Former Ashland official challenges Wyden for U.S. Senate

Brent Thompson in Gold Beach.
March 19, 2022

Brent Thompson files for Democratic primary in May

By Stephen Floyd for the

A former Ashland City Council member has challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden for the Democratic senatorial nomination, with a platform of addressing social ills by reducing U.S. population growth.

Brent Thompson

Brent Thompson of Gold Beach joins McMinnville businessman William Barlow III in challenging Wyden during the May 17 primary.

Wyden, of Portland, is seeking a sixth term in the Senate, where he has served since 1996 after a special election to replace former Senator Bob Packwood, who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. The 1996 election was also Thompson’s first bid for Senate and first campaign against Wyden, running then as a write-in candidate for Ross Perot’s Reform Party.

Thompson told he does not count on winning this election either, but hopes voters and fellow candidates will start giving more weight to the role population growth plays in challenges such as climate change, racial injustice and conservation.

“I don’t think I’m in danger of getting a new job,” he said. “But we’re out there.”

Frustrations with urban sprawl 

Thompson, 75, is a real estate developer with properties in Jackson, Curry and Coos counties. He served on the Ashland City Council from 1995 to 1997 after 10 years on the Ashland Planning Commission, and has also held posts with the Gold Beach Planning Commission, Curry County Board of Property Tax Appeals and Southern Oregon Land Conservancy.

Thompson said, during his time on the Ashland Planning Commission, he heard public testimony from residents who were concerned that new property developments would take away from the natural beauty and intimate sense of community that made Ashland appealing.

He identified the problem as unsustainable population growth, and now appreciates the impact this has on the environment, social justice, the economy and public infrastructure. 

“I feel that we need people in the U.S. Senate who just say, ‘What about sustainability? What about national optimum population?’” said Thompson.

Limits on ‘economic opportunity immigrants’

His proposed solutions primarily relate to immigration, particularly individuals he terms “economic opportunity immigrants.” Thompson said the U.S. should embrace refugees fleeing war and violence, but should consider rejecting people who did not immigrate under duress.

“To reverse the decline in our livability and our contribution to Global Warming we must greatly reduce ‘economic opportunity immigration,’” he writes on his website,

On the site, Thompson accused liberal Democrats of being afraid to take action on immigration policy because of potential racial overtones, and rhetoric surrounding the immigrant heritage of most Americans.

“The reason for this is probably due to a confused racial consciousness or racial awkwardness on the part of whites,” he said. “The result is a self-centered, self-righteous, sanctimonious, even smarmy phenomenon of ‘liberal white guilt’ where white people feel awkward about any talk of race or about limits on immigration.”

Thompson also said solutions could be applied to U.S. residents, such as a cap on the number of child dependents people could claim on their taxes. He said he does not have an overall answer for the challenges he sees with population growth, but hopes at least to start a conversation among voters and officials.

Indictment of Wyden

To get that conversation started, Thompson openly accused Wyden of neglecting constituents in a March 15 statement announcing his candidacy.

“Wyden fails to comprehend that growth renders combating water shortages, climate change and environmental degradation futile,” said Thompson. “Portland’s degeneration, loss of ‘community,’ and explosion into a riot-torn city is a direct result of the alienation fueled by the growth policies favored by Wyden. In short Wyden betrayed the trust placed in him to keep Oregon, Oregon. His policies ‘Californicated’ Oregon.”

Thompson called upon Wyden to drop out of the race, noting the U.S. population has grown by 100 million since the start of Wyden’s Congressional career in 1981, and this increase “failed to improve anything.”

A request for comment from Wyden’s office was not immediately returned.

Thompson’s release calls on Independent and non-affiliated voters to register as Democrats in time for the May 17 primary and support his candidacy as a businessman and community leader who rejects a “nanny state” and “open borders.”

Email freelance reporter Stephen Floyd at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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