Saturday, March 31, 2018

Jennifer Neahring: Campaign Update

"I'm running because we couldn't just keep doing the same thing. I was unhappy enough with Walden to quit my job to run for Congress.  I couldn't just sit back."

Dr. Jennifer Neahring

Dr. Neahring broadens her portfolio of interests.  She got into this because she wanted to fix health policy.  Now she wants to fix a lot of things.

Last year Jennifer Nearing had been talking with thought leaders at Harvard and DC, and she felt a calling.  She could help fix a broken health care system, and because she could do it she must do it.

She spoke with members of our Congressional Delegation. Could someone with a physician's perspective--someone keenly interested in health policy--make a difference?  Could a physician actually win in the 2nd CD?  They encouraged her.  She jumped into the race.

Jennifer Neahring is an example of one happy version of the American success story: the high achieving, mixed-race, 2nd generation immigrant.  She had smarts, a great work ethic, a can-do attitude, and America rewarded it. She isn't done.  She wants to do more, achieve higher, make a difference in America. 

She met with ten people in my home on December 5, 2017, four months ago, and impressed them with her sense of mission to fix a broken health care system. The question was her electability. She was all about policy; elections are about connection to a constituency. She was accustomed to success and work being rewarded, but 2nd Congressional District residents voted 60% for Trump who spoke to the frustrations and disappointments of white Americans. Trump connected with rural America. He said the present was carnage.  He said experts and urbanites and racial outsiders were stepping in front of regular American, grabbing the success that had been theirs.  His message was one of resentment.  Nearing communicated optimism and opportunity.

It might not be a good fit, I thought.

That was then. She is a much better candidate now, with more issues to discuss.  She is talking about infrastructure, the electrical grid, rural broadband, and shoring up Social Security by significantly raising the income cap on the Social Security tax.

She still projects optimism and opportunity.

She is one of seven candidates. She is settling into a niche on the political spectrum--somewhere to the right of Eric Burnett who has claimed the unabashedly Bernie-style leftist union orientation.  She is content that Tim White--and not herself--gets applause from audiences for angry denunciations of Walden. "That's just not me."  

She recognizes that Jamie McLeod Skinner connects with some people with her ranch talk and belt buckle, but that isn't her, either.  She wears what she wore as a physician in practice in rural Iowa and again in Salem: either a dress or khaki pants and a shirt.  She said she only wore the white doctor's jacket for her website photo, so she would be identified as the one who was a doctor. "I had to go out and buy one.  I didn't own one."

She said she thought being exactly who she was--a physician--was a good way to connect with the district.  Doctors are needed and respected in rural counties, and people expect doctors to know things. "Doctors care.  Doctors connect with individual patients."   Doctors belong in rural counties just like ranchers do, she says.

Knowing things creates a problem for Neahring.  In forums people ask the candidates to announce what they propose for solving the health care problem.  The response that gets applause is one that is simple to understand and state:  "Medicare for All."  

She doesn't say it.  Fellow candidates notice and want that apostasy noted.  

Nearing says that that solution is over-simple, it misunderstands that some 15% of Medicare patients are also Medicaid eligible, and that Medicare itself must be fixed before it can be expanded.  Medicare cannot negotiate drug prices, Medicare is fee-for-service instead of whole-body-wraparound. Medicare is "rescue care", treating illness, rather than promoting wellness. Until Medicare is fixed it is the wrong model. We need to get to universal coverage, but some form of Medicare for everyone is the end, not the route, she said.  She took ten minutes to explain what needed to happen, and I may not have summarized it correctly, but it is my understanding of what she said, which, of course, exemplifies the problem.  Its complexity is both Neahring's strength and political weakness.  

Trump said, "Who knew healthcare could be so complicated?"  

Jennifer Neahring did.

Neahring thinks the congressional race is settling into a contest between two women, herself and Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There is no polling. 

 It is the year of the woman, she said. "Jamie got in early and built an organization early. And she has deep residency roots." Nearing thinks that her own big asset is her deep knowledge of the subject matter of a signature betrayal by Greg Walden, his risk to health care for hundreds of thousands of his own constituents.  Repeal and replacement of the ACA would have reversed the expansion of the Oregon Health Plan, risked access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, and it would have damaged rural hospitals in his district.

She says she is making that case, and trying to do it as someone who brings people together, not as someone who calls Walden "a liar", which she says is Tim White's task.  Can a soft tone and a complex approach to a complex problem cut through the clutter and campaign talk of six other candidates? That is her task.

[This is a second in a series of profiles on each of the candidates.  Jim Crary's was the day before yesterday.  There are more to come.

