Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon was the first immigrant Latina elected to join Oregon’s State Legislature in 2016. But her three-term stretch as House District 22’s representative is coming to an end.
The district currently stretches in a narrow strip along both sides of Interstate 5 from Woodburn, through Salem to Market Street but redistricting has shifted the boundaries to expand west to the Willamette River to include some additional rural communities north of Keizer.
One Democrat, Anthony Medina, is hoping to fill Leon’s seat with another Latino leader. He is currently in the Woodburn School District Board and remains committed to his campaign while suing a Woodburn massage parlor for inappropriate sexual conduct.
His opponent, Republican Tracy Cramer, believes the district is ready for a change.
Anthony Medina’s family set roots in Woodburn in the early 1960s as farm workers. He’s called District 22 home for his entire life and was raised by his grandparents who told him of their experience in labor camps and their journey to Oregon.
Medina became the first in his family to graduate from high school where he became involved with TRIO Programs, federal programs that provide guidance and resources to low-income, first-generation or disabled students. After graduation, his TRIO advisor encouraged him to enroll in Western Oregon University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration.
Medina became a father during his sophomore year. He said it was difficult, navigating being a parent while in college but he was still able to thrive. He was a student body senator and in his junior year, he was selected as the national TRIO student of the year. It was the first time an Oregon student received the award. He spent a semester in Washington, D.C., at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center for Government where he worked in the office of Rep. Peter DeFazio.
After graduation, he went on to receive his master’s degree in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford University.
But Medina knew he would always want to return to Oregon. And he did.
“I’m really passionate about this district. This is where I was born and raised,” he explained.
District 22 is over 50% Latino but seeing the community reflected in leadership and initiatives at the state level is rare, Medina said. It’s why he decided to run for the Woodburn School District in 2017. His successful campaign led to the first-ever majority-Latino school board in Woodburn and what many consider the first Latino-majority school board in Oregon.
Medina remains passionate about “stepping up” and serving his community. Being part of the school board ensured that his community has access to quality resources and materials and the best quality public education that they can offer, he said.
He felt a sense of duty to run, he said. He’s been an elected official in the community for the last five years and wanted to ensure that the values of District 22 continue to be reflected in the Legislature, Medina said.
Medina said he would continue to prioritize education if he was elected but he also hopes to focus on health care and the economy.
“Every single Oregonian deserves to have access to quality, affordable healthcare,” he said.
His wife faced major complications during her second pregnancy, and it was access to care that saved his wife and daughter’s life. His experience as his grandfather’s caregiver also gave Medina insight into how complex and expensive health care can be, he described.
He’s also aware of increasing costs in general. Medina said his experience working in the Governor’s Chief Financial Officer’s doing state finance work and helping budget policy priorities has given him direct experience with the legislative process and with the tools he will need to address the cost of living in Oregon.
Medina said he “has the background and experience to come in and be successful on day one.” He’s been an advocate for students in the district for several years.
“I wanted to make sure that each and every student in our district felt like when they graduate from high school, they are being set on the pathway to be successful,” he said. “It just takes someone who knows about the process and has the experience and the background to come in and step in and be successful in behalf of advocating on behalf of the community.”
Political newcomer Tracy Cramer describes her inexperience in politics as an asset, not a fault.
Born and raised in Gervais, Cramer describes herself as a wife, mother and small business owner. She’s deeply invested in the community she seeks to represent, she said, with roots in both the Gervais and Brooks communities tracing back to her father who worked as a lifelong logger, trucker and ordained minister.
Cramer is a Gervais High School graduate and she previously worked as a dental assistant before transitioning to become a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her third child.
She said she felt compelled to run for House District 22 in order to build a better future for her children. In a previous interview with the Statesman Journal, she added that while her children are not currently enrolled in the school district, they eventually will be, and she’s grown concerned about what’s going on with the school system.
“I’m just a citizen that’s concerned. I’m a mom that’s concerned. And that’s really why I jumped into the deep end,” Cramer said. “I have a heart for this community, and I would love to work for it.”
Cramer believes many of the people in the district are “pretty frustrated” by the increased cost of living, crime rates, and the education system.
“There’s a lot of parents including myself that are concerned about that and they don’t feel like they’re being heard,” Cramer added.
If elected, Cramer hopes to grow “transparency in the curriculum that’s being taught in public schools” and raise graduation standards.
She is also passionate about supporting businesses and local businesses. Her family’s own business was hit hard during the pandemic. Cramer and her husband took a 40% pay cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. She and many others were frustrated with what she called government overreach to be forced to shut down. Businesses are leaving the state, she added. Supporting small businesses means not overloading them with red tape and with taxes, “like we have been doing,” Cramer said.
Businesses are the backbone that creates thriving communities, Cramer said.
“I would do what is necessary to make sure that they’re supported because it’s very important that they are and they give back to their communities and we need to make sure that we’re also fighting for them,” she said.
Cramer hopes Democrats consider her for the district and anyone who might have concerns with her lack of political experience. She said current frustrations stem from ongoing Democratic leadership. Electing her would bring needed change, Cramer said.
“I am so willing to fight for them and I’m so willing to stand up for them and I would love to represent them,” she said.