|Mike Ahern wants to be the next representative from House District 56.
The Democrat visited The Dalles Tuesday from his home town of Madras. He described himself as a fiscal
conservative. I'm not interested in bigger taxes, with the possible exception of transportation,
Ahern said. I think transportation needs greater than its current revenue.
Ahern says he is running on his experience, ability and vision. He was raised in Jefferson
County and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He
is currently a Jefferson County commissioner in his second term. He also served on the Madras City Council
in the 1980s. On the county commission, Ahern says he has been able to work successfully to get business
done with two tried-and-true, diehard Republicans. Ahern is also a small businessman who
owned and operated Ahern's Grocery for 21 years, then founded the Black Butte General Store. He is
currently a Realtor and a member of several local service groups.
Oregon is messed up, Ahern said. I think we don't really have a representative
government. He enjoys being a public servant. I want to take that same attitude down to
Salem, he said. I want to be a good representative for the people. In addition to
transportation, Ahern's priorities include economic development and land use planning. He sees education
in community colleges and public schools as a key part of economic development. Oregon will only
prosper and thrive if we improve our combined efforts in education, he said. The state has pulled
back its regional economic development money, Ahern said, noting that the regional process helped draw
individual counties into cooperative efforts, as Jefferson County has done with its neighbors, Crook and
Deschutes counties. We work together very, very well, he said.
Ahern also wants to improve health care, but says he'll support the Democratic party line for systemic changes.
I really think America needs health care for everybody, he said. Whatever way we
can pull in that direction, I will be working on it. County payments remain an issue of concern, Ahern
said. Obviously, I'll keep working with the Senate and Congress to get the funding back, he
said. I see it as a long-term Oregon problem. Ahern says, with all its forests, Oregon should
tout the national interest in global warming, and remind the nation that it's getting value from the forests.
Look at this wonderful bank of carbon-cleansing trees, he said. That's part of the
pitch. We serve a national need. Ahern also favors more aggressive salvage logging and forest
thinning. We can never cut trees back to economic health, he noted, but Oregon isn't even
able to cut the trees agreed upon in Clinton's forest plan. I can see why people are frustrated,
he said. They should be frustrated. They're not getting the deal that was brokered for them.
While The Dalles and Madras are experiencing
growth within District 56, Ahern sees a need to take
steps to protect the economic viability of the
district's smaller towns, including Condon, Fossil,
Spray, Mitchell and others.
We've got to find a way.
Health care is another issue of concern, Ahern
says, citing statistics suggesting that 23 percent of
the gross national product goes to health care.
I think we're spending enough on health care ...
We're just not playing our cards right. I think we
need to reinvent health care, he said.
While Ahern looks to the national party for big
reform measures, he sees himself as a incrementalist.
I'm always looking for ways to do it better, he
One example is health savings accounts, which he
has come to support.
Ahern says, if he gets the Democratic nomination, he
will be running against a class act in Republican John
Huffman, who was appointed to the office last year
when John Dallum resigned.
I just think I'm better, he said.