Describes election night spent as a ballot observer
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
State Rep. Pam Marsh, (D-Ashland), retained her Oregon House seat in Tuesday’s election against Republican challenger Sandra Abercrombie.
Marsh garnered 22,225 votes (64.18%) of the vote while Abercrombie tallied 12,368 (35.71%) votes as of final election day totals posted Wednesday morning. Final votes could come in via the U.S. Postal Service through Nov. 15, due to changes to mail-in voting allowing voters to mail their ballots as late as Nov. 8.
“Still a few more votes to count, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic, seems like the vote counts are pretty solid,” Marsh said. “And I’m really looking forward to going back to Salem to continue the work because we have a heckuva lot of work ahead of us.”
For Marsh, much of that work involves wildfire recovery, housing and homelessness issues, addressing climate change, and expanding broadband internet.
“Those are really the top of my list,” she said.
“Ashland and the Rogue Valley are experiencing the same housing deficit that we really see statewide,” she added. “We know that we are missing about 140,000 housing units that we should have for people who need homes, including people who are on the street. A lot of my work in the next session is really going to be focused on what we can do to jumpstart housing production.”
Marsh believes that, ultimately, a lack of units is what drives homelessness and what drives the affordability question.
“So I’m really focused on the kinds of subsidies that we need for producing housing, the kinds of investment funds,” she said.
Marsh wants to increase support for offsite housing production facilities, and to boost investments in modular housing or manufactured housing factories.
“I think if we were actually able to produce more of that kind of housing, it could, No. 1, help us get units on the ground quickly … but, No. 2, it could be the backstop when we have the next disaster, as we did with the Almeda (Fire),” she said.
The Federal Government allocated $422 million for housing and infrastructure needs in the state of Oregon and Marsh said a big part of her job in her next term is to “really be tracking that money and making sure that we get projects that can compete for that money and then really making sure that we have mechanisms in place to identify people who are wildfire survivors.”
Marsh anticipates the Rogue Valley will see a “good chunk” of that amount because of the amount of housing lost in the Almeda Fire.
In many cases, individuals who could benefit from the funds will have been displaced from the area.
“We need to find them to make sure that they have first dibs of the new housing that we’re creating,” Marsh said. “So there’s tremendous amount of work over the next two years to try to rebuild communities and allow people to come back home.”
Marsh addressed what she describes as a “tumultuous” election cycle, because of the midterm elections and issues facing the state and nation.
“Because we’re coming out of a period in which things like pandemic and wildfire and inflation have made life difficult for people, some of those issues we can address on the state level and some of them, we really can’t,” Marsh said.
Marsh lauded Democrat Tina Kotek’s projected win over Republican challenger Christine Drazan, and said Kotek is best suited to find solutions for the state’s challenges. The Associated Press said the race was too close to call as of Wednesday afternoon, while The Oregonian called the race in Kotek’s favor midday on Wednesday.
“We have a lot of work ahead to address the big issues that people have talked about very clearly during this campaign, including homelessness and housing, and I think that we have the right leader to do that. But it’s also a matter of building connection and engagement with people who were disaffected by the election process. Again, I also think we have the right leader to do that.”
Election Day volunteer
Speaking of making connections with voters, Marsh spent the first portion of her election evening volunteering as a ballot drop-off observer at the Medford Public Library.
“The observers are handy just to make sure there’s no problems with people dropping their ballots, there’s no obstruction,” Marsh said. “And indeed there was not, everything went very smoothly.”
The very last person in line at the ballot box ran out of gas, two minutes shy of the deadline, according to Marsh.
“My last job as a drop box watcher was to take him to the gas station to fill up his spare can of gas,” she said.
“He got a break from work to rush down there, so, as I said to him, ‘You got your ballots dropped, that’s really great.’ If you ran out of gas, eh, you can fix the gas problem.”
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.