Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury has working her way down the journalistic phone list this afternoon with a major, if expected, announcement. She called a little while ago to say she'll be stepping down from her post Friday—complying with strict county election rules—so she can formally file as a candidate for the chair post once held by Jeff Cogen.

  • Kafoury
But while Kafoury was first the prospective candidate to declare interest in the job, which only opened after Cogen's resignation, she won't be the first major candidate to have filed. Former City Commissioner Jim Francesconi put his paperwork in today, announcing his intentions in a statement out yesterday afternoon.

Kafoury acknowledges that the timing wasn't exactly what she'd hoped—she'd been working to hold onto her current job for as long as possible without having to give in to the grind of fundraising and fulltime campaigning that having a bonafide opponent in the field would bring.

"Obviously it's been on my mind for a while," she told me. "I still believe and have believed that the public is not clamoring for a campaign. But definitely the race having started sooner is making a difference."

Francesconi will make for an interesting opponent. He's already adopted the mien of an outsider looking to make waves and he's already found himself on Kafoury's home turf, dinging at last week's first annual Street Roots Family Breakfast.

Kafoury, in any case, plans to run with her reputation as one of the county's more influential leaders. She's talking up her work helping along the Sellwood Bridge rebuild and the county's efforts to find a new downtown courthouse. She's also going to run hard on her advocacy for the homeless and the regional leadership role she's grown more comfortable in since Nick Fish was moved from housing to city utilities and Cogen left in the shadow of scandal.

"Those are all things I want to continue working on," she says.

Francesconi told the Oregonian today he plans to take on East Portland poverty and speak for the marginalized. The contrasts between the two should be interesting. Not everyone's forgotten Francesconi's remarks during a 2001 vote on whether to embrace Dignity Village. He said no, in part because he didn't think a campsite was good enough or humane enough—an attitude that shares some startling resonance with today's debate over Right 2 Dream Too.

Folks, it's not camping that you need. What if I had come to that camp in November or December or January? Now, I know I am not going to be in your camp. I have to say, oh, that could be me or that can be my kids. That's never going to be me. That's never going to be my kids. Because I have got money. I have got access to that.

Kafoury says she'll probably plan some kind of to-do when she files. She's very aware that Francesconi brings real heft—and that his legacy in politics, raising more than a $1 million bucks in a losing bid to beat Tom Potter for mayor in 2004, means he knows people with deep pockets.

"It's going be a real race," she says. "I believe that."