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Local candidates throw (a lot) of hats into ring

By Jim Redden | January 05, 2022 | Pamplin Media Group

City, county, and regional races begin to heat up in the Portland metropolitan region.

Portlanders will be asked to go to the polls in 2022 for an array of local races that have the potential to shake up the power structure of the region. Multnomah County

As the government that provides health and social service, it was on the front lines of the most pressing crises of the last few years. They include increasing homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, the COVID-19 pandemic and last summer's unprecedented heat waves that killed at least 73 county residents, most of them in Portland.

And the most important elected position in the county, the chair of the commission, is up for grabs. Deborah Kafoury, who has played an outsized role in setting county policies in that position since 2015, cannot run for reelection because of term limits in the charter. Although the filing deadline is not until March 8, the race already is hotly contested with five candidates who have formally filed and several more expected to jump in.

Three of the candidates make up a majority of the existing commission, including District 1 Commissioner Sharon Meieran, District 3 Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson and District 4 Commissioner Lori Stegmann. Of the three, Meieran has been the most critical of the county's existing "housing first" homeless policy, calling for the opening of more homeless shelters, supporting Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan's proposed Safe Rest Villages, and calling for bringing more voices to table to reset priorities.

Although Vega Pederson has received the most endorsements, polls show Portlanders are disappointed with the current response to the homeless crisis and might see Meieran as someone willing to shake up the system.

Also running is Shannon Singleton, who serves as the director of equity and racial justice for Gov. Kate Brown, and Sharia Mayfield, an employment discrimination lawyer and adjunct law professor at Willamette University. Perennial candidate Bruce Broussard is among others considering the race. The only member of the commission not running for chair, District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, is up for reelection but has not yet filed. Only one candidate has filed for that race so far: Brandon Landon, who lists his occupation as multimedia producer.

The position of Multnomah County Sheriff also is up for election. It is an open seat because incumbent Mike Reese is not running for reelection. Three candidates have filed so far: Corrections Deputy Nicholas Alberts; Undersheriff Nicole Morrisey O'Donnell, the first woman to serve as second-in-command of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office; and Capt. Derrick Peterson, who has been with the office for 35 years.

Multnomah County Auditor Jennifer McGuirk is up for reelection and not yet opposed. City of Portland

Three city offices are up for election this year. They are Commissioner No. 2 seat, in which Dan Ryan is running for reelection; the Commissioner No. 3 seat, in which Jo Ann Hardesty is running for reelection; and city auditor, which is open because incumbent Mary Hull Caballero is not running for reelection. Hardesty is the most polarizing member of the council. A former state legislator and longtime civil rights activist, she promised to shake things up when first ran for the council in 2018, and she has. Perhaps most notably, following the widespread public outrage caused by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, she led the charge to cut $15 million more from the Portland Police Bureau than the pandemic-related budget reduction proposed by Mayor Ted Wheeler. Cuts included disbanding the Gang Violence Reduction Team that had been repeatedly accused of racial profiling — it formerly was known as the Gang Enforcement Team. Hardesty repeatedly denied the cut contributed to the subsequent record-breaking surge in shootings and homicides, but voted with the rest of the council to restore $5 million to the bureau last fall. The failed attempt by a handful of police officers to harm Hardesty's reputation by leaking what turned out to be a false traffic accident report probably plays in her favor, however.

Four candidates have so far filed against Hardesty. They are: Rene Gonzalez, a legal and business consultant who founded Reopen Portland Schools last fall, a group of parents who demanded a return to in-person instruction; Vadim Mozyrsky, a Ukrainian immigrant and Social Security benefits judge who serves on the city's Charter Review Commission; Peggy Sue Owens, a business administrator with no prior government experience; and Dale Hardt, who said he is not employed and has no prior government experience.

Ryan is a longtime school activist who ran as a consensus-builder. Along with Wheeler and Commissioner Mingus Mapps, he is part of the moderate, center-left majority on the council. Ryan has prioritized increasing homeless services; his brother, Mark, died homeless in Portland in November 2013. Dan Ryan has pushed the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services to better identify and track homeless residents and to support more shelter spaces. He is perhaps best know for championing the creation of six managed Safe Rest Villages in different parts of the city that have yet to materialize and are facing resistance from some city residents.

One candidate is filed against Ryan so far: Avraham Cox, a Benson Polytechnic High School graduate who lists himself as unemployed with no prior government experience.

Two candidates have announced for city auditor. One is Metro Principal Management Auditor Simone Rede. The other is Brian Setzer, a certified public accountant who owns a small business he describes as supporting sustainable businesses.

The Portland Charter Review Commission could refer a measure changing the city's form of government to the November general election ballot. Metro

Five offices with the elected regional government are up this year. Metro serves the urbanized portions of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties with a diverse portfolio that includes management of the urban growth boundary, transportation planning, solid waste removal, and overseeing spectator facilities and many parks and natural areas.

Two offices are contested so far. Incumbent President Lynn Peterson is being challenged by Alisa Pyszka, president of Bridge Economic Development. And two candidates have filed political action committees for Councilor District 6, Duncan Hwang and Terri Riggsby Preeg.

Running unopposed for far are: Oregon Walks Executive Director Ashton Simpson, who is running for District 1; political consultant James Ball, who is running for District 4; and Metro Auditor Brian Evans.

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