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NORTH BEND — Calling it her “shot across the bow,” Joanne Verger warned state Democrats on Wednesday to remember why they have been sent to Salem.

The longtime Coos Bay politician stepped away from politics this year, choosing not to run for re-election in the state Senate. She delivered her remarks to local business leaders at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It is far too easy to be drunk on the sense of importance,” she said. She says politicians have to remember, and voters have to remind them, that they are there to serve others and not themselves.

The Democrat admitted that her words may come as some surprise, considering that her party now has complete control of the state with a Democratic Governor, a 16-14 advantage in the Senate and a 34-26 majority in the House. But it is that ability to have complete control that concerns the former mayor of Coos Bay, long known for being a moderate in Salem.

“It is the threat of failure that motivates compromise and serves the public very well,” she said.

The need to be open to compromise, even when they don’t have to, is going to be particularly important this year, according to Verger. She says when the Legislature convenes next week for the first of its two regular sessions, they will be facing some very serious issues of reform, including education, health care and PERS.

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There are other “hot-button” issues that could sidetrack the assembly — the national issue of guns in schools being one — but Verger says citizens need to keep their representatives on track.  

For example, guns should be depoliticized and examined from all angles, she says.

Meanwhile, the voice of the South Coast needs to be heard and economic development for our area needs to be addressed. “It is important that we, as individuals and as a community, have to find our voice, and we need to make ourselves heard.”

As a moderate herself, Verger is concerned that true moderates are a disappearing breed. She urged the audience to follow the votes, noting that many politicians these days run their campaigns as moderates only to get into office and vote partisan.

“At the state level, they must understand that even with a democratic majority,” she said, “we must work together.”

Reporter Tim Novotny can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or at tnovotny@theworldlink.com.

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