Jackie Leung, candidate for House District 19. (Courtesy/Jackie Leung)

Before running for state representative, Jackie Leung kept busy.

Besides serving as a Salem city councilor, she’s served on a variety of boards and commissions at the local and state level. She’s currently on the Marion County Health Advisory Board, Oregon Commission of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, and the state’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Fund Committee.

Now, she’s squaring off with state Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, a Republican, for House District 19, which includes southeast Salem and surrounding areas. If elected, she’d be the first Democrat to represent that district in nearly 20 years.

RELATED COVERAGE: VOTE 2020: Raquel Moore-Green says she'll seek more accountability in Legislature if given full term 

Republicans make up 32% of the district’s registered voters to the 29% held by Democrats. Unaffiliated voters make up 32%.

Evan Sorce, chair of the Marion County Democrats Executive Committee, said that Moore-Green’s incumbency and fundraising give her an advantage. But he said the Democratic Party has been actively reaching out to unaffiliated voters who could tip the race to Leung.

“I would say that Jackie is one of our stronger candidates in some time,” he said. “I think she’ll surprise people with how well she does.”

Leung has the backing of SEIU 503, one of the state’s influential labor unions. Mike Powers, a member of SEIU 503’s political action committee, said that the union likes how she’s a working mom and finds her background in public health a benefit during a pandemic.

“She knows what it's like to work for a living and she really values working people and working families,” he said.

Leung (who wouldn’t give her age but said she’s in her 30s) currently serves as the executive director of the Micronesian Islander Community of Salem, which has been active in helping a population hard hit by the pandemic. With a background in law and public health, Leung said she’ll work to improve education, housing and food insecurity.

Legislative priorities

Leung said she would work to ease domestic violence survivors back into society.

She said domestic violence survivors can get up to $1,200 through a state program to help them leave abusive situations. But she said that payment doesn’t cover court or legal fees and often isn’t enough to cover apartment deposits.

She proposes increasing funding given to survivors to cover the cost of housing and also ease restrictions on how the funds can be spent. Leung didn’t have specifics on how to accomplish that.

While the Legislature passed the Student Success Act in 2019, which will invest $2 billion in education, Leung said she is still concerned about disparate graduation rates. She said that districts including Salem-Keizer still have graduation rates below the state average.

In an email, she called for more teachers and resources to overcome disparities in online learning. But she didn’t have specifics on how to pay for that.

“I'm also concerned about ensuring access to preschool or early child childcare education programs,” she said.

She said Multnomah County voters are considering a measure to increase funding for preschool for low-income families and said the Legislature should look into expanding such an effort statewide.

Leung said in an email that the Oregon Childcare Project, a coalition of six nonprofits, is building a childcare network and she would work closely with the network ensure “there is representation from all communities and voices,” as well as advocate for more funding. But she didn’t say what the Legislature should do specifically.

Budget

The Legislature will write a new two-year budget when it convenes next year.

Leung said in an email she would prioritize helping “people bearing the brunt of the pandemic.”

She didn’t have specifics about which programs or state offices she would protect from funding cuts. But she said she is concerned with workers and small businesses, unemployed people who've faced delays in getting benefits.

She also said she would prioritize health care and education.

“I will work to ensure no child loses access to a quality education because they do not have the resources for remote learning,” she said.

Housing and homelessness

Leung said that the Legislature should expand to more regions of the state a program in Lane County called CAHOOTS, where a mobile crisis intervention team answers low-level 911 calls like mental health crises and drug abuse.

She also said the Legislature should similarly expand the concept of Salem’s Redwood Crossing, which provides housing to low-income residents along with social services.

Additionally, Leung said that she would look into expanding Individual Development Accounts, which provide low-income individuals with savings accounts that help them get out of debt or secure housing. People who own these accounts have money they contribute matched.  

She said state and federal funds could be used to expand that but she didn’t have further specifics. 

Pandemic

Gov. Kate Brown has issued standards for communities to meet in reducing Covid transmissions before schools can resume in-person instruction.

Leung said that she hopes those standards are taken seriously.

“We've already seen some teachers die,” she said. “We have to ensure that we're not only protecting our students, we need to protect our teachers, we need to protect the staff.”

She said that the governor has been doing the best she can and is relying on science-based advice from the Oregon Health Authority.

When asked about how she would change how the state has spent federal pandemic relief funds, she said one need was apparent when long lines formed by unemployed people seeking one-time $500 payments from the state.

“There has to be a more equitable way to distribute funding for community members,” she said.

She said that some people likely couldn’t get those payments because of where they live, a language barrier or health ailment. She said that the payments should have been staggered, instead of offered on one day. That way elderly, or disabled people as well as parents could have a better chance at getting them, she said.

Leung said that the pandemic has particularly affected people of color who own businesses. While she didn’t have specific ideas for relief, she said their voices should be heard.

Police accountability

Over the summer, the Legislature reformed law governing police, making law enforcement disciplinary records accessible while also restricting the use of tear gas and chokeholds.

“I think we still need to continue moving forward,” said Leung.

She identified improved police training around racial bias and the use of body cameras as additional steps, as well as data that better tracks who is being ticketed or arrested.

“Data about the number of shootings, arrests, complaints against an officer have all been found to help hold police more accountable and create greater trust and transparency in our communities,” she said by email. “Ensuring this information is available across cities, counties, and states is also critical so that an officer with a history of violence can’t transfer to a new location.”

She said she expected legislation next year to recognize racism as a public health crisis in Oregon. While she didn’t know the details on it, she said she would support it.

She also suggested that the state could develop an office that would coordinate policy changes and advocate for resources to address systemic racism, she said.

Climate change

Last session, a climate change proposal bill failed in the Legislature after Republicans boycotted the session.

Leung said she would have supported the proposal that would have raised fees on carbon emissions to fund environmental projects. She said legislators should listen to concerns from both urban and rural communities. She also said she would push for requirements that green energy employers pay a prevailing wage.

Campaign cash

Total contributions:

$122,089.15

Total expenditures:

$102,104.01

Top five contributors:

Democratic Party of Oregon, $26,014.32.

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, $19,988.97.

Miscellaneous cash contributions $100 and under, $12,753.05.

Citizen Action for Political Education (a union-backed political action committee) $11,522.87.

Communities of Color for a Just Oregon, $9,900.

  Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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