Farmer sets sights on state House
By MITCH LIES
PLEASANT HILL, Ore. -- Grass seed farmer Kelly Lovelace likes nothing better than hearing people say he can't do something, and proving them wrong.
He has another chance of doing so Nov. 6.
Lovelace, 63, a Republican, is running in the November general election for the Oregon House in a district considered a Democratic stronghold.
Tell him he can't win, though, and he'll say you're wrong.
"A lot of people have thought I couldn't do a lot of things, and a lot of people have been wrong," he said. "Now they're saying I can't win this race. I would say they're wrong again."
Lovelace said his propensity to prove people wrong started in high school when he told friends he would one day own a farm. With no connections to farming, friends didn't believe him, he said.
By 1976, 10 years after graduating, he owned his first farm: A 160-acre spread outside Eugene.
By 1982, Lovelace was managing the 1.25 million-acre MC Ranch in Adel, Ore. The ranch included more than 20,000 acres of irrigated ground, 5,000 acres of barley and 10,000 cows, he said.
By the late 1980s, Lovelace was owner and operator of Western Attachment Co., a small manufacturing company in Eugene. Lovelace ran the company until 2000.
Today, in addition to growing proprietary annual ryegrass seed, some tall fescue and running about 30 cows on his Pleasant Hill farm, he produces lift equipment for wheel loaders and sells it around the world.
If he can once again prove people wrong, Lovelace, 63, believes the diversity of jobs he's tackled and his small business experience will serve him well in Salem.
"There's no common sense up there," he said. "We need people who have been out in the world who have seen a lot of things, and understand how things work."
Lovelace is running on a campaign to roll back regulations, shrink government and increase jobs. He realizes he faces a tough task in a district where Democrats hold a nearly 4,000-vote edge.
In 2010, Lovelace lost to incumbent Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, 15,244 votes to 12,657.
But he remains undaunted.
"All we have to do is turn 1,300 voters," he said. "And I think I think we can. There is a lot of anti-Democrat sentiment out there right now."