Central Oregon Daily▶️ Chavez-DeRemer talks accomplishments, town halls and Trump: Our interview

▶️ Chavez-DeRemer talks accomplishments, town halls and Trump: Our interview

▶️ Chavez-DeRemer talks accomplishments, town halls and Trump: Our interview

▶️ Chavez-DeRemer talks accomplishments, town halls and Trump: Our interview

Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., who represents Oregon’s 5th Congressional District including Central Oregon, stopped by the Central Oregon Daily News studios Thursday.

Reporter Peyton Thomas asked questions on a number of topics including what she sees as her accomplishments so far, constituent complaints about the number of in-person events she holds and the recent ruling in Colorado to ban former President Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot.

What has life been like for you during your first term in Congress?

“New lifestyle, definitely is what was reminded of me by family and friends. It’s been exciting, though. I really couldn’t be more grateful to serve my country this way and serve Oregon, Oregon’s 5th District.

You know, we’re back and forth almost every weekend, which is great to get to the district, get back to Washington (D.C.). Most of the colleagues that I work with go home every weekend because people want to know what we’re doing. Are we paying attention to what’s happening on the ground? And I ran my campaign … about local issues and about why it mattered to get home and not be staying in Washington. So I love this job. It’s a lot of work. I’ve learned so many wonderful things, met a lot of new people and have recognized some of the issues that are happening and and how I need to address those each and every day.”

How has your family adjusted?

“Well, my husband misses me and I miss him terribly. Also, my parents live within just a few minutes and they’re getting a little older. So I miss being home and checking in on them. But certainly we Facetime. I have twin daughters that are now 29 years old. We do family Facetime every Sunday. We have for quite a while to make sure we’re checking in on what’s going on. But again, I think this is such an important job and I’m grateful to do it. And I think my family supports me 100% and loves the opportunity that we get to serve the 5th District and this way as a family.”

What are some of the issues that you’ve been able to approach and some of your greatest successes in this first term?

“Well, certainly some of the big issues that I wanted to address, from what I’ve heard from constituents when we’re talking about local issues, one of the things that came to the forefront right away was the fentanyl crisis. And we’re talking about — we know what’s happening on the streets of Oregon and how could I affect change in that way?

So, some of the first things that we did to address that were some fentanyl bills — harsher sentences for people who are distributing these drugs to the kids on the streets of Oregon. We know that drug addiction is very high in the state of Oregon. We know that homelessness is very high in the state of Oregon as well as mental health. So, some of those have been really a highlight that I can introduce some of these bills to address those issues.

I’ve had Portland police come out … during the State of the Union. I had an officer from the streets of Portland come and be my guest so she could see what I was working on and I could understand what the issues that they were facing every day. Most recently had the president of the police union come out to address the fentanyl crisis and talk to a drug cartel task force that I sit on with some of my colleagues to understand what it means and what we’re seeing and how we’re going to address this in the future.

Introduced a few bills with Congresswoman (Suzanne) Bonamici, D-Ore., to educate our students, to have grant dollars for some of our schools to educate some of the young people about what pills look like. What can affect them? So a lot of those things are local, but I can be the extension in Washington to get those funds to our local schools.

Again, homelessness. We passed a bill, the HOME Act on the floor — a bipartisan bill. And I worked through Veterans Affairs Committee. And really what it is doing is just addressing the inflation issue, some of the stipends that our homeless veterans have in order to buy the necessities that they need as well as making sure that they have the resources, maybe even a phone to call their family members, to call the VA to make an appointment. And while it seems small, it matters to them. And I want to make sure that we’re protecting our veterans as well.”

One criticism you have faced is from constituents who say you haven’t had enough face-to-face contact and haven’t done a lot of events. How do you respond?

“I can understand. We have large districts. We’re serving 750,000 people and the district is so unique, which I absolutely love. And I know it was a little hard for people to understand. Portland to Bend — what was that going to look like? How was the Congress, myself going to address all of it? And I think what’s important I do come home almost every weekend.

I was in Portland this week. We were in the Lens District, was visiting with members who were saying, ‘I’m glad that you’re finally here. We felt like maybe you weren’t in person.’ I do tele-town halls every quarter where we reach 4,000 of our constituents to address these issues.

I have an office in Oregon City where we’re doing casework. I have an office in Redmond where we’re doing casework. Coming over to Central Oregon and speaking to a group yesterday, back to back to back. I know sometimes it can feel like, ‘Gosh, I didn’t get to see her.’ But I will do everything I can to continue to answer those questions because I think that people should hold us accountable for what we’re doing. That’s that’s why we’re elected.

