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Oregon Senate District 6 pits longtime state rep versus first-time candidate

Oregon SD6
Oregon Legislature
Oregon Senate District 6, as redrawn during the recent redistricting process, now includes most of eastern Lane County and eastern Linn County, plus a small portion of Marion County.

Voters in eastern Lane and Linn Counties will be choosing someone new to represent them in the Oregon Senate during this month's election.

Until the recent round of redistricting, the area was included in at least four separate Senate districts. The new political boundaries consolidate the region into a single district.

The current officeholder, Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, serves a relatively small portion of the new Senate District 6. Beyer is not seeking another term. He was recently appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to serve on the Oregon Transportation Commission.

With no incumbent and significantly redrawn boundaries, the district is wide open. Republicans, however, have a significant edge in party registration, outnumbering Democrats by nearly 11,000 voters. As with many Oregon legislative districts, people who aren't affiliated with any political party comprise the highest single category of voters.

The two candidates on the ballot are Republican Cedric Hayden and Democrat Ashley Pelton.

Hayden represents a portion of Senate District 6 as a member of the Oregon House, where he's served four terms, making him one of the most veteran Republican members of the chamber. (Only one Republican currently in the House has served longer than Hayden: Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner.)

Pelton is a licensed social worker who currently works as an organizer for "Clean Slate Oregon," a group that advocates for overhauling Oregon’s conviction expungement process. Pelton also served as a Bernie Sanders delegate during the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

At a recent forum held by the Springfield City Club, both candidates were asked about "the single most urgent issue" in the district.

"After speaking to a lot of constituents in the area, I get the sense that public safety, in regards to homelessness, mental health and addiction is very much on people’s minds," said Pelton. "On a state level, and on a community level, we lack the capacity to provide services that meet the needs of our community.”

Hayden said that from a funding aspect, "I would say that the answer is healthcare."

But from a constituent standpoint, he said, "it’s keeping Oregon affordable. I have a package of five bills ... that are directly related to keeping Oregonians in their homes through senior tax freezes, bringing down (the cost of) prescription drugs, and giving small business tax breaks to match the corporate tax rate."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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