Meet the Democrats: Tobias Read

Editor's Note: We continue our series introducing you to the ten new Democrats in the Oregon Legislature.

Tobias_readThis spring, Tobias Read won a tough primary election by only 87 votes. This fall, he handily defeated his Republican opponent - winning election to the Washington County seat formerly held by Rep. Mark Hass.

He has experience in the private sector (a kids' shoe developer at Nike) and the public sector (in the Oregon State Legislature and the US Dept. of Treasury). He's also been active in the community. Learn more at

What was the best job you've had that didn't involve politics?

Development Officer for Willamette University. I got to talk to people throughout the community, help promote a product I believe in, build coalitions and convince people to invest in community.

What's the most important issue facing Oregon? What's the long-term solution, and what can be done in the short term?

Public education has to be our foremost priority because it will define Oregon’s future. Building a world class system of public education, and maintaining it, requires fostering amongst all Oregonians, a sense of shared responsibility and mutual benefit. Everyone needs to feel a stake in the success of our educational system. When someone goes by their neighborhood school – even if they don’t have kids there, they should care about what happens there because it matters to us all. In the short term we need a solid rainy day fund, and a mechanism to help build the schools and classrooms we need.

Name one Oregonian, past or present, who inspires you - and tell us why.

It’s hardly unique to say it, but the legacy of Tom McCall continues to influence me. I’m inspired by his willingness to say what he felt, regardless of the potential fallout, and to talk about big ideas – to inspire Oregonians and to cultivate a sense of possibility in our state. I hope I can continue (even some portion of) that tradition, though I’m aware I’ll need lots of help.

Ducks or Beavers?

I’ll root for my alma mater; go Willamette Bearcats!

If you found yourself alone with an entire day all to yourself, how would you spend it?

I’d ride my bike – haven’t gotten to do that much in the course of a campaign. I’d spend time catching up on the reading I’ve also been missing. And if I can stretch the question, I’d also look to find interesting people with whom I could talk about new ideas – hopefully people with whom I might disagree.

What books have you read lately?

The Blind Side, Michael Lewis... Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin... I wish I could claim more, but until a few ago all my time was spent on the campaign.

Tell us one thing that no one knows about you.

After a vigorous campaign, I’m not sure there’s much left that no one knows. However, relatively few people may know that in the incoming class of House Democrats I am NOT the youngest, but I AM the tallest (6’7”) by a small margin over Representative-elect Cannon.

As a first-term legislator, what do you hope to accomplish?

I want to help change the tone of debate; to talk more about what we CAN do in Oregon, instead of simply what we can’t. We need to begin restoring public faith in government and the integrity of elected officials. I’m convinced we can begin that by being transparent, and by making good investments for the future of our state. I want to make sure we do everything we can for public education, (a rainy day fund and a mechanism for school construction) and bring back a sense of creativity to the way we confront other challenges – like healthcare.

Why do you live in Oregon?

Oregon is one of the last best places. I came here for college, and it fit so I stayed. Even as I left for work in the Clinton Administration and for graduate school this felt like home. I like Oregon’s climate, both human and physical, and I like our prospects for the future.

Name three favorite movies.

A River Runs Through It... Hoosiers... Field Of Dreams

What did you learn on the campaign trail that you didn't know before - about yourself, about your district, and about Oregon?

I suspected, but learned for sure during the campaign, that people have a tremendous capacity for hope, and optimism even in tough times. While many of the voters I talked to are skeptical (and that’s ok), about what government can do, they want more and believe it’s possible to have a state government that operates transparently and in the best interest of the state – for the long run. I’m ready to go to work.
  • (Show?)

    Congratulations on your Revenue Vice-Chairmanship! I hope you enjoy reading all of the tax expenditures. It's a big, long list.

  • 17yearoldwithanopinion (unverified)

    wow vice chairmen on first term good job tobias.

  • David (unverified)

    As one of your constitutents, I wish you the best of luck. Go do us proud!

  • Gloria (unverified)

    OK fine but what is your idea for "Building a world class system of public education"

    How are going to be "fostering amongst all Oregonians, a sense of shared responsibility and mutual benefit"

    Does "EVERYONE need to feel a stake"? What is your idea for achieving that? How do you suggest the state help "everyone CARE about what happens there"? Does EVERYONE have to care?

    "change the tone of debate" "talk" "restoring public faith" "transparent" "good investments" "do everything we can for public education" "bring back a sense of creativity"

    How does a rainy day fund help all that stuff?

    That's it? A rainy day fund? I'm pretty sure almost everyone has heard all of the "let's do better" rhetoric over and over again from every politician.
    I care, you care, we all care.

    So what. Can we have a little substance? Where's the leadership? This State needs a lot more than hope, optimism and more spending. No matter what the times.

  • 17yearoldwithanopinion (unverified)

    wow talk about harsh.

  • (Show?)

    I don't know why Gloria's comment is harsh. She just pointed out that platitudes aren't policy.

    But apparently platitudes are enough to get elected in Oregon.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Gloria and Rob -

    The guy hasn't even taken office yet and you guys are attacking him like piranhas. Tobias has lots of substantive ideas about education, healthcare, and other issues. I know because I have talked to him about them. He describes some of them at his website - such as having an indepedent insurance commissioner that would have to approve any increased in insurance rates.

    If you two have policy ideas that you would like to share with Tobias, you can find his email address pretty easily on his website.

  • Levon (unverified)

    I thought he was taller than the photo would indicate.

    Gloria, isn't that worth mentioning too? Sick 'em!

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