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Republican Kelly Sloop squares off against incumbent Rachel Prusak, D-West Linn

COURTESY PHOTO - Republican Kelly Sloop is running to unseat Democrat Rep. Rachel Prusak of District 37.Though election day is still three weeks away, House District 37 candidate Kelly Sloop is already working on the legislation she'd like to pass if elected.

Sloop, the Republican challenging incumbent Democrat Rachel Prusak, said she's worked with Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-Central Oregon, to submit legislative draft requests for bills addressing reopening of schools, mental health and tolling on I-205.

These are a few of the most significant issues voters have brought up over the past several months, according to Sloop. The West Linn resident said she's also heard concerns about the Democratic supermajority in Salem.

"Whether it's Democrat, non-affiliated voter, independent or Republican, they are all saying the same thing. And that is, it's time to restore balance," Sloop said.

The supermajority is one of the main reasons she's running, Sloop said.

Over the past few years, she began to notice that the policies coming out of the capitol did not necessarily reflect what most Oregonians wanted.

Sloop also addressed concerns over messages from her campaign about the voting record of Prusak over the last two years.

Some members of the community had called the messages disingenuous or misleading, and in an interview with the Tidings, Prusak said they were hurtful.

Sloop said she made sure all of her campaign messages included citations, where people could go to learn more information.

She specifically mentioned a campaign message about Prusak voting for a bill that narrowed the definition of aggravated murder. Sloop said the legislation could potentially lead to shorter sentences for murderers like Jeremy Christian, who killed two people in a stabbing on a MAX train in 2017.

Prusak, however, said that with two life sentences without the possibility of parole, there is no chance Christian would see a day outside of prison.

Sloop said it seemed as if Prusak was playing the victim, though her campaign was only trying to clarify the opponent's voting record.

According to Sloop, her campaign has dealt with attacks on Facebook, people stealing signs and even a threat, which she reported to police.

"It's just a part of the campaign," Sloop said. "We don't make a big deal out of it."

Overall Sloop said she feels like she's been able to connect with voters, despite challenges caused by COVID-19.

After losing her job as a pharmacist at the start of the pandemic, Sloop said she's now able to work full time on the campaign. She calls voters every day, she said, and has hosted a few outdoor events.

Sloop said she feels like she's been able to personally connect with voters, whether by talking about growing up in West Linn, the impacts of wildfires or challenges caused by COVID-19.

From these conversations with voters, she's formed ideas for the issues she wants to address if elected.

One piece of legislation she's already begun work on addresses the reopening of schools. Her idea is to give students and teachers the chance to opt out of in-person learning but make sure those that choose to go to school in person cannot sue schools or school districts for contracting COVID-19.

"We have been getting numerous calls from parents with kids that have disabilities, and other kids where, you know, both parents are working, and their kids don't have anybody to help with the learning," Sloop said.

Sloop also expressed concern about underserved or marginalized students falling further behind while distance learning. She clarified that she is not advocating for schools to reopen like normal, but with a number of health and safety measures in place.

Another bill she's working on would "require that cities and counties vote on tolls on roadways in their jurisdiction unless the tolls are for new roadways or expressways that provide an alternate route," Sloop said.

The third piece of legislation Sloop has requested a draft for would dedicate more funding for mental health services.

"There's a huge gap that we currently have in mental health services and facilities, from hospital to the outpatient service," Sloop said. "We need more services in between those two."

Sloop said she's also heard concerns about small businesses surviving the pandemic. She said she's working to get businesses back open, in particular restaurants that will suffer an even greater impact when the weather changes and outdoor dining is no longer an option.

Other businesses are hurt by ongoing protests in downtown Portland, according to Sloop.

Though House District 37 doesn't cover downtown Portland, Sloop said she's spoken with residents of the district who work downtown and have been affected by the protests.

If elected, Sloop said she'd be excited to serve all residents.


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