At 33, Dallas Heard is the youngest member of the Oregon Senate by about a decade. He got his start in politics four years ago, at 29, when he was elected the youngest member of the House, representing District 2.
A few months ago, Heard, R-Winston, was appointed to fill the Senate District 1 seat formerly held by Jeff Kruse, who stepped down in March following sexual harassment allegations.
Now Heard must fend off a challenge from Coos Bay Democrat Shannon Souza if he’s to keep the seat.
Shannon Souza has made a name for herself on the Southwestern Oregon Coast, where she runs a…
Heard has been known for his fiery rhetoric against bureaucracy and what he sees as Democrats’ love for big government.
“I do truly believe that our state and our country is really struggling with its identity, and its identity to me has always been a struggle to promote freedom and liberty and prosperity for all,” he said.
The people in his rural, Southwestern Oregon District, which includes Roseburg, most of South Douglas County, Curry County and parts of Coos, Josephine and Jackson counties, want what he wants, he said.
“They’re like me. They just want opportunity, they just want to be left alone, they just want to live their life in peace, how they see fit,” he said.
In a quieter, more reflective mood, he acknowledges one of the accomplishments he’s proudest of is the relationships he’s built with his Democratic colleagues in the legislature.
That doesn’t mean he thinks voters in his district should choose a Democrat. Some Democratic candidates have suggested rural Oregonians would benefit from electing a member of the majority party; however, Heard said even rural Democrats in the legislature find themselves strong-armed into voting in lock-step with the urban members of their party.
“They get steamrolled by their majority, which is primarily out of Portland,” he said.
Instead, he said, local voters should choose a Republican who agrees with them on the issues.
“Through and through I am their values, and I may not be in the majority party now, but I’ll probably get there someday,” he said.
Heard said his top legislative accomplishments over the past four years include giving students and veterans the tools to discover what family-wage career opportunities are available to them and securing a continuation of funding for a state veterans memory care home that will be built next to the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The project was previously billed as a retirement home. Heard said he intends to continue to ensure that home comes to Roseburg and is fully funded, and said he will seek an increase from the original $10.7 million funding to $15 million.
He also wants to secure $2 million in investment toward creating an emergency room in Brookings.
“They currently have no emergency services other than ambulance. If you’re having a heart attack in Brookings, you’re probably not going to make it,” he said.
He also strongly supports development of the proposed Allied Health College, a proposed college which could be located in downtown Roseburg and which would train health care workers. It’s a great way to diversify the local economy, he said, and bring millions of dollars of revenue to Douglas County.
Heard considers himself a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth guy. He runs a landscaping business and has worked on legislation that decreases regulatory barriers to entry to blue-collar professions such as landscaper licensing tests. He noted he has the support of private labor unions, endorsements that aren’t common for a Republican legislator.
He also said he favors making use of natural resources.
“The best way to manage our environment is through human involvement, not just leaving (the forest) to burn or to sit stagnant. That’s not working for anyone or anything,” he said.
He wants to restore Southwestern Oregon.
“I’m a high-school educated Douglas County native who’s seen the glory days fade away, and I’m here to do whatever it takes and demand of myself whatever I need to do to bring us back,” he said.