Initial reflections from ChenjeriD56:

Progressive organizers in Southern Oregon face tough battles, much more challenging than winning elections. We went forward in this campaign with an understanding of the outcome and with the mindset of ‘organize, organize, organize.’ Our goals: build grassroots policy, build networks, increase turnout, engage new groups and raise working-class consciousness. I think, while not succeeding in all of these, we made inroads and learned lessons. We didn’t get the electoral win, our numbers were pretty consistent with the last 10 years; we did make connections that can begin to change that in the future.

A campaign is truly a team effort. So many have donated dollars and hours. Organizers, workers and professionals of all backgrounds worked long hours creating this campaign and helping us coordinate. I’ll respect their privacy and not mention names, though they must know that they represent the best of local politics and helped the good that came out of this endeavor. Thank you!

When asked to run, I said I would present how I was most comfortable, as openly socialist. While this was a question in some interviews, ‘what do you mean?,’ ‘what does this mean for policy?,’ it didn’t seem to inspire such a negative response, as larger social issues did, i.e. ‘Roe.’ If out of this election cycle, we can begin to have a reasonable discussion about socialism in America, that would be a small success.

The development of the policy frameworks involved numerous interviews, meetings and studies on rural development. We built off ideas from work by researchers, professionals, tribal members, farmers, workers and voters in district 56. Our policies were an attempt to blend current scholarship on economic development with the nuanced insights of the grassroots.

We made a sincere approach to reach out and have dialogue with conservative groups as well – Republicans, Braver Angels, and almost had an interview with Lars Larson. Unfortunately, the GOP today have fallen to an alarming ‘Christian Nationalism’, a nearly fascist party; this is true at the national and local level. This is less true of the reasonable, average conservative voter. I hope our new representative works to listen and moderate their own anti-democratic views.

We needed to improve in some areas: Canvassing, labor outreach, and building diverse coalitions. We need to do better in rural areas to make inroads with grassroots and neighborhood leaders. Rural labor organizing is a significant block that progressives must work intentionally to facilitate. Better coordination with volunteers can improve canvassing efforts – face-to-face dialogue with voters leaves the lasting impact we need. A way forward would be to develop a local ‘neighborhood leader program.’

A success we did have was in advocating for a debate between the candidates. The League of Women Voters made this first public and recorded debate for our district(s) in years. Making this a regular practice is necessary for democracy. Let’s demand our candidates and incumbents agree to a public debate every cycle.

Personally, I will add that a small relief comes from getting to end the social media portion of the campaign. Social media can be effective at getting word out, though fails to organize authentically; we lose so much by relying on this. For my own health and sense of community, and yours, I will happily end these social media accounts soon.

It seems the path for rural America is to focus campaign energy around coalition building for long-term power rather than strictly winning campaigns. We need the ‘political infrastructure’ to make electoral change.

This was a great team effort and meaningful learning experience. I look forward to helping build more connections for our region and around Oregon with you! 

A better world is possible. 


Jonathan and the team at ChenjeriD56

What the Inflation Reduction Act can mean for rural Oregon

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is an important and long needed step in mitigating worsening effects of climate change. This attempts to curb inflationary pressure through easing consumer burdens and stimulating effective demand (consumers), while pulling back demand of suppliers (corporations). The purpose of this short response is to highlight what the IRA could do for rural areas. Paying for this bill, based on increased tax and accountability for corporate tax avoidance, is truly the least we can do. There are significant limitations and legitimate criticisms of the gutting of social safety net provisions (that ought to be accounted for by Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley), though I will focus on how this climate funding and healthcare benefits can be utilized in the future at the state and local level.

