'Few legislators with an agricultural background'
By MITCH LIES
It is rare for the Oregon Farm Bureau to endorse a candidate in Oregon's primary elections. Endorsing a candidate in December of the year prior to the May primary is unheard of.
That, however, is what the Farm Bureau did recently in backing Tracey Liskey for the Republican nomination for House District 56, which includes Klamath Falls.
Liskey, first vice president of the state organization and a member of the State Board of Agriculture, drew Farm Bureau support not because of his affiliation with the farm organization, but because of his qualifications, Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue said.
"This has less to do with his work with the Farm Bureau than his capacity for understanding the issues and his approach to problem solving, which is what won us over in terms of that endorsement," Bushue said.
"There are so few legislators with an agricultural background," Bushue said. "We just could not miss an opportunity to engage in a race with someone of that skill set who has the ability to work toward solving problems."
Liskey, a third-generation Klamath Falls rancher, said he decided to run after learning that incumbent Republican Bill Garrard chose not to seek re-election. Garrard has held the seat since 2001.
One of his goals is to work across party lines to find compromise.
"I think I can do a good job of crossing lines and finding solutions instead of drawing a line in the sand," Liskey said. "I think people are tired of that. I know I'm tired of it."
Another goal is to reduce regulatory burdens on business.
"We've got to reduce some of these regulations and get the private enterprise economy back up and running," he said.
Liskey, 57, believes a strength he brings to the table is his familiarity with Klamath County issues.
"I'm homegrown," Liskey said. "I know the community. I've been working on water and environmental issues all my life."
As a lifelong farmer and rancher, Liskey said he knows what it takes to run a small business. He has worked with small business operators that use Liskey Farm's naturally occurring geothermal resources.
Renters use the geothermal energy to heat greenhouses for predator mite propagation and to warm several small ponds on the farm to raise freshwater tropical fish. A biodiesel plant also uses the resources to process canola seeds.
As first vice president of the state Farm Bureau, Liskey runs the day-to-day operation of the organization's annual meeting and works closely with farmers around the state. The experience, he said, has been invaluable.
The Farm Bureau, he said, prides itself on compromise, which is difficult in a state as diverse as Oregon.
"Oregon is such a diverse state," he said. "I see how different laws affect different parts of the state differently.
"But we know how to compromise and take small steps forward," Liskey said.
Liskey is facing at least two challengers in a Republican primary that biennially decides who wins the seat for House District 56. Also filing are Gale Whitsett, wife of Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, and Greg Taylor, a Klamath Falls city councilor. Wheat farmer Karl Scronce also is considering throwing his hat in the ring.
One barometer Klamath voters are expected to use to help decide which candidate to support is the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
Liskey said that, as state legislators, the candidates won't vote on the agreement, which now is in Congress. But he acknowledged their stance on the KBRA could be a factor.
Liskey said he believes the KBRA has good and bad parts.
"I voted for it," he said, "but I also fought hard in trying to fix the inadequacies of it."
Liskey is opposed to removing the four Klamath River dams, which is part of the agreement.
"But as part of the whole package, it has to be looked at," he said.