Property manager running for District 37 seat
When the 2021 Oregon legislative session gets underway in 12 months, the people of West Linn, Tualatin, Durham and King City may have a new representative in Salem.
Realtor and property manager Ron Garcia of West Linn has filed to run for House District 37, currently held by Rachel Prusak.
Prusak, a Democrat, and Garcia, a Republican, are currently the only candidates to have declared candidacy for District 37, though candidates have until March 10 to do so.
Together, Garcia and his wife, Belinda, own the Garcia Group, a property management company which oversees about 600 rental properties in the Metro area. He is also the legislative director of the Rental Housing Alliance Oregon, which represents around 2,000 landlords.
Garcia, a West Linn resident since 1997, said he felt it was his civic duty to run for office.
"The supermajority that we have now doesn't seem to want to have input on a lot of issues," Garcia said. "The state has a way of doing one-size-fits-all solutions that work really well for a certain constituency but leave an entire segment of the population out of the discussion."
For example, he cited the Democrats' carbon emissions bill, which he said is an unfair tax to half of the state, that doesn't adequately address climate change.
Last year, some Republican senators left the state to avoid voting on the bill.
"The only way the Republican party could even begin to have an impact was to go AWOL during a vote. That's a sign of a democracy that's not healthy," he said of the Republican walkout.
Along with the rest of the Democratic majority, Prusak has ignored the interests of conservatives, Garcia said, noting that a sizable portion of West Linn is conservative.
Republican Julie Parrish represented District 37 for four terms before she was unseated by Prusak in 2018.
According to Garcia's campaign website, gogarcia.org, some of the issues he'd like to focus on are cutting taxes, affordable housing, funding education and reducing carbon emission.
The Realtor and property manager said he has worked on housing legislation before, helping with Senate Bill 608, which protects long-term rental tenants from eviction without cause and limits increases in rent prices
However Garcia said SB608 "does less to solve the problem than solving the problem."
Garcia didn't have high praise for House Bill 2001, either. HB 2001 aimed to address affordable housing statewide by mandating that cities over a certain size rezone single family housing zones to allow for multifamily housing like duplexes, triplexes and townhomes.
"It's another housing bill that has a good intention but a really poor plan in terms of executing it," he said. "I don't think people in West Linn and Tualatin are in support of that bill. It needs to be modified."
Prusak, who voted for HB 2001, defended her vote in a letter to the editor earlier this year, writing, "We need to increase our housing supply and offer individuals and families more choices. House Bill 2001 does this by re-legalizing middle housing in areas where those options were banned. The only opposition I heard throughout the process was from a few local elected leaders, not the communities we represent. After hearing their concerns, I joined with fellow legislators in advocating for changes to improve the legislation."
While Garcia wants to cut taxes and invest more in education, two goals which don't often coincide, he said that both might be possible by making cuts to programs like PERS (Public Employee Retirement System).
"If I have a kid in school, I definitely want to make sure that the tax dollars I'm paying are going to my child's education," he said. "I don't want to see programs cut to fund an outdated retirement system that can no longer be justified."
With his experience in realty and property management, Garcia thinks he might have the skills necessary to bring Oregon Republicans and Democrats together.
"As a realtor, my job is to bring both a buyer and a seller together. Both of them have opposite priorities, but the idea is to create a deal that's fair to both parties," he said.
As the 2020 races ramp up, Garcia said he wants to meet as many people from the district as possible.
"I have a big phone list. I'm going to be on the phone a lot. I'm going to be knocking on doors and trying to set up meetings at lots of venues and events," he said. "The voices I want to carry are the voices of the people that are going to elect me."
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