Rachel Prusak (HD37) – Candidate Interviewrachel prusak 2020 candidate headshot photo with washco dems logo blue background

WCD: What first inspired you to run for office?

Prusak: I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years and that experience is what first prompted me to run for office. I got tired of seeing politicians try to take away my patients’ health insurance. I got tired of seeing my patients ration their medication. So, in 2018, I decided to run for the legislature. I am seeking re-election to continue that work.

WCD: How does your experience as a nurse shape your perspective as a legislator?

Prusak: I am on the front lines of our healthcare system. I know from personal experience how vital it is to have sufficient supplies of PPE, flatten the curve, and give our medical workers the support they need. For years, I’ve seen the long term consequences when people can’t access healthcare. It’s why I fought for the workgroup that I chair to identify barriers to accessing primary care and am Vice-Chair of the Healthcare Committee. My professional knowledge has been particularly helpful in the legislature as we grapple with COVID-19. I’m fighting for increased access to telemedicine and ensuring we have a plan for vaccine distribution when we have one.

WCD: Which legislative accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

Prusak: I am proud of our efforts to fund Medicaid so that vulnerable communities have access to healthcare. I am also very proud that we were able to increase transparency in regard to prescription drug costs. In addition, I championed bills regarding access to mental healthcare that I will continue to fight for in the next session.

WCD: If you are re-elected, what is one specific goal you most want to accomplish in the upcoming session?

Prusak: I would really like to get legislation passed to expand the use of tele-medicine. I will also be proposing a bill regarding utilization management whereby patients’ access to specialists, treatments, and medications isn’t needlessly delayed by the need for prior authorizations. Finally, I will be seeking legislation to help incorporate behavioral health into primary care.

WCD: Are there particular problems or challenges that you’ve seen in your district and what will you do to help solve them? 

Prusak: For the past few years, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been developing plans to address the I-205 bottleneck and the Abernethy bridge seismic updates, which are in my district. But the current plans will cause more harm than good and unfairly impact residents of House District 37. I have been vocal about my opposition to ODOTs current plans, which were directed by the legislature in HB 2017 in the 2017 session. We must look for regional solutions that won’t negatively impact our communities or lead to traffic diversion onto our neighborhood streets putting our communities at risk.  I built a bipartisan and bicameral coalition of elected officials who stand against the current plan of placing the burden of a broken transportation system on our region.  I sponsored an amendment to HB 2017 and while the amendment did not pass in the 2020 short session, I’m once again drafting a bill to push for revisions of HB 2017 in 2021.

WCD: How do your values and those of the Democratic party align?

Prusak: I am proud to be a Democrat because our party supports fair, equitable, and humane treatment for all people. We want to address our climate crisis like the emergency it is. We want to ensure that people have access to quality healthcare and education. We want to fight for vulnerable communities and historically oppressed communities. We know that we can work towards good, science-based policy that will make our state and nation more equitable and safe for everyone.

WCD: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you want voters to know about you?

Prusak: My top priorities in 2021 will be to help those struggling the most right now due to the pandemic, the wildfires, or racial inequities. In my first session I built relationships and the trust of advocates and my colleagues.  I am acutely aware that it will be a challenge to fight our way back as a state and an economy after this tough year. I am here to assure you, I am up to the task.

Learn more about Rachel Prusak, Democratic Candidate for HD-37, on her campaign website.