A longtime Canby-area elected official will no longer represent the community’s voters in the Oregon Legislature after this year’s midterm elections — even if he wins reelection in a district he claims was gerrymandered to be much more favorable to Democrats in the latest redistricting process.
“I think it is fair to say that Senate District 20 (my district), starting with the upcoming elections, is one of the most gerrymandered seats of this year’s reapportionment,” Republican Senator Bill Kennemer told the Current in an email.
Reapportionment, or redistricting, is a process by which the boundaries for congressional and legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census to reflect population shifts.
In Oregon (as in most states), redistricting is led by the Legislature, meaning the Beaver State’s process was controlled by Democrats. Republicans cried foul early on, claiming the proposals favored by Democrats were illegally gerrymandered in their favor, but the maps survived legal challenges and were upheld in the courts.
“What has happened is fairly common, as majority political parties often use reapportionment to change the boundaries so that it favors their party,” Kennemer said.
Currently, the communities of Canby, Oregon City, Gladstone, Clackamas and Charbonneau, along with a generous portion of rural Clackamas County, comprised Senate District 20, which Kennemer has represented since February 2021, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former Senator Alan Olsen.
In the new, drastically reshaped District 20, virtually all of the rural areas are gone, replaced with Jennings Lodge, Oak Grove, urban unincorporated segments of Milwaukie toward the north as far as Johnson Creek Boulevard and a portion of Happy Valley.
The change transforms 20 from a competitive district (albeit one in which Olsen, a Republican, won by more than five points in 2014 and 2018) to one in which Kennemer said he expects to be at a 10-point disadvantage, at least, to his Democratic opponent.
“The net result is that Senate District 20 went from approximately an even distribution of Democrats and Republicans to, under reapportionment, a Democrat registration advantage,” Kennemer said. “Frankly, that’s gerrymandering.”
Kennemer will continue to represent Canby and the other communities in the current District 20 until January 2023, though the primary and general elections this year will utilize the new maps.
“I so regret losing the Canby area from my Senate district,” he said. “I have appreciated the friendly, warm folks who live here and am proud to have represented them.
“I am especially proud of providing over $3 million dollars to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds from the American Rescue Plan. There are great plans in the works to build a new livestock barn and an emergency RV park for disasters.”
Kennemer also represented Canby, Mulino, Beavercreek, Estacada and a large portion of central Clackamas County for a decade as the elected representative of House District 39, a seat currently held by Christine Drazan.
He had previously spent 10 years representing Oregon’s 12th Senate district, which comprised parts of Milwaukie, Oregon City, Gladstone, Oak Grove and east Clackamas County — but did not include Canby.
House District 39 was also dramatically altered by the redistricting process, though it will not affect Drazan, who is resigning her seat at the end of this month to focus on the governor’s race.
Starting next year, Canby will instead be covered by House District 51, which largely resembles the current District 39, with the biggest changes being an eastward push that includes the communities of Sandy and Estacada and a larger chunk of eastern Clackamas County, while excluding more of the county’s urban northwest.
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