Salem man fundraising for Senate nomination

He seeks to be first Hispanic to represent Oregon


January 16, 2008

There is no candidate running for the U.S. Senate nomination like Salem resident David Loera.

What sets him apart is not that he picked crops as a young child in the fields of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, or that he spoke only Spanish when he started the first grade, or that he earned his college degree at age 32.

No, what makes Loera, 66, unique among the 10 candidates vying for the spot is that he's Hispanic.

The retired mental-health counselor, who's running as a Democrat, never aspired to political office.

But he says a climate of hate that has surfaced in Oregon against Latinos, namely toward undocumented immigrants of Latin-American origins, was one of the reasons he decided to throw his hat in the ring.

"The other candidates have not addressed the issues of immigration and universal health care," Loera said. "Those are very important issues."

There are only three Hispanics serving in the U.S. Senate.

No Hispanic ever has represented Oregon in Congress, and Loera acknowledges that he's a longshot.

So far, the two Democratic candidates who have emerged as top contenders for the Senate nomination are Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley and Portland activist Steve Novick.

While both already have posted six-digit fundraising figures, Loera -- who joined the campaign in October -- is behind in the race to raise money.

His first fundraiser is scheduled for noon Saturday at La Margarita restaurant, 545 Ferry St. SE in Salem.

Loera is among four lesser-known Democrats who jumped into the race to oust Republican incumbent Gordon Smith, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and re-elected to the office in 2002.

The others are Candy Neville of Eugene, Pavel Goberman of Beaverton and Roger Obrist of Damascus.

Though some debates leading up to the May primary still are being mulled over by the Democratic candidates, Loera said he plans to take part in at least two: one on Jan. 22 in Pendleton and one on March 7 in Eugene.

He said he intends to push for solutions to the immigration problem -- and the hate crimes it has given rise to -- and the health-care crisis.

"If we don't address the health-care issue, it's going to eat into our economy," Loera said. "As it is, some employers are hesitant to hire people because a big chunk of their budget has to go toward health care."

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey