The field for a seat as a Portland city commissioner is getting crowded.

As the year winds down, many political hopefuls are ramping up their campaign efforts in anticipation of the 2022 May primary. Two Portland city council positions are up for grabs and already hotly contested, while the field is also crowded in the race for Multnomah County chair, with five candidates, including all but one of the current county commissioners. 

The city council seats currently held by Dan Ryan (Position 2) and Jo Ann Hardesty (Position 3) will be on the ballot. Both commissioners have announced reelection campaigns, but the power of incumbency hasn't been enough to deter the wave of hopefuls looking to unseat them. 

Ryan, who won a special election in an August 2020 runoff to serve out the term of the late Nick Fish, faces challengers who have expressed dissatisfaction with his failure to deliver on a promise of six safe rest villages for the city’s houseless population by the year’s end. 

Hardesty faces competition from candidates who have tried to link her police reform efforts to a spike in Portland gun violence. She remains popular with those wishing to transform the justice system, and has already garnered support from fellow city Commissioner Carmen Rubio as well as state Reps. Khanh Pham and Tawna Sanchez. 

At the county level, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, who has held the position since 2015, is prevented from seeking reelection in 2022 by term limits. With no incumbent, contenders both on and off the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners have leapt at the chance to take over Kafoury’s seat. Currently, every member of the board of commissioners is running save for Susheela Jayapal (who could have political ambitions even higher than the county level, given that her sister is a rising star in the US Congress). 

The floodgates opened on September 9, the first day candidates could officially file for city, county, and Metro races for the May 17, 2022, election. Not all of the candidates here have formally filed, and the March 8 deadline leaves a wide window for anyone still weighing their options. These offices are nonpartisan, and any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote will win outright in May. If no one hits that mark, the top two candidates will face off in a runoff in next November's general election. 

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Position 2 – Ryan's Seat 

On November 9, Akasha Lawrence Spence, a real estate professional who has served as a state lawmaker, announced her run. Spence temporarily joined the Oregon House in 2020 after Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) resigned. The path had appeared clear for her to take over Senate District 18, which she will represent in the 2022 short session in February, but redistricting changes will eventually place her out of the competitive district, prompting her to instead turn her attention to Portland city council, according to a thread she posted on Twitter this week. Spence has already garnered endorsements from other prominent Black leaders including state Sen. Kayse Jama, former legislator Avel Gordly (the first Black woman to be elected to Oregon State Senate), and Rukaiyah Adams of the Meyer Memorial Trust. 

Another prominent challenger is Jamila Dozier, who was first to file their candidacy on September 13. Self-identifying as queer, nonbinary, and Afro-Latine, Dozier is the policy coordinator for the Portland Housing Bureau, focusing on East Portland. Additionally, they run a consulting firm that provides racial equity training for a variety of organizations. Dozier has previously served on Portland’s Human Rights Commission and currently serve on Metro’s Committee on Racial Equity. 

Also running is Brandon Farley, who filed on September 16. Farley is a far-right videographer who has, as of late, dedicated his time to filming and unmasking social justice activists and antifascists at Portland protests on his currently suspended Twitter accounts. Also known for compiling derogatory videos of the city’s houseless population, Farley did not list any current or former occupations on his candidate filing application. 

Little is currently known about the last candidate, Avraham Cox. His candidate filing application lists no current or previous occupation and no previous government experience. 

Position 3 – Hardesty's Seat 

First to announce his bid challenging Jo Ann Hardesty on September 8 was Vadim Mozyrsky, a Social Security benefits judge and Ukrainian immigrant. Although he has never run for office before, those who like to dig through the weeds of Portland politics will recognize Mozyrsky’s name from the Portland Charter Commission, the Portland Police Citizen Review Committee, and the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing.  

Hardesty’s second challenger is Rene Gonzalez, a business lawyer and consultant who announced an interest in running on September 21. In fall of 2020, Gonzalez cofounded the Facebook group Opening PDX Schools, which pushed for a return to in-person instruction in the pandemic. 

Both Mozyrsky and Gonzalez have emphasized city safety and criticized Hardesty’s efforts to reform the city’s law enforcement. While neither has filed their candidacy with the city, both have formed political action committees with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. 

Currently, the only Position 3 candidate to formally file with the city of Portland is Peggy Sue Owens, who filed on October 12. An administrator for Don’s A-1 Glass Service with no prior government experience, Owens lists her racial and ethnic background as Cherokee, Chowan, Blackfoot, Creek, and white. 

Multnomah County Chair 

Wasting no time, Jessica Vega Pederson announced her candidacy September 2. Vega Pederson became the first Latina to serve in the Oregon House of Representatives in 2012. After being elected to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in 2016, Vega Pederson helmed the campaign for universal early childhood education, which passed in 2020 as the Preschool for All ballot measure. Vega Pederson has already nabbed high-profile endorsements from the likes of House Speaker Tina Kotek, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle as well as a variety of public school leaders. 

Then came Sharon Meieran’s September 13 announcement that she would also be running for the county chair. As the county representative on the board of A Home for Everyone, the body that oversees the Joint Office of Homelessness Services, Meieran is an advocate for harm reduction and “healthy camping sites” to address Portland’s housing crisis. An emergency room doctor, Meieran is also an outspoken public health advocate. 

Quick on her heels was Shannon Singleton, who filed to run for county chair on September 14. Singleton is an aide who advises Gov. Kate Brown on racial justice and equity. Before that, she served as executive director of JOIN, a Portland-based housing nonprofit. Singleton was behind the state’s COVID-19 response for the houseless and the requirement that counties create racial equity plans for vaccination rollouts. 

The last currently serving county commissioner to announce her candidacy was Lori Stegmann who filed on October 4. A South Korean immigrant, Stegmann was a longtime Republican, working as an insurance broker before serving on the Gresham city council for six years, starting in 2012. Then in 2018, Stegmann switched political parties, citing “the misogyny, the racism, and the unethical and immoral behavior” of the Trump administration. Stegmann has secured support from former Portland mayor Tom Potter and state Rep. Ricki Ruiz of Gresham. 

Later to file on October 25 was employment discrimination lawyer and adjunct law professor at Willamette University Sharia Mayfield. Mayfield has previously worked as an intelligence and national security adviser to US Sen. Ron Wyden before working for the Oregon Department of Justice and at a private firm. Mayfield, a Sunni Muslim, is also the coauthor of a book detailing her family’s experience after her father was wrongfully arrested in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings. 

 

 

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