State Senator Margaret Carter plans to resign her seat at the end of August to become the deputy director of the state’s department for human services. Carter, one of only two African American state senators in Oregon, has been in the legislature since 1984, and delivered staunch remarks at the launch of the Urban League’s State of Black Oregon report as recently as July 27.
North Portland state representative Chip Shields has thrown his hat into the ring for Carter’s seat, and former state representative Jo Ann Bowman is also hotly rumored to be considering a run. “I know that she’s been interested in that seat for a long time,” says Bowman’s colleague at Oregon Action, organizer Ron Williams, although Bowman is yet to return a call for comment. State representative Tina Kotek is yet to return a call for comment but is also rumored to be considering the seat.
Former city council candidate Lew Frederick is rumored to be interested in Shields' position, should he be successful in securing Carter's senate seat. And County Commissioner Jeff Cogen's staffer Karol Collymore is also rumored to be considering a run for one of the available seats, too. “It’s an idea in the ether, and it’s a very interesting proposition,” says Collymore, who plans to consider it while on vacation. “I think Chip is a great representative and would make a great senator,” she adds.
Update, 2:21: "I'm interested in Chip's seat," says Frederick. "I've basically had my phone completely drained of battery by about three o'clock yesterday because I was talking to so many people. I expect we'll see a number of different folks get involved."
Frederick serves on the state board of education and works as a communications consultant, too.
Update, 2:30: "I've been interested in this seat for a long long time," says Jo Ann Bowman. "And I knew ultimately that Margaret Carter would retire. Quite frankly I'm just really concerned that we have so few people of color that actually serve in public office. It's not like the legislature actually pays a working wage, but we need to have the interests of people of color representing in the legislature."
"Picking up the paper Monday morning was a surprise," says Bowman. "But I'm certainly going to seek to be one the three nominees."
"I think both Tina and Chip have been really strong senators, but I served in the house for six years in very trying times, and I just bring some things to the table that Chip and Tina just wouldn't bring," Bowman continues. "They can get elected over and over again, I don't see it as an either/or—both of them still have seats. I think with a 90 member legislative body and two people of color, both of those are Republicans. I think there needs to be a progressive voice for people of color in the senate, and with my background and experience I think I'm the right person for the job."
Update, 2:46: State Representative Tina Kotek will not run for the position, says a staffer.
Update, 3:14: "I am pursuing the appointment," says Shields. "I think my record of accomplishment speaks for itself. I've been working on delivering living wage jobs, health care and equality, for going into my third term. I think what's unique about my candidacy is that having had experience on the budget committee, my being able to plug into the budget committee on the senate side is significant."
"In addition to that I have very positive relationships with all of my colleagues in the house," says Shields. "I think those will be helpful in passing legislation from the senate through the house."
Any comment on his rivals?
"I think they're all very well-intentioned. I'm going to make my case, but nobody has a right to this position, and we're going to duke it out and see who wins," says Shields.