State Rep. Ken Helm to take on new District 27
Oregon lawmakers approved plans for congressional and legislative redistricting last month, leaving some state representatives in Northwest Oregon in game of musical chairs.
Rep. Ken Helm confirmed to Pamplin Media Group that he will run for the newly created House District 27 seat, the new Beaverton district.
Current HD 27 Rep. Sheri Schouten has been drawn into a new district, House District 36, that also includes rural areas and a slice of Hillsboro.
Helm's current district, House District 34, which serves parts of Beaverton, Hillsboro and unincorporated areas north of U.S. Highway 26, will likely be an open seat.
It's still unclear who will run in the new HD 34 in 2022. Reps. Lisa Reynolds and Maxine Dexter were each drawn into the same district, House District 33. Dexter told Pamplin Media Group she has no intention of moving. Reynolds didn't respond to inquiries for this story.
The new HD 27 contains about half of the current HD 34, so Helm isn't exactly walking into uncharted territory.
"It has a lot of commonalities with District 34, with the Beaverton School District, likely a lot of the same regional employees," Helm said. "So, all very familiar territory to me."
One thing Helm is excited about is the growing diversity of western Beaverton. According to nonpartisan analysis tool Dave's Redistricting, the new HD 27 is 66.9% white, 14.8% Latino and 11.4% Asian, with smaller percentages of Black, Indigenous and other minority groups.
"Our BIPOC communities have been growing," Helm said. "I often tell my colleagues that Beaverton is more diverse than Portland, just by the number of languages spoken and the cultural identity that has moved here."
Helm anticipates housing and transportation will be a major issue in the Beaverton-area district, as new developers keep their eye on the suburbs. He intends to collaborate with the city in any way he can to secure more affordable housing opportunities as well as make sure the roads are sustainable for workers and residents.
"There's an ongoing conversation that started before I got (to) the Legislature on how you manage the maintenance of those roads, and the responsibility of providing enough support for those roads," he said.
The congressional and legislative maps passed along party lines, with Democrats controlling the House, the Senate and the governor's mansion in Oregon.
Republicans have been especially critical of the congressional map, which will likely lead to Democrats holding five of six U.S. House seats in Oregon, and have mounted a long-shot legal challenge.
Nonpartisan analysts say the legislative maps are more even, although some Republicans and Democrats alike — including Helm's legislative neighbor, retiring Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie — also deride them as gerrymandered.
While Helm recognizes that it is his Republican colleagues' job to ensure the process is fair, he believes the maps had to be redrawn the way they were to ensure marginalized communities had a bigger voice.
"We had some pretty historic imbalances in terms of BIPOC communities versus white communities," Helm said. "And so the committee's primary criteria was to try to rebalance that, so that formerly disadvantaged communities had a bigger voice and choice."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.