca said. The Legislature changed the rules, allowing the measure’s ballot title to be longer without going through the attorney general for review, and it allows it to be placed ahead of citizen’s petitions.

If the measure passes, even if Mannix’s passes later, only one will be allowed to become law,” the one receiving the most votes total, Lucca said.

It’s like the Measure 49 “abuse of power” last year, he said. “They believe the ends justify the means.

“If we have to cheat to get it, I’m not going to vote for it,” Lucca said.

The argument against Mannix’s initiative is that it will drastically increase the prison population, requiring five new prisons, Lucca said. “My answer is if it keeps people safe from being victims of crime, then build them.”

The same alarmist tactic was used to argue against Measure 11 years ago, Lucca said. Opponents said it would require 11 new prisons, but those prisons were never needed. He doubts Mannix’s measure will cost that much.

It costs between $25,000 and $30,000 per year to house a convict, Lucca said. He asks how much more it costs when the criminals remain free during that year. Those costs include investigation, insurance costs, cost to local counties in booking and releasing the criminals, costs for suspects’ continual failure to appear at court and the costs to victims.

Getting a handle on illegal immigration would help drive down the costs of the measure too, he said. “We will see decreased numbers of prison beds used for illegal aliens.”

He anticipates a deterrent effect in the law, meaning people will be less likely to commit crimes if they know there are consequences, he said. Overall, he thinks there are enough savings and offsets in existing funds to allow the state’s budgets to handle the effects of the measure.

He doesn’t think it will take tax increases, which he opposes in general, he said. “I opposed the tax increase on cigarettes to pay for health care. I still do. It’s the wrong method to fund a bad program.”

The revenues decline as the price heads upward and smokers quit, he said. It’s an unfair singling out of the middle class and poor, who are more likely to smoke. It increases the size of an entitlement program.

“That, frankly, is insanity,” he said. “I’ve signed the pledge not to raise taxes. I won’t.”

He wants to eliminate the death tax, and he would like to see an overhaul of the state’s tax structure. Ideally, he would like to eliminate the property tax in Oregon, something he calls paying rent to the government.

He would at least like to pass legislation allowing seniors to stop paying property taxes, he said. It has precedent in other states, such as Texas.

Rather than replacing those revenues, “mainly, I want to offset if by reducing the size and scope of the government.”

Overall, Lucca identifies four critical functions for the state government, he said, including public safety, education, transportation and help for those in need who absolutely cannot be cared for through charities or family.

In education, “I would like to see an increase in education freedom,” he said. He would like to provide grants to families at about half the current amount provided by the state and allow parents to decide where to educate their children with that money.

“Charter and private schools both have shown they can do a better job for less than the public bureaucracy,” Lucca said. “I believe in government-funded schools,” but he doesn’t believe in government agencies deciding curriculum and every step of a child’s education.

With libraries, schools and community colleges, “no person has an excuse for not being able to provide for themselves if they’re able-bodied,” he said.

The most important thing to Lucca is to “reform state government and make it more responsive to the needs of the citizens,” he said. One example is Sweet Home, a community devastated by a government-created crisis, the nation’s failure to allow access to timberland.

“What I’ve seen in the Legislature is we say, ‘Please.’ The feds say, ‘No,’ and we go lie back down by our bowl,” Lucca said. Whatever it takes, if he has to go to Washington D.C., attend rallies or take other action, he will fight to bring back timber.

“Being told no is not going to be enough for me,” he said. Quoting President Reagan, “government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”

“Communities like Sweet Home are the reason I’m running for office,” Lucca said. “My whole drive is to protect good people from bad government. Nowhere is the devastation of bad government more evident than in places like Sweet Home, Falls City, Alsea, Cave Junction.”

Lucca grew up in California.

“If you mention California, say I escaped California in 1997,” he said.

He was a police cadet in California and served as a reserve deputy sheriff in Clackamas and Josephine counties. His wife, Stacy, works in law enforcement.

Lucca owns and operates a retail store and gas station in Salem.