Commissioners name three finalists to replace Rep. Johnson
Commissioners from three counties will convene in Sandy this week to choose a replacement for Mark Johnson as House District 52 representative.
Johnson resigned earlier this month to take a job as a lobbyist with OBI a lobbying group consisting of Oregon Business Association and Associated Oregon Industries groups that focuses on job creation and stimulating Oregon's economy. The midterm departure of the four-term Republican lawmaker opened the door to those interested in completing his term, which expires in November 2018.
The three finalists are Stan Pulliam of Sandy, Erick Haynie of Hood River and Jeff Helfrich of Hood River, all Republicans. State law says the person replacing Johnson must be from the same party.
Commissioners representing Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River counties will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the Sandy High School lecture hall at 37400 Bell St., to interview the three candidates and appoint a replacement for Johnson.
The sprawling district has a large geographic footprint, spanning from outer Gresham and east into Hood River County, encompassing Sandy, Boring, the mountain villages, Corbett and Columbia River Gorge.
Erick Haynie, a Hood River native, hopes to bridge the gap between his Gorge home and mountain communities like Welches and Sandy with diligent, boots-on-the-ground work.
"I think the key there is going to be to show up," Haynie said. "There's going to have to be town halls. You're not going to know what the folks need unless you get there and meet them. I would strive to be present and accessible."
This would be Haynie's first "political adventure." The 43-year-old has worked as an attorney for nearly 20 years.
Haynie's "deep love for this part of the state" and "encouragement by people I respect" are what motivated his leap into politics.
He admits it's not exactly the most economically savvy move for him personally, but he thinks that "we could use some fiscally conservative attorneys in Salem to help the state through some pretty complicated issues."
"It is a sacrifice," he added. "You're giving up a significant amount of time in the interest of public service."
If appointed, Haynie hopes to provide better representation for rural Oregon.
"I think that there is an imbalance," he explained. "(We need to) focus on the economy, and bringing jobs to rural Oregon."
Another economic point he plans to focus on is PERS reform. He cited that this year the state saw pension deficits of more than $20 billion.
"I think we really need to have a bipartisan solution to (PERS)," Haynie said. "While that is a politically sensitive topic, it is a discussion we have to have. We really need to have a non-acrimonious way to resolve this because it's such an important issue."
As a father, Haynie also hopes to affect change in legislation regarding education.
"I'm a firm believer in public education," he explained. "I'm proud of the Republican Party at least in the last session, which put forward strong legislation to support education, and I'd work to continue that."
If not chosen by the commissioners to replace Johnson, Haynie has vowed to support whoever is named for the position.
Also advocating for better representation for education is Sandy's own Stan Pulliam.
In an earlier interview with The Post, Pulliam said:
"There are so many critical issues facing our state and our district. Issues like providing better schools, improving infrastructure, managing our forests, and addressing a tax code and public employee retirement system that restricts our state's and children's future."
Pulliam has experience in politics from working as a legislative director during multiple elections in the early 2000s.
"I definitely know how the process works and how the Legislature works," he said. "I think that's where I'm unique from other (possible) candidates. Through my history of working with the Legislature, I've developed over two decades of relationships with other lawmakers and I'm able to combine that with other business experience."
Pulliam told The Post that if he is appointed, he intends to act with a "sense of urgency" to address issues important to Sandy and the district as a whole. He would also run for the seat next year if not appointed now.
"We've got to find our shared values and work together toward the same destination we all want — better schools, less traffic congestion and a state budget that meets the priorities of all Oregonians," he said. "Hopefully what we can do with that is unite everybody being common causes and purposes."
Helfrich too recognizes that in House District 52, "one size does not fit all," when it comes to the diverse communities he'd be representing if appointed.
"The communities have similar issues but the priority and approach to addressing them varies," Helfrich said. "This starts with deliberate, active and ongoing community outreach and engagement efforts."
Helfrich has a multi-point plan for addressing issues voiced across the district.
"These efforts will result in prioritization of known issues," he said.
He listed concerns, such as economic and workforce development, education, environmental stewardship, emergency preparedness, health/human services including child/senior/veteran/houseless population services, transportation and public safety.
Helfrich is a long-time public servant, having served on the Cascade Locks Planning Commission and City Council, the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District Board, in the Air Force during the Gulf War and as a police sergeant in Portland.
"I understand the needs of my community well as both leader and member," he said in a letter. "Upon appointment to Representative for House District 52, I will continue and expand upon the work of (former) Rep. Mark Johnson."
Helfrich does intend to run for the seat again next year during the election.
For those unable to attend, footage of the meeting is made available on Clackamas County's YouTube Channel and broadcast on the Clackamas County Government Channel.