When Khanh Pham worked as a community organizer in Portland’s Jade District, an East Portland cultural hub that’s largely home to immigrants and people of color, she’d bring the neighborhood’s residents to Salem once a year.
“It was always a very noticeable thing,” Pham said. Even today the state Legislature is overwhelmingly white, and the crowd of diverse faces stood out among the sea of white faces in the state Capitol.
Now, Pham is headed to Salem as a legislator herself: she recently won the Democratic primary for House District 46, the East Portland district that includes neighborhoods where she’s been building community connections for years. No Republican filed to run for the seat.
The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Pham said she grew up without seeing herself reflected in her teachers, school or government.
“I know it means so much to see young people reflected in their leaders,” she said. “It opens up what they see as possible.”
As a legislator, Pham said she hopes to be a fierce advocate for immigrant, refugee and working class families.
“I think its my job to make sure that we’re protecting the critical social services that hardworking families—particularly low-income families and communities of color—are depending on right now.”
Use the audio player above to hear the full conversation from OPB’s “Weekend Edition.”