Unlike the wonky form of government found in Portland City Hall, the county board of commissioners each represent a different region of Multnomah County. District 2 encompasses North and some of Northeast Portland, stretching east from the Willamette River to Northeast 182nd, with its northern boundary the Columbia River and its southern boundary I-84. This district has arguably been the one hit the hardest by Portland’s housing crisis, with many longtime residents having to shutter their businesses and move east to avoid the gentrification that comes with squeezing million-dollar condos into historically African American neighborhoods. District 2’s current commissioner, Loretta Smith, has reached her term limit on the currently all-female county board, opening the door to a competitive group of candidates. Of the four vying for the seat, we believe Susheela Jayapal brings the most experience and the best, most comprehensive policy plans to help oversee the county’s $2 billion budget.
Jayapal is the former legal counsel for Adidas America, but don’t let her corporate background scare you off—she’s repurposed it to navigate the tangled legal web of county contract agreements, housing assistance, and health care systems, and she’s also sat on boards of a number of local progressive nonprofits, including Planned Parenthood, the Metropolitan Family Service, and All Hands Raised.
During our endorsement interview, Jayapal unpacked complicated county issues and offered concrete solutions. She opposed Commissioner Smith’s call to turn the county’s Wapato Jail into a remote homeless shelter near Kelley Point Park, and instead outlined ideas of how to stabilize Portland’s homeless population with permanent housing. Dropping them in a detention center, she said, only perpetuates the toxic stigma that likens those without homes to criminals.
Jayapal is also prepared to address the systemic displacement that’s hit North Portland in the past decade. Instead of offering piecemeal solutions, she’s proposed more holistic, people-driven ideas to heal fragmented neighborhoods.
“It’s about housing, it’s about business, and it’s about community,” Japapal says. “One of the things about displacement that doesn’t get talked about a lot... is that it’s a whole community that gets splintered. How do we re-create community as well as building business and housing? That’s what I want to address.”
This race drew a number of strong female candidates, like Sharon Maxwell, who has deep roots in District 2, where she’s worked as a business owner and organized community members to speak out against racial injustices in policing and housing. Maxwell is concerned that former Portland Police Chief Mike Reese is now leading the county’s sheriff department, where she believes he continues to run a racially biased, unchecked group of law enforcement officials. Meanwhile, candidate Maria Garcia, who owns a coffee shop in District 2, illuminated issues faced by small business owners of color, especially Latina women, in the competitive North Portland neighborhoods.
But ultimately, we believe Jayapal has the clarity, professionalism, and big-picture mindset needed to steer District 2 through a challenging chapter.