Anna Scharf is Oregon’s newest state representative
On Monday, Anna Scharf was sworn in after being appointed as Oregon state representative from House District 23. She is replacing former State Rep. Mike Nearman, whom lawmakers voted to expel from the legislature in June. Scharf worked for Nearman and has been a lobbyist in the past. She has also served on her local school board and helps to run her family’s farm. We talk with her about her policy goals.
This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. Oregon has a new state lawmaker. On Monday, Anna Scharf was sworn in after being appointed as a Representative from House District 23; that includes parts of Benton, Polk, Marion and Yamhill Counties. Scharf has replaced former Republican State Representative Mike Nearman, who lawmakers voted to expel from the legislature in June. Scharf was a staffer in Nearman’s office and previously worked as a lobbyist in Salem. She has also served on her local school board and helps to run her family’s farm. Representative Anna Scharf, congratulations and welcome to Think Out Loud.
Anna Scharf: Thank you Dave, I appreciate you having me and before we get started, I was listening to your last segment and I want to extend my thoughts and my prayers to Ben [DuVal] and his family and all the other farmers in the Klamath Basin they’re definitely struggling with this drought and wildfires and I know that Representative Reschke is doing an excellent job at trying to rally to get them as much help as possible.
Miller: Let’s move on to your role in all of this. As I mentioned, you’ve worked at the capitol before, both as a staffer to now former state Rep Mike Nearman and also as a lobbyist before that. How do you think those experiences helped prepare you for elected office?
Scharf: You know, it’s really funny because the lobbyist portion, the last time I was actually paid as a lobbyist, was over 30 years ago when I came back to the building as a lobbyist, it was on a volunteer basis because I saw issues that were affecting my neighbors, my farm, and other folks in our surrounding ag and timber communities. I knew that I had a voice from that experience in the past and I thought I had an opportunity to use it. In 2018, I ran my own piece of legislation successfully through the process and realized that I still had a lot of passion for public service and for helping out folks around me. Part of the reason that I went back to the building to work for former Representative Nearman during the short session in 2020 was because of the desire to get back into that and being a policy analyst was an excellent opportunity to be able to do that.
Miller: What are your hopes for the 2022 short session? It will be your first as a member of the legislature.
Scharf: My main concerns right now are just making sure that Oregon and House District 23 are a place where people can afford to live and people can have the opportunities to find employment. We’ve had a really rough year in House District 23, just as the rest of the state has with the shutdowns with our schools being closed and so there’s still work to be done on that. The legislature did great work this last session in getting some of those things addressed. But there’s always work to be done. Immediately though, right now I’m focusing on redistricting and making sure that our voice and our thoughts and our concerns in our District are heard as the maps were redrawn. Because that has an impact over the next 10 years and it’s a pretty important thing to be taking on right now.
Miller: To be adding one more Representative in the US House of Representatives in addition to all of the state level redistricting. What committee assignments are you hoping to get?
Scharf: You know that’s an interesting question. I’ve been asked that a couple of times already. I’m hoping that the speaker, who I haven’t sat down with personally yet, I’m still on the whirlwind right now. But I’m hoping that the speaker will see that my background is in business, agriculture, business and labor, agriculture, environment, and education. So I would hope that she would be able to find a place for me in one of those areas or multiple areas. As you know, when short session comes along, the committee assignments look much different than they did in the long session just because it’s a shorter period of time and also because there’s different issues that need to be addressed.
Miller: What are you hoping for when you do have that first meeting with Speaker Kotek?
Scharf: You know, I’m actually looking forward to it. She already reached out to me right after my appointment and it was very gracious for her to make me feel so welcome in that body. I’m hoping that we have the opportunity to sit down and have good dialogue. Being in the super minority is rough. but I also believe there’s a lot of common ground that we did find in this last session in making some great headway, especially with wildfire recovery efforts and some of the bigger picture items that affect Oregonians all over the state and in House District 23.
Miller: This appointment is going to allow you to finish out what would have been former Representative Nearman’s term. But do you plan to run for your own full two year term in 2022?
Scharf: You know, Dave, I’m glad that you asked that, a couple of people have asked me that as well. I would not have put my name into this process if I didn’t intend to run in May in the primary and win in the general next November. Absolutely, I’ll be running to represent this district.
Miller: There were some people in the district, including the majority of the local Republican Party chapter, who wanted to see former Representative Nearman himself get appointed to the seat that he had to vacate. How do you plan to win over those folks?
Sharf: I’ve already reached out and we had the Polk County PCP which, the PCP are the folks that do the initial appointment process in their platform to send the name recommendations to the county commissioners. And this is all spelled out in statute. I’ve already spoken to a couple of the ones from Polk County, I will be speaking at the Marion County meeting tomorrow evening, and then I’m scheduled later on this month to go to Benton County as well. Representative Nearman is a wonderful person. Good people sometimes make mistakes. I fully feel like by having conversations with those folks and reaching out with them, they are my friends and neighbors and I think that they will get behind me when they figure out that we all need to move forward.
Miller: You told the county commissioners who appointed you that your commitment to the Second Amendment would prompt you to walk away from negotiations that would curtail gun rights. Does that mean walking out of the legislature?
Scharf: No, and I believe I clarified that as well. It might have been in the PCP platform. Walking out of the building is no longer a tool that’s in the toolbox. I’m not saying that it wasn’t an effective tool when it was used, it’s been used historically by both parties, but that’s really no longer an option for either side of the aisle to walk out. There are measures in place and agreements in place that it would be extremely costly. You don’t run for a position in the State Legislature, whether it’s the House of the Senate to become rich, it doesn’t pay you very well and walking out on your job would result in a financial hardship. That aside, there are core values that I hold very dear, that I am not willing to compromise on, and I believe in our Constitution and I believe in the Second Amendment in people’s rights to legally and responsibly own firearms.
Miller: How do you feel about the fact that that tool has been taken out? It was one of the more effective ones in the Republican toolbox in, not in the most recent session but in the two previous ones before that?
Scharf: One of the most recent session the tool was taken away, but there are other tools within the rules of the House that can be used and those were used very effectively this legislative session and ended up with some really good compromises happening. One of those compromises was getting Representative Shelly Boshart Davis from House District 15 a seat at the table in redistricting. And so we do have a balance of power between the majority and the minority party on redistricting on that committee. And that was a huge win-win for both sides because of the long term implications that that has. So I think kind of like Ben [DuVal] alluded to in farming, your tools change over time and I do believe that there are still tools in the toolbox that we all can use to become successful in basically what is the negotiation process in the Legislature.
Miller: Anna Scharf, thanks very much for joining us today. Best of luck to you.
Scharf: Dave, thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.
Miller: Anna Scharf is Oregon’s newest State Representative, a Republican from House District 23 that includes parts of Benton, Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties. Tomorrow, on the show, we’re going to listen back to our 2016 ‘On the Road’ episode that took us from the California border up to the shores of Upper Klamath Lake. Along the way, we talk to people in hardware stores, diners, mobile home parks and campgrounds. Special thanks to Tony Swan, the principal here at Klamath Union High School, and to Nick Collins and Tammy DeHart, who helped us to get set up here so we could broadcast over the last three days here. Go Pelicans. If you don’t want to miss any of our shows, you can listen on the NPR One App on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Our nightly rebroadcast is at eight p.m. Thanks very much for tuning in to Think Out Loud on OPB and KLCC. I’m Dave Miller, we’ll be back tomorrow.
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