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Melissa Busch, a home health nurse, is the first Democrat to announce run to replace Johnson.

COURTESY PHOTO: MELISSA BUSCH - Melissa Busch lives in Warren and is running for Senate District 16.The first Democrat has entered the race for Oregon's Senate District 16. Melissa Busch, a nurse living in Warren, is one of two candidates vying to replace Sen. Betsy Johnson, who is running for governor.

Busch is a home health nurse, serving patients in their homes around Columbia County and some rural parts of Washington and Multnomah counties.

"I really have come to this race because of what I see every day as a nurse working in our community," Busch said. "I visit folks in their homes, I spend time with their families, I get to know the more nuanced parts of people's lives and really see not just the health struggles that people are facing, but the day-to-day struggles that are barriers to people being able to experience success and prosperity."

Busch said announcing concrete policy recommendations would be "premature," but said healthcare was an area of focus.

"When I think about healthcare, I think about all of the things that either help promote people's wellbeing and ability to thrive in our communities, and also the things that are hindrances for that. And I really want to address the things that are standing in the way of the health of our community," Busch said.

Busch listed affordable housing, availability of well-paying jobs and access to safe transportation as "big issues that fall under that umbrella (of healthcare) that I've seen of important significance in our district and surrounding areas as well."

Environmental issues and the natural resources that residents use to boat, fish, hunt, hike and bike were another area of concern, Busch said.

Busch hasn't held elected office in the past, but said she has been considering a run for senate for several years and went through two candidate training programs in recent years: Emerge Oregon, a program for Democratic women, and the Oregon Labor Candidate School, a program for union members.

"I understand that Senator Johnson has given a lot to our communities," Busch said. "She's worked pretty tirelessly as an elected official and has given a lot to the district. But as she steps away, I think that there's a natural opening for someone, like myself, that is interested and dedicated."

Busch has been endorsed by the Oregon Nurses Association, a union she is part of, which represents more than 15,000 healthcare workers. She said she's also been involved with the Columbia County Medical Reserve Corps and has volunteered to assist the county's public health department at vaccination clinics.

Busch is the first Democrat to enter the race, but the filing period lasts until March 2022, two months ahead of the primary.

Republican Suzanne Weber, currently state Representative for House District 32, announced her candidacy last month.

The newly-drawn Senate District 16 leans right, with voters going 49% Republican and 47% Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, and 50% Republican and 42% Democrat in the 2018 gubernatorial election, according to the mapping program Dave's Redistricting.

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