This job isn’t easy, but it’s necessary and it’s necessary to get here and talk to the people. I really do love to visit. I make a lot of phone calls one on one. People call my office and they said, ‘I just want to talk to the congresswoman.’ We make that a point every week. My team gives me calls and I make those calls personally, as well as the tele-town halls and in person. So we’re working hard in the first year, we’re going to get to everybody and I just really enjoy visiting with people.”

Are you willing to to commit to make some more of those in-person events?

“Yeah. Like I said, I just did it in Portland night before last … was at an in- person meet-and-greet there. Last night, I was over here visiting with a rabbi and several Jewish-Americans who wanted to visit with me on the stuff that’s happening in Israel. So we sat with them and then went and spoke to another group of Deschutes County residents last night. So definitely getting to be in-person is great to shake hands and really hear the stories.

One of the stories we heard last night, again, a woman whose husband’s child died of a fentanyl overdose. So that matters to them that I am in-person to hear those stories when I’m working on issues to solve those.”

RELATED: ‘Empty Chair’ protesters want Chavez-DeRemer to do more in-person town halls

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled former President Donald Trump is ineligible for the 2024 primary ballot. That’s headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Do you feel the court should be weighing in on this or should it be something that’s left to the voters coming up in 2024?

“Oh, certainly left to the voters. I think that would be true for anybody who’s on the ballot. And I would imagine in hearing that just two days ago that it’s going to go to the Supreme Court and they’re going to weigh in. So I think the voters deserve to choose who their nominee is and I’m anxious to see what the Supreme Court will do on that.

You’ve said in talking about events of Jan. 6, 2021, that people should be held accountable for the crimes they committed. Do you believe that extends to Trump?

Oh, I definitely think people should be held accountable, certainly. We have a justice system that is going to weigh the facts and determine whether or not people should be held accountable.

If people are breaking the law, if people are causing disruption and breaking the law, they should be held accountable no matter who it is. People are not above the law. I don’t expect to be above the law and I wouldn’t imagine you would either. We are all citizens of our communities and we have to be responsible and respectful. And with that being said, I would imagine everybody should be held to the same justice system.”

Is the president above the law?

“Nobody’s above the law.”

RELATED: Colorado Supreme Court bans Donald Trump from the state’s ballot

National election forecasters see Oregon’s 5th District as a hotly-contested race in 2024. Do you view it that way as you run for re-election?

“This is a true swing seat. It is a split — a third, a third and a third. There’s Democrats. There’s Republicans. There’s independent / not affiliated. I think the answer is who best fits the district? Who best represents Oregon’s 5th District?

You know, as a mom, as a mayor, as a business owner, former mayor, you understand what’s happening on the local level. And that’s what I was kind of opening with. My opening statement was — I don’t want to forget where I came from and I never will. So when I come home, I want to talk to people, what affects them. What matters to them? They’re talking about education. They’re talking about the fentanyl crisis. They’re talking about the concerns that they have at the border. They’re talking about the concerns or the fear that they have with the war that’s happened in Israel. They want to talk about their jobs, energy costs, gas prices, grocery prices, work hitting wintertime. People are truly concerned on a fixed income or how they’re going to pay their bills. So if I can address those because I have the experience and can relate to some of these issues, I think I’m the best fit for the district.

We won this district. We’re going to win it again. I love serving the people. I love this job. I feel every day when I wake up that I’m passionate to do this job and I want everybody to understand that I’ll do anything and everything to represent everybody in my district. I don’t care what party you are — Democrat, Republican, Independent, nonaffiliated. You deserve to have your voices heard. And I’m willing to listen to everything you have and take it back to Washington and do the good work that is owed to Oregon’s 5th District.”

Do you think national money could come in on both sides in large amounts to help support you and your potential opponent?

“Oh, for sure. People pay attention to what’s happening. You know what? I don’t care if it’s $1 or the maximum dollars that people can give. What they’re asking is for their voices to be heard. They want value in that. When I receive just a thank you that says ‘thank you for paying attention to what I care about,’ when I receive a dollar in the mail, when I see other dollars because they want their voices heard. And that’s what we have to honor every hard-earned dollar because people participate in the democracy of electing their electeds. And I want to make sure I’m paying attention to that. But, yes, it’s going to be a hotly contested race, but I’m the best fit for the district, and I think we’ll win again hands down.”

RELATED: Kotek endorses Janelle Bynum for Oregon’s 5th District

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