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Education Is Top Priority, Says House Rep Candidate

James Manning
James Manning

Last week was eventful for James Manning. As a candidate for Oregon state representative in House District 14, which covers West Eugene, Bethel and Junction City, he says he was excited to see the Eugene library levy pass, increasing hours of operation for the library in his home neighborhood of Bethel. 

As a Eugene Water and Electric Board commissioner, Manning says he spent a lot of time last week talking with people about the $10 fee increase proposed by EWEB that would have charged more to low-energy users and less to high-energy users. 

The increase was abandoned for now, but Manning says he wants to make sure that EWEB’s “technical conversation doesn’t outweigh our ability to communicate with our customers.”

Manning’s experience as an EWEB commissioner is just one example among many in his lengthy record of public service, including advocacy for education. He’s running for Rep. Val Hoyle’s seat — Hoyle is serving her last term as representative in order to run for Oregon secretary of state next year.

“I have known Val for a long time, and she’s done a lot of great work in Salem,” says Manning, a Democrat. He says he’s worked directly with her to pass progressive legislation, and “I plan to continue that progressive movement.” 

After serving 24 years in the U.S. Army, Manning moved to Eugene in 2007. Since then, he’s served on a number of boards and committees, including the Bethel School District Budget Committee and the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs, and he’s the co-founder of the Oregon Black Education Foundation, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to students in need.

“Education is a number-one priority of mine,” Manning says. “When I look at education opportunities in Oregon, I see that we need a lot of work to improve upon them. I’ve spoken before the Oregon Education Investment Board to ask for increased funding for pre-K programs and for free school meals for all kids, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Manning says he also advocates for free public college and providing daycare for student parents. He’d like to see an increase in high school trade classes and internship opportunities for students.

“The investment we make in our children’s education today is going to define what our nation’s future will be,” he says. “If we don’t do anything about education, then we can’t expect our future leaders to have all the tools they’re going to need to keep us moving forward.”

 Manning says he’s worked with lawmakers in Oregon to pass legislation on racial profiling and equal pay for women, and that experience has helped familiarize him with Salem and its workings. “When I walk down the halls [of the Capitol], they know who I am and they know what I’m there for — to move items that are critical to quality of life.”

Another issue important to Manning is the living wage, which he defines as working fulltime and being able to take care of a family without assistance. He’s not sure what number would get Oregon to that point, but he says he’s “very supportive of an increased minimum wage.” 

Manning is running against Democrat Julie Fahey, a human resources consultant (see EW 10/29). So far, no one else has entered the race. The deadline to register is March 8, 2016.