Ashland Democrat challenges Walden

Saying U.S. Rep. Greg Walden is more concerned about supporting the Repubican Party than the people in his 2nd Congressional District, a newcomer to Southern Oregon has filed to run for his seat.

Ashland Democrat Joyce Segers, 60, said Thursday she is "absolutely serious about winning" and will take the battle to her opponent, especially on the issues of health care reform, jobs, the environment, quality, affordable education and veterans' care.

Segers, a New York City native, said she learned the problems of the health care industry by owning a medical billing business for 19 years in Florida and observed the woes of veterans in 30 years of marriage to a veteran with persisting post-traumatic stress disorder.

Segers says Walden has voted the interests of his party above those of his district.

"He's very comfortable in his seat," she said. "He doesn't pay attention to specific needs of his constituents on health care, jobs or education and I haven't seen him do anything substantial that wasn't party line."

Segers has never held elective office, has lived in the district only since September and acknowledges she has a lot to learn about the state and its political process.

Segers said she decided to run while attending a women's leadership conference in the fall in California, where attendees were asked to stand if they could commit to running for a federal office.

"My body just got up. I was the only one to stand," she said. "I then thought about it for months. I felt less and less fear about it. Everything I've done in life seemed to lead me to it."

Segers is the daughter of Polish emigrants who came to the U.S. before World War II. Her father was a "fruit and vegetable man" in New York City. She graduated in sociology from City College of New York, attended Portland State University and got a master's degree in communications from University of Central Florida. She worked in radio advertising in Florida.

Segers acknowledged the conservative nature of the district, which hasn't elected a Democrat to Congress in two decades and routinely gives Walden victories by runaway margins. Still she won't say it's a "gimme" for Walden.

"Absolutely not. Times have changed since the last election. Things are in (worse) shape and people are ready to listen and to speak with new voices and ideas."

Segers challenged Walden to debate and to support legislation countering the recent Supreme Court decision that opened the door for corporate free speech in campaign advertising.

"When corporations can spend money for their own interests in campaigns, without regulation, we lose the voice of the people and the intent of democracy."

Segers favors tax breaks for "green jobs," especially those around use of Eastern Oregon's abundant wind power and accuses Walden and Republicans of doing little to replace jobs lost in the decline of timber.

Jobs and education will be the fix for the present deep recession, she noted.

On taxes, Segers said she voted for state measures 66 and 67, which raised taxes on corporations and wealthier individuals.

Segers' expertise in veterans affairs comes from long marriage to a Korean War combat veteran who struggled for decades with PTSD, then committed suicide.

"He was never treated," she said. "They didn't understand PTSD. Making sure veterans have jobs, medical care and homes to live in, there shouldn't be one question about that."

Segers will formally announce her candidacy at 11 a.m. Monday at the Jackson County Democratic headquarters, 40 S. Central Ave.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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