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Water issues are important to Whitsett

Doug Whitsett, a retired veterinarian, will face two Republicans and one Democrat in a race for the Oregon Senate in the May 18 primary election. Whitsett has gained early momentum in his campaign through fundraising and an endorsement from incumbent, Sen. Steve Harper.


Published April 23, 2004


Doug Whitsett, a retired veterinarian and landowner, has spent considerable time in Salem as a water rights lobbyist.

Now he's facing two other Republicans and one Democrat in a battle to represent Southeastern Oregon as the area's next state senator.

Whitsett built early momentum in the Senate race. He had raised $19,500 in campaign funds by April 1. He secured the endorsement of the incumbent senator for District No. 28. And he sides with agriculture on water rights issues, which could resonate with voters in the rural five-county district, which includes Klamath, Lake, Crook and parts of Jackson and Deschutes counties.

"We've strayed away from the economic base that has helped establish and create this Basin," Whitsett said in February, when he filed for office. "Farmers are spending one-third of their time in meetings to protect the right to irrigate their fields."

But the water lobbyist is facing his first test as a politician - a different role for a man who was straightforward enough to admit in February he wished the incumbent, Steve Harper, would just seek another term so he wouldn't have to run.

Whitsett, a soft-spoken man who takes his time when answering questions or considering issues, has been a strong presence at state meetings concerning the proposed Cob Energy Facility. He delivers science-based observations, rather than speaking from the gut.

While his speeches at political candidate forums seem to have been geared more for water rights experts than prospective voters, he's steadily been building financial support in the community. Whitsett raised $19,500 in less than two months, and loaned himself $10,000 as well. By the April 1 deadline for campaign reports, he had spent more than $24,000 on his campaign.

Born in Carmel, Calif., Whitsett didn't arrive in the Klamath Basin until 1968, when he graduated with a degree in veterinary medicine from Washington State University and took a job at Klamath Animal Clinic. He became principal owner of the clinic in 1986, and sold the business in 1994.

As president of non-profit group Water for Life, Whitsett is involved in lobbying in favor of irrigators' rights and against projects like the proposed Cob Energy Facility that would be built in Langell Valley. He said he hasn't made a decision whether he would remain in his unpaid position of president of the non-profit group, if elected senator.

Whitsett is a past president of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, past president of the Klamath County Cattlemen's Association, member of Oregonians in Action, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, the Oregon Rental Housing Association, the Oregon Retired Teachers Association, National Rifle Association and Stewards of the Range.

Whitsett and his wife, Gail, own 40 acres in Poe Valley, where she has been raising horses for more than 10 years. At least 165 foals have been sold during that time, at roughly $10,000 to $15,000 each.

The Whitsetts also own 5 acres near Eagle Point, and 160 acres in Plum Valley, which is north of Klamath Falls, off Old Fort Road.

The couple lives off North Poe Valley Road, east of Klamath Falls. They have three daughters.

Doug Whitsett's views on the issues ...

1) To what extent should Oregon rely on lottery revenues?

The Oregon lottery produces a little more than $600 million of the more than $10 billion combined General Fund and Lottery Fund annual state expenditures. Lottery revenues are currently allocated to the Education Endowment Fund, the Parks and Natural Resources Fund, Gambling Addiction, debt service, and economic development. In fact, very little of the lottery revenue is available for discretionary spending. In addition, during recession lottery revenues have declined due to less available discretionary income for our citizens. Although the Oregon Lottery is an important source of revenue for our state, we must not rely on it to solve our state budget problems.

2) What are your views on gay marriage?

I oppose gay marriage. Marriage has been defined as the union between a man and a woman since recorded history began. That definition need not, and must not, be changed.

3) What are the most vital services offered by state government?

Community safety, education, senior health care, and state infrastructure maintenance are the most vital services offered by state government.

Community safety is the primary role of government. No other issue is more important than a safe community and the sanctity of a secure home.

About half of our state's combined General Fund and Lottery Fund are spent on education. These combined funds have more than doubled over the past decade, far outpacing inflation. Improved management of our school systems is vital to our state's future.

Oregon's seniors are largely responsible for having built the infrastructure, and the basis for the economy that sustains us. We must insure that these "veterans of Oregon" receive appropriate care as they age.

Maintenance of our highways, bridges, airports, ports, utilities, public buildings, etc., is certainly a core service of government. As with any well-managed business, our state's physical assets must be adequately maintained. Most capital improvements should be delayed until revenues not required for core services are available.

4) What are three big issues in your district that you'd address in Salem?

Job creation, education, and private property rights protection are three important issues in our district.

Job creation in the private sector must be job one. Oregon is among the nation's leaders in unemployment and poverty. Almost all of rural Oregon is experiencing 10 percent, 15 percent, or even higher rates of poverty. We must change the strangling regulations, the oppressive tort liability, the crushing income tax and unemployment insurance premiums, and the entry level wage structure that make Oregon one of the most business unfriendly states in the nation. We can bring good jobs to Oregon by establishing an economic environment where businesses are able to thrive.

Oregon ranks among the top third in our nation for both dollars spent per student per year, as well as teaching salaries and benefits. We need to refocus our school budgets on more teachers and teaching, and less administration and process. We need to encourage more community involvement in, and more local control over, our schools. Competition must be increased in our state education system to foster innovation, accountability, and improved student services. In short, our school system requires better management.

Small businesses, farms, and ranches are the economic engine that drives Oregon's economy. Collectively, they represent Oregon's largest sector of employment and largest generator of revenue. From land use planning, to building code permitting, to reallocation of irrigation water rights, these owners are under intense, and ever increasing regulatory pressures that restrict the use and productivity of their privately owned property. Our private property rights must be secured if Oregon is to prosper.

Doug Whitsett







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