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Candidates in State Senate District 3 discuss issues, defend viewpoints

Incumbent Jeff Golden (D) and Challenger Randy Sparacino (R)
Jeff Golden & Randy Sparacino
Campaign websites
Left to right: incumbent Jeff Golden (D) and Challenger Randy Sparacino (R)

A contentious State Senate race in Southern Oregon is one that could shift the balance of the legislature back in favor of Republicans.

Currently, the District Three State Senate seat is held by Democrat Jeff Golden, who lives in Ashland and first won election back in 2018.

Running against him this year is the current Mayor of Medford and Republican Randy Sparacino. He spent nearly 30 years at the Medford Police Department prior to getting into politics, serving as chief of police from March of 2016 before retiring in 2019.


Representing parts of the Rogue and Applegate Valleys in Southern Oregon, the threat of wildfires are top of mind for lawmakers here.

State Senator Golden was the champion of a recent wildfire safety package, which included the state wildfire risk map, widely criticized by residents and later recalled.

Golden says he’s seen the feedback on wildfire legislation, and wants to encourage more community-focused fire resiliency.

A woman in a hi-vis vest and a baseball cap kneels down at the base of a home. She is pulling a crawlspace vent cover away from the home as she looks inside the vent.
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
Ashland fire assessment volunteer Reggie Windham looks at the crawlspace vents at the base around a resident's home to identify fire resiliency.

“What we really need to do is build on the good work that’s going on in Ashland, Jacksonville, elsewhere with Firewise communities,” Golden says. “There is money in the bill to do that, we’re gonna go after more. We need to deploy and collaborate and boost the efforts that neighborhoods are already making to help each other become more fire ready.”

Sparacino’s campaign website mentions a need to actively manage forests to prevent wildfire.

Sparacino was scheduled to talk with JPR earlier in October, but pulled out at the last minute, and wouldn’t agree to an interview before this story was published.

“I think local control is very important,” Sparacino said in a July interview with Christian TV station the Dove. “I think local communication with the impacted groups is extremely important. Southern Oregonians should be the people that are making the decisions impacting Southern Oregon.”

This state senate race is among 15 that Republicans are hoping to win to shift control of the senate back in their favor.

Races for this seat in the third district are typically contentious. Elections have been close since 2010 – and a Republican won the seat as recently as 2016, when Alan DeBoer won by just a few hundred votes to fill the seat after the death of Democrat Alan Bates.

Campaign Finance

Another way the candidates differ is on their positions related to campaign finance. Sparacino has raised more than three times what Golden has, but that’s partly because Golden has refused money from lobbyists or special interest groups.

Golden was the leader behind Measure 107, which allowed state and local governments to enact their own campaign finance limits.

“The problem is on both sides,” says Golden. “It makes legislators timid, it waters down legislation. It gets a legislator thinking right before a really important vote, ‘what are my big funders gonna think about this?’ And that is not the right question.”

Golden says he’s donating every dollar he’s received from political action committees to non-profit groups in the area this year.

After excluding small donations under $100 from both candidates, Sparacino’s average donation is at least six times larger than Golden’s. Small donations are excluded because any amount less than $100 doesn't need to be individually disclosed, and are all lumped together.

A greater portion of Golden’s donations come from small donors; campaign finance reports show Golden has raised $39,962 in small donations from 2020 onwards, whereas Sparacino has only raised around $4,387 during this campaign.

Sparacino’s primary funders include State Republican campaign committees, other politicians running for office and various special interest groups representing pharmaceuticals, timber and finance.


Sparacino has focused on addressing homelessness in his campaign. He says his perspective as mayor will help to provide solutions to some of Oregon’s problems.

“We need to address the homeless population,” Sparacino said in a debate on KOBI TV earlier this month. “We need to look at the root causes. The City of Medford does an excellent job of addressing the homeless crisis in a balanced approach of enforcement and outreach. I’d like to see that carried forward throughout the state.”

A small, white box with a roof, two windows and a door,  Similar boxes are in the background, all laid out in rows outdoors.
Rogue Retreat
The urban campground in Medford, run by Rogue Retreat

Golden agrees the state needs to be helping the homeless population, and points to his first term record of doing that.

“For one I was able to bring home a special ARPA $1 million grant to purchase the urban campground in Medford that Rogue Retreat has been running,” says Golden. “That’s become a state model. A relatively low cost alternative that gets people immediately off the streets – low barrier – into safe places and Portland and others are emulating that.”

Golden says it's important the state actually provides places for people to go if they aren’t allowed to camp on the streets. That’s a philosophy Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is trying out with a proposal to ban outdoor camping and force people into city-sanctioned camps.

During his campaign, Golden has talked about the various projects he’ll continue to work on if re-elected: including wildfire policy, workforce training and illegal cannabis enforcement.

This November, voters will be deciding if they want to send Golden back to Salem to continue to work on these issues, or if they want a fresh perspective with Sparacino.

Ballots are due by mail or in-person at a dropbox by 8 p.m. on November 8th.

Corrected: November 1, 2022 at 12:37 PM PDT
A previous version of this story included campaign finance data that was inaccurate. The total amount of funds from small donors, the overall multiplier of funds raised per candidate and the included graph have been updated.
Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.