The work will continue — even after the election

Two years ago, I asked the first question at a congressional candidate forum in Quincy. I wanted to know what the candidates thought the federal government’s role should be in addressing the rising levels of opioid addiction and overdoses, alcohol abuse and suicides that were contributing to Plumas County’s notoriously bad health statistics.

Instead of talking about this critical issue, both Representative Doug LaMalfa and then challenger Jim Reed chose to talk about Obamacare. I was sorely disappointed in the lack of any substance or specificity from the candidates that evening.

Even though I will not be facing LaMalfa this November, the platform I promoted during my campaign included issues that uniquely affect rural communities of this country. I am glad to report that these issues have become front and center in the campaign of primary winner Audrey Denney, who I am happy to endorse in the upcoming general election this November 6th.

That platform includes the need for economic development initiatives benefiting rural areas and jobs with high enough salaries so that we can afford to raise families in our small mountain towns. More dollar stores is not going to do that. I will continue to work with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to strategize about ways to attract forest product industries to California and support financing activities for early stage companies innovating in this space.

That platform includes finding ways to provide high speed internet via reliable wireline fiber optic connections throughout the region. We need a chance to join the 21st century and compete for businesses and residents. The job isn’t done until we meet the same standards that we did in the 1930s for rural electrification: broadband to every home. I will continue to be an active voice providing expertise on both state and federal level policies for rural internet.

That platform includes sustainable forest management that meets the US Forest Service mission of providing timber resources and preserving ecosystems and wild spaces. We must consider the impacts of climate change on our forests, but we must also act now on the opportunity to help by using forest resources for energy and to make new bioplastics that will replace petroleum products. Proper forest management will protect our watersheds and reduce risks from intense wildfires. I am in Madison, Wisconsin this week attending the international forest products convention and ensuring that we’re staying on the cutting edge of innovation, not just in California, but here in the mountains and forests of Northern California.

And that platform includes tackling the funding challenges that undermine health services and education in our rural communities and make it difficult to attract healthcare professionals and teachers to small towns. The lack of resources also threatens the quality of our healthcare and leaves our students behind before they’ve even had a chance to finish high school. It’s not about spending more money but about making funding decisions in a consistent, timely way that is in the interest of our people, not our politicians. I’m going to be working closely with grassroots organizations like Plumas Action Network to advocate for real solutions to healthcare and education problems in our region.

When you live in a town like Quincy, getting out to a candidate event or newspaper interview always starts with a couple hours of driving. All that travel came to define my experience of the campaign, and I drove every single highway and many byways across our landscape of mountains, rivers, forests, valleys and rangeland. That landscape literally shapes our communities and defines the ways that we interact with the world, and it’s been a life-changing experience to meet so many people in California’s First Congressional District.

While I’m disappointed not to participate in the November general election, I’m also very happy to get back to get back to work right here in Plumas County. I won’t stop working on the issues that are important to all of us, so stay tuned for an invitation to join me at an upcoming workshop or event. Thank you to all my voters and supporters for helping me take this journey.

Click here to submit a letter to the editor about this post.