Sokol Blosser Eyes State Seat

By Hannah Hoffman

Wine industry pioneer Susan Sokol Blosser of Dundee will challenge first-term state Rep. Jim Weidner of Yamhill for the House District 24 seat, which represents most of Yamhill County.

Neither Weidner, a Republican, nor Sokol Blosser, a Democrat, faces opposition in the May primary, which sets the stage for a showdown in the November general election.

Sokol Blosser said she was moved to run after watching a string of legislators fail to serve the district well. "I feel it's been underrepresented for too long," she said.

The struggling Oregon economy and poor job market would be her top priorities if elected, she said. Education, agriculture and the Newberg-Dundee Bypass would also rank high on the list, she said.

"I'm so distressed by what I see," she said.

Sokol Blosser, 65, settled in Yamhill County about 40 years ago.

After earning a bachelor's in history at Stanford University and a master's in education at Reed College, she taught school for a time in Portland and Beaverton. Then, in 1971, she founded Sokol Blosser Vineyards with her then-husband, Bill Blosser.

Today, the vineyard boasts 100 acres of grapes, mainly pinot noir and pinot gris, as well as a winery and tasting room. She served as president of the business from 1991 to 2008, when she turned day-to-day operations over to her son and daughter, Alex and Alison, in the capacity of co-presidents.

During the early years of the vineyard and winery, Sokol Blosser taught history at Linfield College and wrote feature stories for the News-Register. Later in life, she authored a pair of books, "At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry, and a Life," and "Gracious & Ruthless: Surprising Strategies for Business Success."

She said her experience in farming and small business give her a much-needed perspective in Salem, where both pursuits tend to be underrepresented. "You have to live it to understand it," she said.

Sokol Blosser has made two previous attempts at the seat, both unsuccessful. She lost to Republicans Stan Bunn in 1986 and Jim Bunn in 1988.

Both of the Bunns went on to higher office, Stan as state superintendent of public instruction and Jim as a U.S. congressman. She went back to the world of business.

She said an array of people approached her about making another run this year, saying politics in Salem need to change. And they finally persuaded her.

Sokol Blosser said the campaign fought over Measures 66 and 67 on January's ballot serves as a good example of the kind of political dysfunction that drew her back into the arena. The pair of tax increases pitted business against education, but they are "natural allies," she said, because businesses need a highly educated workforce to function well.

She said she tends to oppose tax increases, because they disproportionately fall on small business. "When I think of taxes, I get a physical reaction in my gut," she said.

Government needs to get smarter, not bigger, she said, and part of getting smarter is retooling the economy to create more jobs. She said many of those could come in agriculture and renewable energy.

Hannah Hoffman is a reporter for the News-Register in McMinnville.

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