I write about politics and messaging every day.  Bookmark this page, or follow it by email.]


  1. As a republican, and someone who is not a Walden fan, I'm open to other choices, but I don't see it coming from the democrats. Perhaps I just don't appreciate your politics, but all of your candidates appear to be one-issue candidates, they are not well-rounded on all of the issues, they don't appear to have the financial skills which are necessary to run government, and they appear to be extreme in their positions, which doesn't appeal to republicans in a general election. I don't see any of your candidates beating Walden in November, but then I could be wrong.

  2. Jenni, Jamie and Eric seem to stand out, each having strong areas of experience. We are so lucky to have as o many great candidates who are all willing to share their experiences with who ever wins. I live in Hood River now and Walden won their last time by only a few votes. People are upset that he is not listening. These candidates are willing to listen and to fight for All of Oregon. After 20 years Walden is too comfortable, lost focus of what he is in Washington to do. Have you gotten one of those like Trump "not really going to answer your question" letters from Walden? I have:-(

  3. I have no problem with "one issue" candidates, given that just about all Republicans, including Mr. Walden, are one issue: Whatever it takes to protect their very wealthy donors.
    If the choice is a one issue candidate who chooses to protect working people and families instead, I'm good with that.

  4. I first heard Dr. Jenni speak about 3 weeks ago and gravitated to her message. Her approach to issues that I have heard her discuss is practical and comes from the viewpoint of someone who wants to solve problems rather than adhere to an orthodoxy. I think that her understanding of healthcare will serve us well as she works to improve the system once she is in Congress. I believe she has the right message to beat Walden and flip this district to the Democrat party which will benefit the entire country.

  5. Thanks, Alex. The adjectival form for the Democratic Party is "Democratic" not "Democrat. Republicans got coaching from Newt Gingrich that what they should do is mess with the brand of Democrats, thereafter calling it the "Democrat Party." I have cautioned commenters here that I don't particularly like it when people refer to the "Repugs", but I leave it because Fox News uses the term "Democrat Party" so I figure that this is a part of the political work of opposition brand-damage. Trump is a master at it (Little Marco, Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary, Fake News.) Thanks for commenting. Please keep doing so.

  6. Thanks for that Peter - just poor typing on my part

  7. Dr. Jenni has that competent calm Dr. presence that goes a long way with people. I like it too. But for a "bold leader" which is what she says of herself on her website.... would love to hear some examples. I have been unable to find any of those bold leadership positions on her website or when listening to her. She isn't even boldly in favor of an improved Medicare for All. It sounds more like non substantive generalities...nice guyism rather than bold leadership much less any defined policy positions.

  8. It's refreshing to have an actual doctor with a knowledge of the nuances of the current system and how far it has to go talking about health care policy in a thoughtful way. I hope she gets a chance to govern. Or at the very least forces Walden to read a few white papers.

  9. There are a couple things about Dr. Jenni that I think separate her from the seven (!) other Democrats running this May. First off, she is an honest-to-goodness, practicing physician - not just an academic or researcher. I've read a fair amount about healthcare reform and a lot of the problems with it have come about because real, hands-on doctors weren't consulted enough when the policies were originally written. We need people with practical knowledge on the topic to be involved if we have any hope of fixing the broken system! I know Jenni will provide that knowledge.
    Also, she’s new to politics! I love that! These past couple years we’ve seen tons of people, particularly women, drop everything out of a desire to serve their country – and they’re getting elected! I really hope Oregon jumps on that band wagon. Tenured, one-dimensional, cynical politicians brought us to where we are now. I want to see what new, diverse, enthusiastic people can do. “Drain the swamp!” ;)

  10. Agree completely that Dr Neahring is an excellent candidate for several reasons.
    1. In a short time, she has demonstrated the ability to learn from others a great definitely a listener that learns quickly. She is someone who could collaborate with others on multiple issues.
    2. she is an expert on the big subject of health care . I have been a practicing physician for 46 years, and worked also in administrative roles.....and am totally impressed that she will work towards making progress
    3. As a female candidate and mother, she could likely benefit from the various forces encapsulated by Obama when he commented "men seem to be having problems now, maybe it is time to give women a chance."

    Realistically, to have a democratic candidate win against Walden, it will take national support to do this . It is clear that there are wonderful other candidates in the field, but if people feel Walden should be replaced, she seems to be the only realistic candidate.
    Dane Moseson

  11. It's a shame you don't have a donate button! I'd most
    certainly donate to this excellent blog! I guess for now
    i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

    I look forward to new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!


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