THE FIVE Multnomah County Commissioners, not the voters of Portland, are set to fill a vacant house seat in the Oregon legislature on Thursday morning, October 22. They face a tough decision about who should represent North and Northeast Portland in Salem, but we think they should pick Lew Frederick. His decades of experience and steady personality make him a great fit for the legislature.
Four weeks ago, Multnomah County commissioners picked State Representative Chip Shields to replace retiring State Senator Margaret Carter, leaving Shields' house seat vacant ["A Matter of Opinion?" News, Oct 1]. Last week, 73 precinct captains from the Democratic Party whittled a field of applicants down to a shortlist of three replacements: Frederick, Karol Collymore, and Eddie Lincoln.
Lincoln, a union organizer at Portland Community College, was unavailable to attend an endorsement interview at the Mercury's offices on Friday, October 16, but we spoke to him on the phone. A former TriMet bus driver, Lincoln sees job creation and funding for higher education as a priority for the district. We couldn't agree more, but are unsure whether Lincoln's assertion that he submitted himself as a candidate "for one reason and one reason only—to win" is ironic or simply naïve. He doesn't seem adequately engaged.
Collymore and Frederick, on the other hand, both seem to want the seat very badly. And both would make excellent "elected" officials, even if they don't actually have to woo voters this time around.
Collymore, a staffer for County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, was endorsed by the Oregonian for this seat when she ran against Shields for the Senate. The paper's editorial board reasoned that Collymore, an African American woman, could make up for the ethnic diversity lost in the legislature by Carter's Senate departure. However, the paper failed to even call Frederick for the endorsement. When asked why they gave the cold shoulder to the 13-year Portland Public Schools veteran, they described him as a "known quantity." Frederick hit back, saying black men are afraid of being attacked by the Oregonian, and we admired him for it.
Collymore is also outspoken. During our interview, she said, "We need to start being in a position where we open up our mouths and don't care if we don't get reelected." But where Frederick's stand against the Oregonian's editorial board seems to embody courage, Collymore seems to have more potential for political recklessness.
Here at the Mercury, we're all for recklessness—but the cash-strapped legislature isn't the best place for super-independent thinkers right now. Frederick, who has lived in the district since 1974, brings a more responsible demeanor to bear. A reporter for KGW for 17 years, Frederick formed the Sexual Minority Task Force in Portland Public Schools. He now runs a communications consultancy and serves on numerous nonprofit boards and the State Board of Education. He appears to be the right fit for a position that requires some compromise.
Collymore is a bright and exciting thinker. Since moving to Portland six years ago, she has instituted a cell-phone recycling program in libraries, developed an urban farm that grew 8,000 pounds of food for the district in 2009, worked to bring a new library to Kenton, and helped start up a new farmers market in St. Johns. Frankly, we'd rather benefit from her innovative ideas here in Portland than have her weighing in on boring budgets in Salem. Collymore should consider running against City Commissioner Dan Saltzman next spring. Or wait until her boss, Jeff Cogen, makes his widely predicted move to city council, and run for his vacant county commissioner seat.
"When a door is open, you should walk through it," says Collymore. And we don't doubt that more doors are going to open up for her soon.
GOING OFF TOPIC: Five Curious Facts About the Two Leading Candidates
Karol Collymore • Has her own cooking blog (karolcooks.blogspot.com) that she claims has a "gorgeous" recipe for Cuban pork pie. • Does not own a car. • Is a huge Lord of the Rings fan. • Is the daughter of Panamanians and grew up in a Spanish-speaking household. • Over the summer, came in second at a New Seasons BBQ contest.
Lew Frederick • Had a King City police officer point a gun at him while reporting for Channel 8 news. • Hosts a 13-part online teaching series called "Rediscovering Biology." • Has always dreamed of directing Fences by August Wilson and King Lear by William Shakespeare. • Was formerly employed as a coffee lab technician for Maxwell House coffee. • Taught, among other subjects, ethnic cooking, comparative religion, and Tai Chi Chuan at the Metropolitan Learning Center in the '70s.