Editor’s Note: Raz Mason is a Democratic/Independent candidate for Oregon’s Senate District 26, which now includes the Dalles, Hood River County, parts of Multnomah County (Columbia River Gorge) and the rural areas of Clackamas County. The district was once held by retired Republican Senator Chuck Thompson. Mason is running against Republican Daniel Bonham. Both candidates are from The Dalles, and both were invited to sit down with a Columbia Gorge News reporter to talk about their campaign. Interviews will be published as candidates respond.
Raz Mason of The Dalles feels more than ready to represent the people of Oregon’s Senate District 26.
“I have a background in many issues that the district faces, things that we have to make big decisions about,” she said. “Decisions made over the next four years will be especially critical as the Oregon Legislature considers ways to improve people’s lives and protect the environment.”
Mason has lived in Oregon most of his life, spending time east and west of the Cascade Mountains. She grew up in Hermiston and attended middle school and high school in the Beaverton area. Family trips in between introduced her to the Dalles at a young age. “I loved this place,” she said, citing the open terrain and city location as a “gateway to the east side.”
She has a math degree and two ministry-related master’s degrees, one from Harvard, all of which have taken her to places like Philadelphia, Seattle and Boston.
“My upbringing, my life path was really service-oriented,” she said. “Besides, I’ve had a few adventures in there!” she added, noting his work as a long-haul truck driver.
Mason is a teacher at heart, she said, having taught middle school science at The Dalles and Hood River Valley High School. She has taught science, English language arts, social studies, and professional technical training, in person and online.
Mason also worked at a large investment company as a profit sharing director. “Some of the things I learned were really helpful,” she said.
In 2018, Mason’s interest shifted to sociopolitical issues and she ran as one of seven candidates in a Democratic primary. “It was a great experience because I was able to contribute to a larger conversation,” she said. “Other things worried me, like income inequality and realizing how little people understand about the stock market.”
Early work in domestic violence and hospital chaplaincy training at two Veterans Administration hospitals — she was a commissioned naval officer in the chaplaincy program — further prepared her for the challenges of today. today, she said. “It familiarized me with the dynamics of violence and how quickly things can get violent,” she said, “and taking that commissioning oath always informs me, that commitment to defending the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and national.”
When the Senate District 26 seat opened, Mason was already ready to run. “I had already simplified my life so I could focus on sociopolitical research and writing,” she said.
It’s a dangerous time for those who serve, Mason said.
Those who believe the 2020 election was stolen say the violence is justified as they challenge election results they disagree with, she explained, even as the justice system has proven over dozens of lawsuits that there was no significant fraud in the 2020 election.
“So who protects the elected officials who are threatened today, verbally and/or physically, who are in the center or on the left?” she asked. “I have an armed officer’s license in Oregon. I have additional training in executive protection. And then realizing, ‘Hey, I might be one of those people who needs protection at some point.’ It’s a bit ironic.
Mason acknowledged that his views on guns stem in part from his upbringing. “Living in a rural setting on the east side, I think we often have a different relationship with guns. They are woven into the culture. People go target shooting together, go hunting together. Also, if you live very rurally, you may not get any response from law enforcement, at least not quickly. So there is a feeling of “I have to be responsible for my own protection”.
“Most people who were raised in rural areas have responsible gun ownership ethics,” she added. “When we learn to shoot, we are taught to treat each weapon as if it were loaded, not to point at what we do not want to destroy, all that. It’s something that people in more metropolitan areas, who don’t have that culture of responsible gun ownership, don’t necessarily understand. They don’t necessarily understand what it means to be brought up from an early age with respect to what guns can do.
All of this plays into Mason’s perspective on guns and gun violence, as does her background as an educator. “As a teacher, I had to struggle with fear for my safety and that of my children, knowing that I could be in a position where I or my students would be killed, which is painful to manage within the framework of a job description,” she added. “So we’re sort of entering a new realm here.”
“Because of my background, I’m able to really think about how to approach gun safety, deal with escalating violent rhetoric in a constructive way, and build bridges,” said mason. “Let’s keep everyone in the conversation. Different people with different experiences have things to teach us, to challenge us. Then, whatever answers we have, as a state, legislatively, are more likely to be realistic. Some people are less likely to feel that the government is against them and that they do not feel engaged in civic engagement.
“I think we need to make sure people who are very focused on the Second Amendment feel respected. And we need to talk to our young people and tell them that we’re doing things to try to make society safer, so you’re less likely to die in a school shooting. This is a complex question: if it were, if there was a simple and easy answer, we would have already chosen it.
“We can do better on security and close the gaps in background checks and encourage better training,” she added.
Mason’s noted that her opponent in the race, Daniel Bonham, has run TV ads suggesting she wants to “defund the police,” but that’s incorrect, she said.
“I hope it’s clear from what I’ve said that I’m absolutely against defunding the police. Because of my work in security, my dealings with the police. I have a professional understanding of this that can help (reducing gun violence.) These are things that have been proven to work elsewhere, like adding behavioral health teams to our law enforcement response. like training law enforcement officers in cutting-edge de-escalation techniques – it’s not just about defusing the other person, it’s about defusing themselves. helped their crisis team resolve 99.9% of calls without violence, so I’m a big fan of the police.
Not only is the “police refund” a dog whistle when it comes to Mason as a candidate, it has nothing to do with the district, she said.
“It’s completely irrelevant to the district because we don’t have the issues that metropolitan areas like Portland face.”
Regarding inflation, Mason acknowledged that the Democrats had not argued enough about the success and reliability of their approaches to inflation and the economy.
“The Republican talking points on tax cuts and fallout have been proven incorrect time and time again,” she said. “I think if people knew how much price gouging there is, especially from the big companies on Wall Street, (they would see his) big companies driving up inflation.
“Unfortunately, the federal response has been to raise interest rates, which will only hurt workers. I think that at the federal level, this is a real mistake. It’s chilling our economy at a time when we don’t need it chilling, we just need less price gouging.
“That’s the difference between Wall Street and Main Street. Over the past 40 years, merger and antitrust rules have allowed near monopolies to develop. Wall Street firms benefited 75 to one on Main Street.
“I’m a big believer in small business and that’s another area where people think, ‘Well, Republicans, they’re about business, they have to know better,’ but they — encouraged by some of the Democrats in business – have allowed these inequalities to thrive that harm Main Street. It is no longer a free market.
She added that Oregon already has many programs in place that support small businesses, including federal funds from the USDA and the state Department of Commerce, local economic development districts and more.
“So there are opportunities for small businesses that want to start or grow. You just need to commit and connect with some of these offices who are more than happy to help.
In conclusion, Mason summarized the reasons why people should support his candidacy for the Oregon Senate:
“We face challenges related to climate change and the economy. Even for things like agriculture and food security. The changes are proving very difficult for our agricultural producers.
“Are we going to leverage each other’s strengths to respond in ways that make us stronger and more adaptable? Or will we fragment further and miss opportunities to lead?
“I think if we look at our district and our state, we will be more prosperous and stronger. I want to build on our strengths, everyone’s strengths, rather than tying ourselves to our fears and anger.”