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Communications instructor to run for re-election

Paul Evans, Representative for House District 20 in the Oregon State Legislature.
Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Legislature

Communications instructor Paul Evans juggles being an instructor and a politician as the Democratic House Representative gears up to campaign for reelection, which would bring his fourth consecutive term in office as the representative for Oregon House District 20.

Evans has been an instructor at Chemeketa for seven years and has held public office since he was 18 years old. “Trying to do my day job and my hobby as a legislator demands more and more time every year because of election cycles and just the complexity of oversight and legislation. It is a tough thing to balance,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Working at Chemeketa gives Evans a level of contact that he says most other legislators don’t have. “I don’t know that being a professor influenced me on any particular issue any more than being a dentist or a lumberjack would, but I think that listening to folks talk about where they want to go certainly informs how well our social systems are working or not working,” he said.

“I teach at a community college precisely because somebody once said, ‘community college is the first church of second chances,’ ” Evans said. At a community college, low-income students “have a chance to figure out the American dream.”

Evans attributed the declining enrollment at Chemeketa partly to satellite university campuses that pull students away from community colleges. The other contributing factor he mentioned was familial financial situations where young people need to work one or more jobs to make ends meet. “The schism between the haves and the have-nots and the used-to-haves is so great that it may not be a choice that the person is not in school,” Evans said.

“This generation [voters who just recently turned 18] and the last generation are not connected to normalcy, meaning a diverse environment where people can stridently advocate for what they believe in without demonizing the other,” he said. “It not only impacts them; it will impact our country for the next 75 years.”

Prior to his election, Republican Vicki Berger held the seat for over a decade; Evans won it when she retired in 2014. “It was the only legislative house seat in the country to go from red to blue, and they’ve been trying to get it back every time,” Evans said.

“I’m not so concerned about winning or losing. I’m concerned about letting people down,” said Evans, who has held his seat since 2014. “After three terms, I think the public knows who I am.”

In 2018, he ran against Republican Selma Pierce in a heated race. “I don’t enjoy campaigns that get so ugly as they have been,” he said in retrospect.

He went on to describe growing up in a time where the “very republican business guys” and the “down to dirt union guys” would spend time together in a community setting. “It doesn’t mean you don’t have stark policy differences, but it never got the point of ‘you are bad’…I’m a candidate that believes 80 to 90 percent of the time, the best solution is a bipartisan solution.”

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