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Oregon session will have 20 new lawmakers

02:14 PM PST on Friday, January 7, 2005

By CHARLES E. BEGGS, Associated Press Writer

SALEM, Ore. -- For a man who hunted insurgents in Iraq as a U.S. Army officer, you might think serving in the 2005 Ore. Legislature could seem a little mundane.

Well, that's not the way state Rep.-elect Brian Boquist looks at the legistive term he's about to embark on.

"I've been active in party politics and have a long interest in it," said Bouquist, a 46-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who was elected to the state House of Representatives this past November.

Besides, Boquist said in a recent interview, his wife is happy that the legislative session that begins Monday will keep him home for a while.

In addition to his Army duties, Boquist's air charter business has also taken him away from home.

Boquist is one of 20 first-time lawmakers who'll take office Monday -- 19 in the 60-member House and one among the 30 senators.

Boquist, a Gulf War veteran, decided to run for the Legislature last year after a seven-month tour in Iraq as a deputy commander of counterinsurgency operations.

Previously, he had failed in two runs for the U.S. House. But those campaigns gave him a name familiarity in the Willamette Valley's 5th District, and he easily won the legislative seat in a large, rural House district west of Salem.

Boquist said he might again consider seeking higher office.

"But I'm not going to make another try at beating Darlene Hooley," he said of the Democratic incumbent who just won a fifth term. He challenged her in 2000 and 2002.

Boquist's political views are similar to those of many legislative Republicans. His priorities are controlling spending, not raising taxes and easing regulations on small business.

"We're not going to get the large corporations," he said. "If we want to grow the Oregon economy, we've got to help small business."

The freshmen class of legislators includes five educators, seven people in business, a retired Air Force colonel, a former state policeman and an ex-lobbyist.

Two others are former legislative assistants. One of those, Republican Rep. Debi Farr of Eugene, is the wife of outgoing Rep. Pat Farr.

Incoming Democratic Rep. Chuck Riley of Hillsboro is among the six retirees in the new group.

He's a former computer consultant and top secret-class cryptographer -- code breaker -- for the Air Force, and helped design the version of Air Force One that was used by President John Kennedy.

"I got into that because I had an architecture background and top-secret clearance," Riley said.

Riley ran for the Legislature "because I got tired of complaining. With all the partisan problems, the Legislature couldn't seem to get along any more. The voters are disenchanted."

He said he wants to look closely at state programs "to find those that are not working and get rid of them. We haven't been doing that."

Democratic Rep.-elect Larry Galizio of Tigard lists jobs, health care and quality education as his big issues. They're common ones among the freshmen.

Galizio, 40, is a communications teacher at Portland Community College and says higher education investment "is critical as we go forward to strengthen the economy."

He saw first hand the effect of budgets cuts when they eliminated the school's speech and debate program that he had directed for 10 years.

Property rights including water issues are key for Republican Doug Whitsett, a retired Klamath Falls veterinarian who'll be the only first-time lawmaker in the Senate.

Like many freshman legislators, Whitsett decided to seek a seat because of a vacancy, or as Whitsett put it, "a combination of an opportunity and perceived need."

Republican Sen. Steve Harper of Klamath Falls, a friend, had decided to retire.

"Steve mentioned he had decided not to run, and two days later I was a candidate," Whitsett said.

He supports the Measure 37 property rights law passed by voters last month and said he'll work to preserve agricultural water rights in the Klamath Basin.

Rural concerns also are high on the agenda for Democratic Rep.-elect Deborah Boone of Seaside, an experienced legislative hand who won an open House seat on the coast.

"I feel strongly about bringing a bit of the rural aspect to the House Democratic caucus," said Boone. "But rural issues in the interior are different than at the coast," she said, citing ocean fisheries as an example.

Boone, 53, and her husband operate a tree farm near the coast. She will have a solid head start in Salem after working for 15 years for a total of seven lawmakers.

Boone said she also wants to work on health care issues, especially mental health.

She long has been politically active, managing local efforts for former Democratic Congressman Les AuCoin's re-election campaigns. But she said she didn't seek the House seat with higher office in mind.

Republican Rep.-elect Scott Bruun of Portland isn't reticent, though, about possibly making a second run for Congress.

Bruun lost in 1996 to Democrat Earl Blumenauer in Portland's heavily Democratic 3rd District, and Blumenauer has held the seat ever since.

Bruun, 38, chief financial officer of a construction company, said he wants to focus on obstacles to job growth that he said include the state's relatively high capital gains tax.

"We talk about funding schools and the health plan and everyone wants to blame the tax structure. But the blame is we do not create enough jobs," he said.

"Of course" he would consider seeking another office later, he said.

"I want to do a great job this session. If I do a great job, I would look higher."

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