Vineeta Lower. Photo from the Lower campaign

HD 32 - It’s a crowded field for the Oregon House of Representatives’ District 32 seat, currently held by Tiffiny Mitchell (D-Astoria) who is stepping down so her husband can pursue a career opportunity in Washington.

And as if the coronavirus doesn’t make it difficult at best for campaigners to get their message across to constituents, Vineeta Lower (R-Seaside), an online English public school teacher for the Oregon Virtual Academy, running for the Republican nomination, is forging a path against a formidable foe, and doing so without a working staff of volunteers. 

It will be Lower's second attempt at the position, after winning the 2018 Republican nomination but ultimately losing to Mitchell.

Her partisan rival is Suzanne Weber, the outspoken mayor from Tillamook who regularly posts YouTube and Facebook videos stressing her opinions on issues ranging from the city of Tillamook to House District 32 to the state during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

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Lower’s website, lists five priorities if she is to become a state legislator -- Lower taxes, the second amendment, veterans, the timber industry, and parental rights.  

Her website emphatically states “Our parental rights are under attack with the mandatory vaccination.” 

By “the mandatory vaccination,” Lower is referring to children being required to receive vaccines for diseases like Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, and B, the measles, the mumps, and rubella.

Her site states that it “has been recently found that the fact that vaccinations have indeed been found to cause Autism. While some still state that it does not, an article from October 2009 in NaturalNews.com states,” There is also a strong connection between all forms of vaccinations and autism.” 

It should be noted that the federal Center for Disease Control has stated: “there is no link between vaccines and autism.” It also should be noted that Forbes.com published a story Dec. 2016 stating that, despite it being an online staple of medical news for millions of people, NaturalNews.com consistently publishes fake, misleading, and false information that the public should not take seriously. 

In 2019, after years of observation, Facebook removed the “conspiracy site natural news,” according to The Daily Beast.

Experience teaching online translates to Salem

Lower’s job with the Oregon Virtual Academy requires her to teach kids who didn’t elect to take English during their first two years of high school, meaning they have to make up those credits in order to graduate.

Lower, who also serves on the Seaside Tree Board and Seaside Transportation Advisory Committee, runs an online classroom that provides passports for students to ask questions they might feel otherwise embarrassed to ask. 

She said working with people through the transportation board, and with her students, reinforced her belief there is a human correlation between listening to an individual’s needs and listening to the individual needs of many, whether they voted for her or not.

“What I learned working for the Washington State Transportation Department in the government liaison office was managing constituent relations,” Lower said. “The most important thing is that people want to be heard and if they’re really truly heard and they are mostly satisfied then we can typically work together to find solutions to whatever the concerns or issues are. 

“People have emotions around their concerns,” she continued. “Giving them the opportunity as (an elected official) to say, ‘This is bugging me,’ I can say, ‘This feels frustrating, too. So, (do) you know others in your community who feel this way?' If so, I can draft a bill or go before the legislature in a more informed fashion where I represent a good number of people about the same issue.”

Possible Democratic opposition

If Lower defeats Weber in the Republican campaign, she will face either George Kiepke (D-Astoria) or Debbie Boothe-Schmidt (D-Astoria). 

Kiepke is a former Clatsop County commissioner, Oregon Rural Economic Development counselor, and political advisor to the Westport-based United Steelworkers Union Local 1097. He’s running on healthy communities in both the existential and literal sense, and has decades of government experience, including as a union political advisor, behind him.  

Debbie Booth-Schmidt is his rival and a tough one by her own right. On the surface, Booth-Schmidt is a Clatsop County trial assistant, and co-owner of the Astoria-based Phog Bounders Antique Mall

But she also served as Chair of the Astoria-based Sunset Empire Transportation District Chair, a former Seldovia, AK city councilor, and the Clatsop County Voter’s Pamphlet lists her as president of Oregon AFSCME Local 2746 union.