LA GRANDE — Former state legislator Jason Atkinson of Central Point has never voted for a tax increase and he has no plans to start if voters send him to Congress later this year.
The 2nd Congressional District candidate said he has been committed to holding the line on taxes throughout his 14-year stint in the Oregon Legislature.
"I am the only candidate in this race (who has served in elective office) who has never voted for a tax or fee increase," Atkinson said Wednesday morning during a campaign stop at Cook Memorial Library, La Grande.
Atkinson was on a swing through Eastern Oregon, which included stops in Hermiston and Pendleton. He is one of eight Republicans seeking the nomination in the May 19 primary. Five Democrats are vying to earn the crown from their party. He said as a congressman he would maintain his strong position against tax increases.
"I would continue to be like this as a congressman," he said. "Congress needs more quality people. It does not need more money."
Based on the most recent Federal Election Commission campaign finance data, Atkinson has raised about $96,000. Fellow Republicans Jimmy Crumpacker of Bend has raised almost $594,000 including $200,000 he loaned his campaign, while Knute Buehler, also of Bend, has amassed nearly $386,000, none of it in a loan.
Atkinson noted he attempted to get Oregon's death tax and capital gains taxes repealed or reduced while serving in the Legislature. Atkinson, who was in the state House from 1999-2001 and the state Senate from 2001-13, said he faced enormous pressure to vote for gas tax increases but always resisted. He was ready for the firestorms that followed.
"You are only as popular as the day before you announce (your candidacy)," Atkinson said.
The congressional candidate said he is a fiscal conservative and not opposing tax increases would be inconsistent with this philosophy. Atkinson said he also has strong conservative stances on abortion and the Second Amendment.
"I am 100 percent pro life and have an A+ rating from the NRA (National Rifle Association). These are easy topics for me, my mind is made up," he said.
He is seeking to succeed Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican from Hood River who is not running for reelection after serving for two decades. Atkinson credits Walden with having an exemplary constituent service record and said he will try to emulate it.
"Eighty percent of the job is constituent service," Atkinson said.
He said it is critical to reach out to constituents because those who contact their Congressman often do so as a last resort.
"If someone calls with a problem, it is because their lawyer and their pastor could not fix it," Atkinson said.
The candidate said he would pull out all the stops to help constituents.
"I would manipulate things at the federal level to get stuff done," Atkinson said.
While Atkinson lives in Central Point, he said he has strong ties to Northeast Oregon because he has spent much time here fly-fishing on the Grande Ronde River and hunting.
"I've spent more time on the Grande Ronde than I should have," Atkinson said with a smile.
Atkinson, who has a number of friends in Union and Wallowa counties, said he has long been interested in Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, partly because its administration building is almost identical to the one at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, which he lives near.
The candidate said it would mean very much for him to carry Union and Wallowa counties in the upcoming election because of his ties to the region.
"It will be a point of pride for me. I will be here (campaigning) a lot," Atkinson said.