(Photo credit: ‘Progressive Farmer’ at

Over $360 billion will be invested in climate change mitigation, including investment in electric utilities, broadband, wind, solar and other renewable energies. The IRA also contains significant tax deductions for those who may be able to afford electric vehicles and appliances, and deductions for small businesses to ‘green’ their property and capital inputs. Investment in public works can build on the American Rescue Act in future funding for a Civilian Conservation Corps (a 21st century CCC modeled on the New Deal) to revitalize our natural capital in rural Oregon. This can mean long-term employment and modernized job training, increased effective consumer demand, union labor, and the attraction of business investment in rural areas. 

Investment in mitigating pollutants in Klamath Lake would be worth the cost, allowing both updates to agricultural and zoning practice, overtime reducing our contamination footprint. This is also an opportunity to work more closely with the Klamath Tribes, using the mediating influence of past federal and state officials to develop plans for fish, wildlife and economic impacts. Grants from the IRA focused on wind, solar and renewable energies can build upon important solar projects being done in Southern Oregon. Over $20 billion is put aside for rural development, climate and wildfire mitigation.

Klamath, Jackson, Clackamas, Lake and Douglas county are primed for an evolution in sustainable practices. In providing the funds for stabilizing farm production and enabling farmers to modernize practices, the IRA also provides assistance to those who experienced discrimination historically. Agriculture, natural resources, and residential sources can contract with community colleges, high school graduates and union apprenticeships to train and put to work rural Oregon in building solar and wind energies that can power homes, schools, hospitals and farms. 

The IRA significantly increases access to healthcare coverage, though was limited from an original framework (and certainly less than a universal healthcare program). While costs have increased in recent years, wages and pensions have not. An important step included in IRA is enabling Medicare, the state, to negotiate prices for the market; not allowing businesses to raise prices without regard to market effects. The bill highlights the unique needs rural areas have: insulin, mid-life care and vaccines will be capped at $35; seniors annual out of pocket pay for prescription drugs will be capped at $2,000, and families and individuals buying insurance via the Affordable Care Act will keep average monthly premiums low. If Oregon passes the HOPE Amendment in November, rural Oregonians can move toward more comprehensive and equitable healthcare access.

What was left out of the original Build Back Better bill is worth noting. Policies that would have helped reshape our social safety net and lift up the working class – from continued $300 monthly child tax credits, public community college, the PRO Act, pre-k for all, free childcare, and an increased minimum wage (few Oregon House members have pushed for a statewide $17 minimum overtime). The IRA, nonetheless, is a step toward the kind of investment rural America and rural Oregon needs for a sustainable and thriving future.

Dobbs: Where do we go from here? 

Rural areas will be disproportionately affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade through the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. This is of enormous consequence for all states, Indiana, Idaho and Oregon alike. This decision signals major consequences for individual and minority rights, tied here specifically to women and some transgender peoples. The decision also signals a dangerous neo-fascistic turn in the GOP; the culmination of decades of work on the part of the right, symbolized in the Trump moment. The Republican Party is no longer a vessel for containing the ‘factions’ in democracy, but has itself become a dangerous faction. In all of this, there is hope, and through state legal protections, elections, Congressional action, direct action and utilizing various avenues of change – we can stand for women, democracy, and working people everywhere. 

Feminist movements have helped to reveal the ways in which government and institutions has been largely shaped by upper-class/caste men. Institutions may of domination may leak the benefits and status to upper-middle class or caste women, Black and Brown people, lgbt people, though all in supporting the ‘common sense’ ideology, the legitimation of power and what serves the interests of those on top. Thus, the premise that denying basic rights upholds ‘traditional’ and ‘universal’ morals is not new, though it takes on a new form in our age. In a concrete sense, the struggle over women’s sexual autonomy and economic power has been fundamental. 

This campaign and many others stand unapologetically with women and all persons around the world. Rather than address the alienating effects of American capitalism, the Republican Party elite and our local leadership – including my opponent, focus on religious fanaticism. Fear and hysteria over transgender women (in particular), the gay and lesbian community. Sexual freedom, reproductive freedom impacts everyone. Parenthood and the ‘care economy’ impacts everyone including men and husbands. In this, rural areas and the poor will be significantly hurt, the identity of ‘independent,’ ‘local control’ will reveal its own contradictions as economic access, political and bodily autonomy are further tightened, and the effects of climate change are transposed onto “liberal Portland leadership.”

