Candidates begin campaigning for 1st District congressional seatIt's still early for the 2004 race for the 1st District Congressional seat, but three Republican candidates have stepped forward, saying they can do a better job than U.S. Rep David Wu in stimulating job growth in Oregon.

Each says the state needs new Congressional direction - supporting existing companies, especially those in the timber industry, and recruiting new businesses.

Tim PhillipsTim Phillips, a stock broker with his own company, and Goli Ameri and Jason Meshell, who both work in the technology industry, are in the hunt for Wu's seat.

The trio have similarities beyond their criticism of three-term Congressman Wu's efforts to boost the 1st District's economy. All strongly support deepening the main channel of the Columbia River and increased trade with China. In the past, Wu has opposed favored nation status for trade with the communist nation because of its poor record on human rights.

Although Wu has more money than his opponents, Phillips has the next-largest war chest for the May 18 primary.

According to the Federal Election Commission, as of June 30, Wu, D-Ore., leads fund-raising with $391,458, Phillips has $209,475 and Meshell has $3,040. No information on Ameri's funding was available.

Improve the business atmospherePhillips said when he started his own business, Phillips and Company Securities, about 12 years ago, Oregon was considered one of the best states for business. Now, he said, it's one of the worst - and that's holding Oregon back from an economic recovery.

"The conditions that lead to our success are diminishing," he said.

The married father of two young children said he decided to run for Congress to try to reverse that trend.

To do that, he said he'll place a strong emphasis on taking advantage of Oregon's natural resources by supporting President Bush's healthy forest initiative and work to take coho salmon off the endangered species list, "to allow fisherman to earn a livable wage."

Phillips worked on the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and served on the finance committee for 2002 GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Roberts.

He said he also wants to try and stimulate Oregon's high tech industry and provide more incentives for people to start their own business. One could be offering tax credits for businesses owned by one or two people. "We can get capital for these people," he said, adding that it would boost rural communities. He said tourism should remain a part of the area's economy.

An economic approachBut one of Phillips' opponents, Meshell, says he's convinced he'll win because of his knowledge of the district. Jason MeshellHe lives in Scappoose and works in Hillsboro at the software company, Merant, in its defense and aerospace department. His Web site highlights his two middle initials - D.C. for David Castle - in promoting his campaign to move to the District of Columbia.

The former Navy seaman and congressional campaign volunteer also is married and the father of two. He says he has "developed a base of freedom-loving grassroots volunteers and supporters" who want to see him provide congressional support to President Bush.

He said Oregon should work to effectively promote both forests, natural and silicon. To do that, Meshell said he'd cut back on federal regulations on logging and promote the state's high-technology sector by providing "entrepreneurial" leadership.

"What we need right now is somebody in office that has optimistic urgency," he said, "an urgent call to work for the people."

In Clatsop County, Meshell said a focus needs to be placed on tourism and an emphasis on opening Columbia River ports to trade. That means deepening the channel for deeper-draft vessels and finding new markets for Oregon in Asia and elsewhere.

He believes technology companies could be lured to the county if the federal government could provide the right kind of incentives and an willingness to work with them. He also has a plan in which local business people and others are matched with students. His "champion for every child" program would ensure that each child in a public school has someone looking over their shoulder to ensure they get help and support to become successful, he said.

"We must build an affordable world-class education achievement system where involved parents have choices and teachers are heroes," he said.

'Continue fight on terrorism'If Ameri wins the election, she would make history as the first Iranian-born congresswoman. She said she moved to the United States with her family when she was 17 and felt her background would be extremely helpful in discussions on the war on terrorism.

Goli AmeriA staunch supporter of President Bush, Ameri said she's able to speak from a unique point of view because she is Iranian. And, in her opinion, she argues the war in Iraq is an "investment in our future security" - and doesn't want to see the nation stop fighting it.

"I don't want to see our resolve in this country weaken," she said. "The terrorists are looking for a lack of resolve."

Ameri is married with two teenage sons. She is a member of Sen. Smith's finance committee and past member of the executive committees of the San Francisco and Oregon Republican parties.

She said she wants to be elected to Congress to combat high unemployment. The founder and president of eTinium, a marketing and research firm for the telecommunications industry, Ameri said her background in business gives her the edge.

With timber and technology industries, Ameri said the 1st District should be one of the few areas in Oregon starting to build toward an economic recovery, but she said that's not happening. "I feel we have a congressman who's missing in action," she said.

She said she would stop raising taxes and try to promote the idea of "branding" the state.

She said Oregon is one of the leaders of the sports apparel industry, but doesn't capitalize on it. "Do you think anyone knows that? And this is such a cool and snazzy and hip business that people can relate to," she said.

The same is true of technology, she said. If Oregon is marketed better, Ameri said new companies would bring in jobs to curb rising unemployment.

Living in Tigard, Ameri admits she doesn't know the North Coast too well. But she plans to visit to gain a better understanding.

But Ameri said unemployment in Clatsop County is no different than other parts of the district.

She said she'd try to help by looking to the China market that Wu has opposed to find new opportunities for timber, fishing and agriculture industries to sell their goods.

"We really need to make sure and put a focus on farmers and fisherman," she said. "They are the backbone of Oregon industry."

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