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Kuechler to serve remainder of Rep. Williams term as redistricting shifts constituency east

COURTESY PHOTO: LORI KUECHLER - Lori KuechlerA stop-gap elected was appointed by a virtual group of county commissioners to the vacant Oregon House District 52 seat Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 7.

Lori Kuechler was chosen by Clackamas, Hood River and Multnomah County Commissioners, as the district stretches between all three regions. Kuechler came out ahead of fellow finalists Dr. Kristen Dillon and Nick Walden-Poublon, all three of whom were put forward by the Democratic Party of Oregon. The seat was left vacant after Rep. Anna Williams was one of three Democrats to resign from Salem, citing low-salaries and unsustainable schedules.

Kuechler will only serve in the role for a few short months, as District 52 was part of the redistricting wave that came out of Salem. The change moves Sandy out of the district and brings in The Dalles. Voters will select a permanent representative in the upcoming November general election between Darcy Long, D-The Dalles and former Rep. Jeff Helfrich. That person will take over the seat on Jan. 1, 2023.

"Simply the act of serving the constituency of House District 52 is an honor — I am overwhelmed," Kuechler said.

The former district map and vote tallies weighted the appointment process. Each choice from the five Clackamas commissioners counted for 5 votes; Hood River's five commissioners counted for 3.2 votes; and Multnomah's five commissioners were worth 2 votes each. In total 14 commissioners cast a vote, as Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal was unable to attend.

It was a narrow decision that required a revote after an initial 22-22 tie between Kuechler and Dillon. Kuechler claimed a plurality the second go around with 27 votes.

"I consider the candidates put forward for this nomination all outstanding individuals," said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith, who helmed the meeting.

Kuechler is an adjunct professor for Southern New Hampshire University and a founder of the Women's March on Sandy, formed in 2017, as well as a professional grant writer. She has lived in the Sandy area since the 1980s, save a short stint in the Gorge. She has also called Cascade Locks, Troutdale and Hood River home.

She vied for the position because of her experience and knowledge of government resources and processes. In her short time in the role she plans to directly reach out to constituents, travel across the region, solve problems, and ensure ongoing issues and projects do not fall to the wayside.

"I think I might run for something someday, but right now, that's not why I'm doing this," she told The Post last month. "I plan to be extremely active, making meet-and-greets throughout the district."

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