What can we do going forward? First, we must note that abortion continues to be protected in Oregon – a state known for a unique amount of access and protection in the nation. Second, it is important to recognize that the majority of Oregonians support the individual right to abortion services. There are some actions in the next year and the next legislative cycles that can be worked on: we can build on our $15 million investment in endorsing abortion and reproductive care access for Oregonians in rural areas and those traveling across state lines. We can vote to pass the HOPE Amendment in November, guaranteeing affordable healthcare access for all Oregonians, enabling access to reproductive care a right. Legislators must also make sure that insurance companies do not deny or inhibit abortion access – explicit protections must continue. In doing so, we can work to bring greater service networks to rural areas that will be disproportionately affected by the loss of Roe. Further, professional and network professionals can team with outreach and activist organizations, ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ that work to safely navigate transportation and networking for women and persons seeking abortion services. And, culturally, ending stigma, shame, and learning to embrace inclusive language can do good to help individuals through the very personal process of choosing reproductive care. 

What is unique about our time, while we face a neo-fascist threat, is that the democratic systems in place are authentic and real. Voting is but one process of effective change; union power is a real ‘countervailing power’ to corporate hegemony – and can be leveraged to expand reproductive care. Direct action can save women’s lives; and activist, feminist, gay rights, and environmentalists movement do change public consciousness.

American politics has been said to have a pendulum effect, swinging from liberal to conservative. We can have a ‘political revolution’ where the working- and working-middle classes have greater political influence. Where local news is supported, funded and work for the citizenry. Where urban and rural regions, people of all colors, genders and sexuality; and people from all faiths and class backgrounds have access to a respectable life, work with purpose, and social connections of solidarity and love. 

Statement on rejecting the NRA endorsement questionnaire:

In the standard campaign process of filling out endorsement questionnaires and working with the hardworking organizers around Oregon, I received an endorsement questionnaire from the National Rifle Association (NRA) that I will not answer. This is due to the unprofessional political threat they implied in their request: “If you choose not to return a questionnaire, you may be assigned a “?” rating, which can be interpreted by our members as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues.” 

In general, I will happily speak with most any group – conservative, liberal, ‘off-center’ group, etc., given a level of professionalism and earnest dialogue. While disagreements come with all groups, I have not experienced ‘political threats.’ Thus, I will briefly share our position on gun rights without playing to the NRA’s ‘smoke and mirrors.’ Gun rights are not a central facet of our campaign, though I recognize it has social significance to many. 

Here are my views, generally stated: 

  • I do not support a total ban on guns or ammunition. 
  • I don’t assume that because something works in California, that it can or should be implemented in Oregon. 
  • I do not support any repeal of concealed handgun licenses.
  • I support reasonable regulation, licensing and expanding training requirements for gun ownership. 
  • I support certain qualifiers that would disallow some individual gun ownership. For example, background checks, locking up guns while not in use in homes, and closing the “boyfriend loophole.” 
  • I do not support the ability of municipalities or sheriffs to inviolate state and federal checks on gun ownership and use. 
  • I would vote for some version of a 1994 assault weapons ban if put forward in Oregon. 
  • I do not think it is an accepted or historically accurate interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution to imply a literal, all encompassing ‘right’ to bear any type of firearm to individuals; nor is this a suitable principle for civil society. 

We have to recognize the difference in recreation, economics, and tradition in different areas. That is legitimate. I do not come from a gun owning family, it was not something we did as a family for recreation, etc. Thus, if I don’t exercise empathy and the willingness to learn, research, and understand the amount of regulation, licensing, sportsman accountability, quotas and tags in place; we may paint guns with a solitary picture of tragic violence associated in cities and schools.

