It is not often that a long-term incumbent state senator faces a strong opponent in a party primary much less two candidates. When it does happen, it is usually for a very good reason. Such is the case this year in the Democratic primary for Oregon State Senate District 24, which is currently held by Rod Monroe.
Sen. Monroe helped create this situation in a number of ways, but the issue that seems to have most compelled his opposition to challenge him in a primary is housing. He was a vocal opponent of — and one of two high-profile Democratic senators who blocked — tenant protection legislation that would have, in part, restricted the no-cause evictions that have become all too common in the overheated Portland rental market. The fact that Sen. Monroe took this stand as the owner of a large apartment complex only added to the consternation felt by supporters of the legislation.
District 24 covers large portions of East Portland, east of I-205 north of SE Foster Rd to I-84 and straddling the I-205 south from Foster down into Clackamas County. The district is a diverse mix of immigrants, people of color, blue-collar working families and white-collar executives—from high-wage earners in Happy Valley to closer-in low-wage earners who are more likely to struggle with high rental costs.
In my role as an Oregon AFSCME Council 75 regional district vice president, I took part in the endorsement interviews of the three Democratic candidates for the District 24 Senate seat: Rod Monroe, Shemia Fagan and Kayse Jama. Sen. Monroe's track record with Council 75 is mixed — for the 2017 legislative year; he has a score of 82 percent for his votes on issues important to our members. His past vote for former Gov. John Kitzhaber's “grand bargain” that attacked PERS in favor of tax breaks for large corporations was a major factor in our deliberations. In stark contrast is the voting record of Ms. Fagan during her last year in the Oregon House in 2015 — she received a score of 110 percent, after adding bonus points for her willingness to work with AFSCME on important issues. She took a courageous stand and voted against the aforementioned attack on PERS. At the time of that vote, she was a freshman representative facing a tremendous amount of pressure from several party leaders and the sitting governor from her own party. A principled stand is rare in today's political environment.
Ms. Fagan and Mr. Jama both have compelling personal stories and a history of community activism and standing up for those who are often left out of the political process, which made the endorsement decision difficult. In the end it was Ms. Fagan’s legislative experience and very strong track record with Oregon AFSCME that won us over. We know that in Shemia Fagan our members and all working families in Senate District 24 will have a strong, courageous champion on their side — that is why Oregon AFSCME Council 75 is proud to endorse Shemia Fagan for Oregon Senate District 24.