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House District 49 incumbent seeks to bolster education, job training in Salem reelection bid

COURTESY PHOTO: ZACH HUDSON - Rep. Zach Hudson, D-Troutdale After a tumultuous first term, that saw a new East Multnomah County legislator serve during an unprecedented global pandemic, an incumbent is set to continue pushing the community forward.

Rep. Zach Hudson, D-Troutdale, is vying to reclaim his seat as the Democrat nominee for House District 49. He will face challenger Randy Lauer in the November general election.

"Everyone kept telling me how strange it was (with COVID), but it wasn't for me because I had nothing to compare it to," Hudson said. "So many times I can look back at my first term and say people are better off because of what we accomplished."

Hudson, 43, moved to East County with his wife after graduating college to start a family. For nearly two decades he has worked as a teacher at the Oregon Trail, Reynolds, Corbett and Gresham-Barlow School Districts, as well as Mt. Hood Community College.

"My father was a teacher, and I loved to learn and help kids reach their potential," he said.

Hudson got his elected start at the city of Troutdale, claiming a seat on council from 2017-2020 before claiming a spot in Salem.

"I love doing this work, it was especially crucial during the pandemic," Hudson said. "We passed bills to support renters, home owners and landlords; frontline workers, the unemployed and small businesses; and increased access to loans."

Hudson citied specific bills he is proud of supporting — one to ensure farm workers received overtime pay, another to allow houseless people to get an official state ID free of charge.

"Those bills may mean everything to one specific person," he said.

Hudson wants to sponsor a bill to protect air, soil and water from large factory farms, and to better study the impact that industry is having on the environment; he wants better worker protections, especially for the fields shoved into the spotlight during the pandemic; and is working collectively with other education folks in Salem to help with teacher retention and school funding.

"At Mt. Hood Community College they have to have matching funds to apply for a grant," Hudson explained. "The districts in more affluent areas can raise money easily, whereas districts like ours find it harder to secure those dollars."

On the historic levels of violence across Multnomah County, Hudson spoke of the collaboration that would occur between him and the East County cities. He cited the passage of a bill last year that help fund Gresham's new Youth Violence Prevention program.

"Housing, education, social supports — those are not instantaneous, but they create long-term safety," he said.

For forest fires Hudson spoke of needing to get resources into rural communities quickly and efficiently, and having better forest management. He also wants to decrease the price of prescription medications and lower barriers to healthcare.

On homeless populations Hudson spoke against the "endless" cycle of sweeps and the need to have more long-term solutions in place. He pointed to funding secured through House Bill 5202 for Cultivate Initiatives, which will create a permanent hub for job training and placement in East Multnomah County.

"We can't just hand over money, but work with people to develop a plan," he said. "Someone facing chronic unemployment needs step-by-step help to get back into the labor market."

On women's reproductive rights, which was thrust into the national spotlight by the U.S. Supreme Court, Hudson said he is pro-choice and will back access for safe and legal abortions.

"We can't simply count on Oregon's track record — there has been anti-choice legislation introduced in every session," he said, adding that mindset continues to protecting same-sex marriage. "If the Supreme Court does a 180 on that decision, it will be important to have pro-LGBTQ+ leaders to stand up and fight so everyone can be married to the person they love."

Hudson also cited the importance of working across the aisle with his Republican colleagues, citing examples from previous sessions like teaming-up with Rep. Mark Owens, R-Baker City, for a bill to help school districts fund health and safety infrastructure.

"Folks in Republican districts need the same things as Democratic districts," he said. "Being elected means representing everybody. Not always agreeing, but everyone gets a seat at the table."

Hudson said if elected he will stand up for the community.

"You can't ignore the big questions," he said. "I'm very clear where I stand on issues that are important to Oregonians and don't shy away from being very public about my values — pro-choice, stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, and working toward a clean energy future."

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