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West Linn pastor and construction contractor Aeric Estep is running for House District 37.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Aeric Estep, a West Linn resident is running for House District 37. Aeric Estep, a construction account manager and life group pastor from West Linn, is the first person to declare their candidacy for the 2022 House District 37 race.

House District 37 is currently represented by Democrat Rachel Prusak, who has not yet indicated whether she intends to seek reelection.

Estep, a Republican, has lived in West Linn for nearly 10 years. He said he's running to bring humility and transparency to Salem.

Though he's never run for office, Estep has participated in government before, serving on the West Linn Library Advisory Board, Clackamas County Library District Advisory Committee, Clackamas Economic Development Commission and Clackamas Workforce Partnership Board.

Serving on these boards and committees taught him that he can have an influence just by showing up.

"Me being here matters," he said.

Estep said governments have necessary roles to play in society, but they must do so with humility and transparency.

"I've seen for the past several years (that) we have a powerful government but not a humble government, and it's made a lot of decisions that have strained communities," he said.

Estep cited pandemic response as an area in which the state government has not served with humility.

"There's a real and dangerous virus out there and pandemic response is a real role of government, but I've seen government respond more in fear and not weigh the costs of (public health measures)," he said.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - West Linn resident Aeric Estep said he would prioritize homelessness, public safety and schools if elected to the Oregon Legislature. If elected, Estep said he'd like to focus on homelessness, public safety and schools.

"In 2023, let's figure out homelessness," he said. "Let's get all the legislators together and make this be the primary focus until we figure it out."

According to Estep, the money going toward homelessness services isn't making an impact because there are no accountability structures for those services.

"There are more factors than lack of housing," he said. "When I went to go look for my friends that were homeless, it wasn't because of a lack of housing, it was because of a mental health (issue) or an addiction (issue) or a lack of connected community."

Estep said he's also concerned about the current state of public safety and law enforcement.

Recent discussions about public safety and a lack of funding have made it difficult for police agencies to do their job, according to Estep.

"Police structures need the funding necessary to do their jobs well," he said. "The general political tenor around public safety and police departments has been a discouragement of those activities. I want to emphasize that public safety is a necessary aspect of government so let's resource that at the appropriate level."

Estep also suggested the state government should have less influence over local school districts and there should be more direct conversation between parents and schools.

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District, Estep said, shouldn't have to do everything the same way as the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

"Let's allow those districts to look like those districts, not a broad swath of Oregon school districts," he said.

Estep noted he admired the independence of Julie Parrish, the Republican who represented House District 37 from 2011 to 2019. Though she caucused with her official party, she did not always side with them, he said. Estep thinks he would serve in a similar manner.

"I registered one way (as a Republican) because I don't like the status quo right now and I want to see a Legislature with debate and strong proponents on both sides of the question," he said.

Estep also noted he admired Prusak's ability to serve in the Legislature while continuing to work as a nurse practitioner, saying this represents the idea of a "citizen legislator."

Primaries take place on May 17.

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