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Matt West of Garden Home enters a crowded race, vying to win the new district in the November election.

COURTESY PHOTO: MATT WEST CAMPAIGN - Garden Home resident Matt West is seeking a seat on the newly formed 6th Congressional District. Unlike most of the major candidates running for Congress in Oregon's newest congressional district, Matt West has never held public office before.

The Garden Home Democrat argues that people with scientific backgrounds need to be in the mix of those making the nation's laws. That's one reason why he's running for the Sixth Congressional District seat, one among a crowded field of contestants in the May 17 primary.

West has worked as an Intel engineer at the company's Ronler Acres facility in Hillsboro for the last seven years, designing laser-based manufacturing processes used to build the latest chips. However, he's currently on leave in order to run his campaign.

West said he's running because there are not enough people in Congress who understand the core science behind both the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

"There's so many issues right now that we're dealing with as a society where there's misinformation flying around and in many cases coming directly from our elected officials," said West, who lives in unincorporated Washington County close to both Beaverton and Tigard. "Lying about vaccines having microchips in them. Lying about the most recent election. I thought, what really, potentially, what we needed the most was somebody in Congress with a scientific mindset to help to deal with these issues."

West's take on the pandemic is that it hasn't necessarily created new problems, but it has exacerbated existing ones — such as that many Americans aren't able to afford a hospital stay, or an ambulance ride, or maybe even a visit to the doctor's office.

"Those who were the most vulnerable amongst us had their wealth decreased sharply during the pandemic," said West, who says he supports universal healthcare. "Meanwhile, billionaires gained so much wealth, they had no idea what to do other than fly off to 'almost space' for five minutes and pretend that they're astronauts wearing a fancy hat."

West studied chemical engineering at the University of Arizona and later earned a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, where he specialized in fuel cell technology.

"I researched renewable energy, fuel cell batteries, specifically stuff to combat climate change," he said about his college coursework. "That's always been my biggest concern even when I was in school."

He also had an internship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he researched how nonaqueous (having the characteristics of a liquid other than water) phase layers in contaminated groundwater can be treated with various solutions.

West said he got a taste of the effects of climate change during last summer's heat wave, when his apartment reached 94 degrees even with the air conditioning on.

While he admits to not having much of a government background, he has been involved with activist groups like FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that researches and advances voting reforms. He's also a longtime supporter of local food banks, Planned Parenthood, Our Revolution, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation and the Democratic Party.

In mounting his campaign for Congress, West said 314 Action, a national group that works to get more scientists elected to local, state and national offices, has been extremely supportive.

"They have helped me get to the point where I'm able to run a fully professional campaign with a suite of national consultants, with an amazing team of staff. I'm very grateful for their support," he said.

In addition, he said he's had positive conversations with local mayors regarding his campaign as well as other local politicians.

West might not stand out among a plethora of little-known Democrats and Republicans who have officially filed with the Oregon Elections Division to run for the Sixth District — if not for his fundraising.

West's campaign announced earlier this month that it has raised more than $600,000 since West declared in October. West said he's had about $180,000 in funding come in from the community, with the remainder being a personal investment by himself in the campaign.

Other major candidates in the race include state Reps. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, and Teresa Alonso León, D-Woodburn, and Loretta Smith, a former Multnomah County commissioner.

Alonso León's home is within the Sixth District. Salinas lives just outside district boundaries — while Oregon law requires candidates for the state Legislature to live in the district where they're running, there is no such requirement for Congress — and the last address on file for Smith with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, as of 2020, lists her address as a Northeast Portland residence.

On the Republican side, major candidates include state Rep. Ron Noble of Carlton and Mayor David Russ of Dundee.

West acknowledged it's a crowded field.

"There are some people in it who I think are good, great public servants, and I look forward to debating them on the public stage," he said.

West thinks people are responding to his campaign with science at its center.

"I'm incredibly flattered and humbled by all support that our campaign is getting. I think that our message is really resonating with people," he said. "We need to end fossil fuels subsidies, implement a carbon tax. We need to have a massive investment in green infrastructure to fight climate change at its source."

West said he's spent his academic career examining ways to fight climate change, and he thinks that is a message that people are getting behind.

"These issues are paramount for our time, and I am willing to stand up, my own self, not just in terms of running for this office but supporting this message," he said.

A member of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Beaverton, West shares his apartment with a dog named Paisley and a cat named Tad.

"I really do think that our message is resonating. I do believe people understand that a lot of the problems that we're facing right now can only really be solved by people who understand the core science behind these problems," he said.


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