Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson is officially running for Multnomah County Chair. Vega Pederson, a Democrat, announced her intention in a Thursday press release.
“I’m running to deliver results that make a difference in people’s lives at a time when our communities are struggling,” Vega Pederson said. "I will lead as I have throughout my career: bringing people together to find solutions that meet our shared values.”
Vega Pederson has represented Multnomah County's District 3—East and Southeast Portland—since 2017. Prior to her work as a county commissioner, Vega Pederson was the first Latina to join the Oregon House of Representatives, where she served two terms representing East Portland's District 47.
As county commissioner, Vega Pederson has advocated for the Latinx community, affordable housing, and environmental reforms. Vega Pederson was a key architect of the county's universal preschool campaign that passed voters' approval in November 2020.
Vega Pederson is the first candidate to announce a run for the County Chair's seat, which has been held by Deborah Kafoury since 2015. Kafoury is unable to run for the position due to term limits. (While many within state and local political circles suspect Kafoury has her sights on the Governor's office in 2022, Kafoury has not formally revealed her next career step.)
Other commissioners have hinted at joining the race to replace Kafoury, including County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who told Willamette Week in August that she hasn't ruled it out as a possibility.
Vega Pederson will remain on the County Commission throughout the campaign. In the past, county commissioners were required to resign before officially running for county chair—but that's no longer the case. In 2016, voters approved a county ballot measure allowing commissioners to run for the board's chair seat midterm without stepping down from their position.
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan—who served as a representative alongside Vega Pederson—endorsed Vega Pederson's run in the Thursday press release.
"Jessica is a mom and a community member first," Fagan said. "She's led with those values in every job she's done, and as we look to rebuild from the crises our communities and our state have faced in the past year, I can think of no better person to lead Multnomah County."
Fagan has donated to Friends of Jessica Vega Pederson, the committee associated with her campaign. Several other former state elected officials, including Jennifer Williamson and Alyssa Keny-Guyer, have also contributed to the committee.