There's been a last minute surprise in the race for North Portland's Senate District 22 since the Mercury interviewed all five candidates and endorsed Jo Ann Bowman for the seat two weeks ago. County Commissioner Jeff Cogen's communications director Karol Collymore entered the race late, filing on Wednesday afternoon at 4:45, just over 24 hours before last night's precinct committee meeting at Portland Community college, where Democratic Party precinct captains chose her alongside Chip Shields and Bowman as one of the three shortlist candidates for the seat. Why file so late? "I gave it a lot of thought, about what a leader is and what they do, who they serve, and who they are, and in part, the decision was just instinct," says Collymore. "If I was ever going to do it, this is it."
It wouldn't be fair for the Mercury to change its endorsement in the race, at this late stage, given the timing of Collmore's entry. But like the candidacies of Bowman and Shields, we are certainly excited by her candidacy for this important Senate seat. Blue Oregon was there at last night's meeting, if you want the blow-by-blow account. The five Multnomah County Commissioners, including Cogen, will now choose North/Northeast Portland's next state senator next Thursday, September 24. So will Collymore try to bribe her boss? "He's on vacation," she says. "Although free babysitting? Make him a pie? No. I don't think I'll try to do that. Cogen can do what he wants."
Collymore has worked for Cogen since January 2007, and has been in Portland since April 2003. She's a former development director for NARAL Pro Choice Oregon, has also done fund raising for Basic Rights Oregon and the American Heart Association, and was also development director for Judge Virginia Linder's campaign for Oregon Supreme Court—Linder is the first openly gay supreme court judge in the state.
Collymore says she was "humbled, more than surprised" by last night's vote. "I already believed that if people can speak from a genuine place, people will do the right thing," she says. "But it was nice to have my beliefs confirmed."
What's her platform? "Ideally, what I want to do, because I've never had elected office before, is to find out what folks in North and Northeast Portland need, and what they want. I want to know what kind of example I can set for them, because ultimately this is not about me, it's about them," she says.
Collymore hasn't hired a political consultant for the race. Unlike Shields and Bowman, she didn't line up supporters to become precinct captains at last night's event, either. "I went to this meeting with a completely unstacked deck," she says. "I didn't try to get friends, or colleagues, or anyone to be precinct chairpeople. I wanted to do it on my own, without any gimmes in the audience."
"I hope that the Multnomah County Commissioners, like 90 people did last night, see that this is about what I want to do for my neighbors," says Collymore, when asked about her chances of winning. "That's my life, that's my career. That's all I've done since I came to Portland."
Collymore says she was the only candidate last night to mention race in her speech. "It's important to me that more young people of color represent their communities in Oregon, and we need to be able to ask for that opportunity and represent ourselves," she says.
Race has obviously been a factor in this, er, race. So does Collymore think her candidacy might "split the black vote," between herself and Bowman? "I don't think the county commissioners will pick based on race, or on age, or on experience alone," she says. "But I don't think one can pretend that race is not a factor." Still, "I don't think my candidacy will split a vote," she adds.