All this said, the focus on the 2nd Amendment has become a source of ‘personal identity,’ the single issue vote that can be used to divide workers and voters on the basis of personal animus, cultural wars and fear. This has become ‘smoke and mirrors’ on the part of many GOP candidates and politicians, to hide the concentrated power of the upper-middle class, the rich and corporations – and the lobbyists. 

We deserve better than political games. 

Economic development, reductions in income inequality, and the opportunities for all communities to live the lives they love should be our goals. 

We can do this together. 


We Need A Feminist Change

I’m Jonathan Chenjeri and I’m running for State Representative in District 56. I write to defend Oregon’s commitment to abortion access and to protect individual liberties. Oregon rightly maintains unrestricted access for women and transgender Oregonians to access reproductive care. The significance of Roe v Wade cannot be understated. Yet, while declared “settled law” by the last three Supreme Court nominees, 26 states stand poised to enact abortion bans, disproportionately affecting poor and rural families. We need a feminist cultural and political change, as well as an economic one – one that expands the idea of ‘care’ and equality for all.

Virginia Woolf wrote (1929) that women could only write novels with some money and “a room of one’s own” – a metaphor for autonomy. Betty Friedan (1963) wrote of unfulfilled middle-class women limited to ‘housework,’ where the unpaid ‘care’ economy further limited opportunity. These struggles are coupled with reproductive choice. While we have rejected the subordination of women as ‘natural’ or ‘God’-given, we struggle with sexual and reproductive independence. 

The modern GOP has embraced cultural authoritarianism over cultural pluralism, rejecting the majority of Americans who support access to abortion. In extending rights of bodily autonomy, along with expanding the domain of the ‘care’ economy to men, we move toward a healthier society. This demands we protect our individual liberties and choice. Without, we exacerbate already glaring inequities.   

Rural areas uniquely need organizations like Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides a host of critical health services and community education focusing on inclusion, and body and sex positivity. We need the feminist change: where all can have ‘a room of one’s own,’ fulfilling work, and meaningful relationships. A change with institutions built on care and a deep respect for individuals. We need rural leadership in Oregon to help move us there. 



Inflation isn’t the problem

I’m Jonathan Chenjeri and I’m running for OR House District 56. 

Concern over inflation and pandemic spending in Oregon, or Build Back Better, is misguided. Opposing childcare support, rent stability, and climate change mitigation reflect outdated ‘scarcity’ fears, and obscure the real issue: the misuse of our national wealth. We should pay for these bills by finally raising taxes on the rich, raising wages for taxable income, and planful short-term borrowing. This is how our system functions best: countering market instability with public regulation.

Talk of “Bidenflation,” national debts, or disobeying ‘the market’ echo the false narrative of resource and labor ‘scarcity.’ It is rather public underinvestment, unhealthy wealth concentration, the household supplementation of wages for credit cards and debts, and overpaying for childcare or insurance that make our dollars unproductive. This economic pattern gives rise to macro-concerns like the national debt. 

Critics argue that child tax credits, unemployment, and ‘supply’ issues have led to a whopping 59% price rise in gasoline; eggs in 8%; and local restaurants, 10%. Inflation, thus, is holding back working families. These numbers are misused, as overall inflation is 6.2%. For example, that “59%” is about $1.20, a small spike over 10 years; that “8%” is $0.32, and the 10%, $1. This is the “inflation-scare” game: distract with present inconveniences from long-term declines in household income, rising debt, displaced small business, and corporate privileges. ‘Class warfare’ is saying we cannot raise wages, because the ‘consumer’ will suffer. Inflation can ultimately help business – high demand, higher prices and higher wages brings more income. 

A bright future is possible if we work together now. Supporting families with wage increases, debt relief, unions, and infrastructure investment will help everyone in the long-run. These times do call for patience and moderation, the lessons of history are often that we didn’t spend enough.