House District 17: Windsor-White would bring understanding of rural issues to Salem

Sean C. Morgan

Renee Windsor-White says that she can speak to the issues facing the people of House District 17 because she’s faced those issues before.

Windsor-White, 66, is running as a Democrat for state House District 17, which includes the Lebanon, Stayton and Sweet Home areas. She faces Republican incumbent Sherrie Sprenger.

Windsor-White is a resident of Lebanon, where her husband, Jay White, grew up. She has been in the area since 1981.

She serves as a veterinarian chaplain at the Oregon State University veterinarian teaching hospital, where she works with clients whose pets are having surgery or testing or being euthanized, often functioning as a grief counselor. She has been an ordained minister with the Christian Church Disciples of Christ.

The last time Sprenger ran for office, Windsor-White said, Sprenger was the Republican and Democrat nominee. Windsor-White said she found that strange, comparing the platforms of the two parties. She wondered why and thought a Democrat ought to run against Sprenger.

“I didn’t know that it was going to be me,” Windsor-White said. “I feel this district could be better represented. I think that some of the legislation that’s coming up and has been passed in the last couple of years, rural areas have been left out.

“New blood always helps. You get a new perspective, a new vision of what can be done. I think there are areas that I could represent differently from what’s happening there now. It’s possible to move this district ahead, and it’s not being done.”

For example, the Clean Energy Act, a bill aimed at limiting carbon pollution while investing in clean energy, wasn’t passed this year, she said, but it’ll be coming back.

“This district could triple and quadruple the jobs we have here if we embraced clean energy jobs here,” Windsor-White said.

Industrial hemp production is a new opportunity for Linn County farmers, she said. The state Department of Agriculture regulates it. It can be used to make clothes or for brewing. It can be used to make “hempcrete.”

“There are so many different uses,” Windsor-White said. Grass fields seem to be getting smaller as farmers switch over to hazelnuts, which take 10 years to become productive.

Hemp is fast-growing, she said. It takes less water, pesticides and herbicides to grow it. As a state representative, she would be able to help loosen regulations and guide legislation and to help the legislature “see the wisdom of it.”

Most importantly, she would work with farmers in the area, “representing the district to the rest of the state,” Windsor-White said.

Farming is in her blood.

Windsor-White grew up on a family farm, she said. It’s a risky business, and “many things must go right to have a good year, but only one thing has to go wrong to have a bad year. Family farms should be protected from tariffs and trade wars.”

She loves living in a rural area, she said. “But big cities get all the attention. We need infrastructure decisions that help rural communities as well as Internet access to ensure that we have fast Internet connections at a reasonable price for businesses, public and home schooling.

“If a particular person or a particular area does not have access to Internet, you’re running in place and falling behind at the same time.”

If it costs too much, that’s falling behind too, she said, and home schoolers, who often live outside of available broadband, rely on Internet access. Places like Cascadia have few options, and the providers say it’s too expensive to run infrastructure out to them.

If elected, “I’d have to see what’s possible,” Windsor-White said. It may require negotiation to get a company like Comcast to run service to those areas.

Windsor-White said she wants to preserve gun rights, but she wants common-sense gun laws.

“When I was 18, my mother was shot and killed by my stepfather,” Windsor-White said. “My whole pitch on common-sense gun laws is keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people. I respect guns as tools that cause tragedy when they fall into the hands of the wrong people.”

She supports the recent “red flag” law that allows a court to take guns in certain circumstances.

When the owner is no longer a danger to the owner or someone else, the guns may be returned, she said. The law is based on a person’s behavior.

She said that 22 veterans commit suicide every day nationwide, and “I think that’s horrible. I think we should be doing everything for our veterans. I want to end veteran homelessness tomorrow.”

Given the fact there are so many suicides, she finds value in the “red flag” law.

Windsor-White is endorsed by Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership and Oregonians for Safe Gun Storage.

“Those are groups of responsible gun owners that want to face the problem,” she said. They want to pass legislation to prevent children from getting their hands on them.

Oregonians for Safe Gun Storage is working on legislation to make it a misdemeanor for a gun owner not to have a safe, Windsor-White said, noting that technology exists that can allow quick access to a gun safe using a fingerprint.

“A lot needs to be worked out,” Windsor-White said. “I think people should have their guns, but I think it’s going to come down to a fine line we need to walk to make sure responsible owners keep their guns and people in schools, at church and at work stay safe.”

Windsor-White said she is worried about healthcare as the federal government cuts back on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Without those benefits, “you’re going to have people on the doorsteps of emergency rooms,” she said. “I am a breast cancer survivor. That is a pre-existing condition for the rest of my life although I’ve been cancer free for 10 years. I want to ensure that everyone has comprehensive, affordable healthcare with no pre-existing condition restrictions.

“The first thing I’d like to do is more bipartisan work. I think we’re going to have to find a way to come up with a revenue stream that will work providing for healthcare.”

For that, she is looking at the corporations. When Hillary Clinton criticized President Donald Trump during the presidential debates in 2016 for not paying income taxes, he interjected, “That makes me smart.”

Corporations are the same way, avoiding the taxes most people must pay, she said.

“Corporations need to be paying their fair share, and they haven’t for years. But corporations benefit from every part of the infrastructure.”

Related to that, Windsor-White said she will help protect seniors and veterans.

“My husband is a wonderful man who was diagnosed with Alz-heimer’s and now lives in a care facility,” Windsor-White said. “If elected, I will do everything in my power to ensure that seniors, disabled veterans and their families have the safety net of Medicare-Medicaid that they need and spent their lives paying for.”