Law professor Jim Huffman is taking aim at the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Ron Wyden since 1996. Huffman, 65, appears to be the frontrunner among the six candidates vying for the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Wyden in November.
Huffman's views on major issues, especially how to deal with the national recession, could scarcely be more different from those held by Wyden.
"I would have voted against just about everything he's voted for," Huffman said during a Friday stop at The Daily Astorian. "I think the stimulus bill was very badly designed," Huffman said. "It was big dump of everybody's wants and wishes and a whole lot of bailing out of state governments, which I think just relieves them of the political responsibility of figuring out how to manage their own affairs, including Oregon, I regret to say."
In keeping with his beliefs about fiscal responsibility at the state level, Huffman strongly opposed Oregon ballot measures 66 and 67, which raised the state income tax on wealthy Oregonians and increased the minimum tax on most businesses to $150. Faced with huge cuts in programs and services, including education, Oregon voters approved both measures in January.
At the national level, Huffman said the bailouts of the auto industry and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were serious mistakes. Fannie and Freddie, which stand for the Federal National Mortgage Association and Federal Home Mortgage Association, are privately owned, but protected financially by the federal government. However, Huffman said he favored the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), which allowed the federal government to bail out private financial institutions that had run into trouble with subprime mortgages. Wyden voted against TARP.
"(TARP) is the only one which I think is defensible and has proven to be effective because a lot of that money has been paid back," Huffman said. However, Huffman said the money paid back should be used to reduce the country's deficit instead of as a source of revenue for more spending.
Huffman also criticized Sen. Wyden for voting yes on the health care bill approved by Congress a few weeks ago after many months of partisan wrangling. He said Wyden, who has advocated for health care reform throughout his long public career, should have used leverage to get more of his own ideas into the bill.
Although Huffman is conservative on financial issues, he is something of a moderate on social issues. He said he won't pass the "litmus test" often imposed by the Republican Party on potential candidates, which includes opposition to abortion and gay rights. He illustrated the point with an anecdote about former Oregon governor Vic Atiyeh, who spoke at the annual Dorchester Conference in Seaside this year.
"The first thing he said was, 'There's not a person in this room who knows anything about what I think about religion or abortion.' ... You couldn't have conveyed it better than Vic did,'" Huffman said. Atiyeh, who served from 1979 to 1987, was Oregon's last Republican governor.
Withdraw from war zonesOn the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Huffman said the U.S. "needs to get out responsibly ... I think we can't just cut and run." Huffman said there were probably "a lot of mistakes going in, but once you're there, you've got to solve the problems realistically. I think it would be a disaster to just pull out."
Huffman said he gained real-world experience during the 13 years he spent as dean of Lewis and Clark College's Northwest School of Law. He said he had a $20 million budget and it was like being the CEO of a small business. He stepped down as dean four years ago, but continues to teach.
Huffman said his academic expertise is in constitutional law, land-use and water issues, and he has a lot of experience with forest policy, public lands policy and water law. When it comes to managing Oregon's forests, "my view is we've locked up a vast amount of valuable resources," Huffman said. "I think we could do a lot more by way of producing timber in this state."
Huffman said he believes the Republican Party will be unified around economic issues, which fits right in with his with his campaign goal: jobs for Oregonians. His campaign Web site is jobsfororegonians.com
"Republicans in Oregon are starved for a serious race," Huffman said. "I'm into this because I care about it. I think it's needed."