Morris seeks to unseat Herger
Jeff Morris is campaigning to unseat 11-term congressman Wally Herger. Morris,who currently serves as a Supervisor in Trinity County, speaks about the economic rescue package, logging, and Herger in the following interview, as well as how record voter turnout this year has helped lift support for Democratic candidates across the nation. Morris took time out from the last week of his campaign to speak to the paper.
Q. Wally Herger has been in office for 22 years. Why should the voters change their representative now? What is your experience?
JM: I think that the majority of voters in this district have to come to recognize that we can no longer afford the policies of the last 8 years, which my opponent has supported by 94%.
While I have a background in business and organizational management, including being a local employer for many years, my political philosophy is one of more efficient and effective government. I have a proven record of fiscal responsibility while my opponent has willingly participated in taking this country into a catastrophic financial condition.
I have been a leader in rural health care. I co-chaired a statewide Task Force on Climate Change in which I fought for the need to not impose a "one-size-fits-all" policy for rural counties. I've worked to retain and create jobs in forestry, infrastructure development and other "green collar" jobs. I have also been elected for two consecutive years, by all rural counties in the state, to represent them at the statewide level. I truly understand the challenges and opportunities of Northern California and I am dedicated to fighting for our needs and our future.
Q. On what three issues would your policies mark a distinct change from Herger's?
JM: I will focus on the needs of the citizens instead of the big donors or raising money for a national political party. I will make fiscally responsible decisions for the taxpayers instead of running up our national debt. I will make job creation and real economic stimulus a priority. This will include reworking many of our current trade agreements, focusing on infrastructure development and working with an inclusive group of local, state and federal interests to find real on the ground solutions to help our communities.
Q. Would you have voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act? Herger calls his first vote 'the hardest' of his career?
JM: I'm sure my opponents first vote was no more difficult than the other votes that he cast over the last eight years where he supported the Bush Administration 94% of the time. I also don't believe it was difficult since many of my opponents donations came from some of the same players that benefited from the "bailout".
I do not support the central elements of the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout. Alternatives existed to restore market and consumer confidence(such as issuing certificates of support to lending institutions, a process similar to the FDIC), but were not considered. At a national level, we need to create sensible regulations to restore responsibility to the financial markets, ensuring that when large companies fail, they don't take the whole economy down with them. We also need to develop local economies. Consumers can help by supporting local banks and businesses nationwide to promote local credit liquidity.
My opponent was a willing participant in the deregulation of Wall Street and has left the taxpayers holding the bag.
Q. Would you work in Congress to see the continuation or Secure Rural Schools and PILT money for Siskiyou County?
JM: As a County Supervisor in Trinity County, I know first hand the importance of this funding mechanism to our county roads and schools. One of the few pluses of the bailout package (the second time around...my opponent also voted for the bailout the first time) was that this bill was added to it as a "sweetener," to attract more votes. We now have four years to find a reliable, long-term mechanism to insure that our schools and roads are funded. I believe the solution will include biomass utilization, sustainable forestry, cellulosic biofuel production, and other measures that can start to move our local economies forward. Securing these initiatives for our district will require a representative who can build solid relationships with other members of the House (especially the majority members)and with the new president.
Q. Where do you stand on the Nestle bottling plant issue in McCloud?
JM: I am a big believer in local control of local decisions, especially when it comes to land use planning, so I don't think that it is appropriate for my to offer an opinion on this specific project.
Generally speaking, I believe that we need to be paying close attention to what resources we have in Northern California and what we may be "giving away" when making decisions about natural resources and privatizing those resources without adequate compensation and protection for local communities.
Q. Where do you stand on logging?
JM: I am a big supporter of logging, if it's done sustainably, as we have done in Trinity County with our nationally recognized Weaverville Community Forest. Last year we harvested 800,000 board feet off of this 1,000 acre tract of BLM property and sent the logs to our only remaining lumber mill. This is a mill that historically has had to import logs from Canada in order to survive. This is a great example of local forestry, local jobs and real forward movement. We are currently moving towards an expansion of this project to an additional 12,000 acres of USFS land.
Even my opponent in a recent visit said "This is how it should be done."
The reason that we have been successful and the reason that my opponent has not is that we were intent on including all interest groups and the local community in our decision making process. There are huge economic opportunities for our communities on our national forests but we have to have someone leading the charge who will be sure to be inclusive and who is not afraid to push on ALL constituencies to commit to a successful project and process. In this race I am the only candidate with those abilities.
Q. Our economies are truly suffering in south Siskiyou County. What do you propose for economic revitalization?
JM: There are several opportunities ahead of us but none will be achieved without proper leadership, especially from our federal representative since so much of Siskiyou County, like Trinity, is under federal ownership.
The easiest job to attract is the one you already have, so retaining any current infrastructure, jobs and operations is important, including railroads which will be a key part of our future when it comes to future economic opportunities.
When I am a member of Congress, it will be my job not only to pass quality legislation, but also to assist local governments and communities in securing funding and projects that improve the district's overall economic health. We need to focus on the fundamental building blocks: education, healthcare, infrastructure development, and insuring that local communities are able to benefit from sustainable use of our natural resources. Like rural electrification in the 1930s, expansion of high-speed internet in rural areas will help develop our economy and expand our ability to educate tomorrow's leaders.
I already have experience in retaining and creating jobs through sustainable forestry, expansion of high speed internet and health care. I also believe that we need to be looking at the rural areas of California for alternative energy production and we will need an educated workforce in order to achieve those goals.
Q. What do you think of Barack Obama? Is he a socialist? Obama has raised double the amount of money in Siskiyou County that McCain has...how do you account for this in our traditionally 'red' county?
JM: I am not going to guess at anyone's motivation in donating to one presidential candidate or the other but I am happy to see record numbers of voters participating in the current election.
It should be obvious to anyone that the last 8 years of leadership in this country have been a disaster.
Failed trade agreements, failed fiscal policy, catastrophic failure in foreign policy, unfettered expansion of the size and authority of certain segments of the federal government and on and on. Most of this is due to lawmakers listening to the Washington lobbyists and not to the citizens.
All of us, regardless of party affiliation, understand that we cannot continue in this decline.
Our current representative has been blindly following along with this failure and has also forgotten who it is he is supposed to be representing. These issues transcend party affiliation and are a place that the citizens of Siskiyou County can find common ground, red, blue or any other color.
Q. What are some of the difficulties of running against a long-time and usually popular incumbent?
JM: I would agree that the incumbent has been in office for a long time. I would disagree that he is popular. It is my belief that this year, for the first time in recent memory, that he has an experienced candidate running against him who also has broad based support. I have been endorsed by Republicans and Independents alike, including all of my colleagues on the Trinity County Board of Supervisors.
Although it was difficult initially, I think the voters are finally understanding who our opponent is representing. Big oil, the big financial markets, big insurance and pharmaceutical companies are all major donors to my opponents campaign. I don't think that those folks have our best interests at heart.
99% of my campaign donations have come from individuals, everything from $5.00 to the maximum donation of $ 2,300. These are real people supporting someone who will be a real representative. I think that's what we need.
Q. What's your favorite place to visit in south Siskiyou County?
JM: South Siskiyou County is a special place for me. My mother grew up in the Castella/Dunsmuir area and my grandfather, her father, Ben Twight, was the park ranger at Castle Crags for a number of years. After he passed we hiked the trail up to the Crags and had lunch at the top of the trail after scaling the dome. If I had to pick one place in South Siskiyou it would be at the top of the trail in the Crags.