JEFF COGEN, for a little while, lived in a world where, even though everyone he worked with was mad at him, he still kind of had a point.
Yes, the Multnomah County chair admitted an affair with a county health policy manager, Sonia Manhas—only after the press got hold of an anonymous email. Yes, they mingled their personal and professional lives to an uncomfortable degree. Yes, she was made to resign under a cloud while he kept collecting a paycheck.
But no one had conclusively found, via ongoing state and county investigations, that he'd broken any rules in his relationship with Manhas. And that's why—despite public calls from colleagues to step down (he also heard the same, in private, from political insiders)—Cogen smiled and said he would persevere under an extremely dark political cloud.
So he had a point. I said as much back in July ["Let's Enjoy the Quiet," Hall Monitor, July 31]. Until I guess he didn't.
Cogen abruptly abandoned that noble armor on Friday, September 6—announcing his resignation effective Monday, September 16.
In a statement sent to reporters, he insisted on his innocence but suddenly joined the political reality everyone else was living in. "I've always told my children that we must face the consequences of our actions," he wrote. "It is time for me to follow my own advice."
(Or maybe, as Willamette Week has claimed, citing sources, it's just that he has a job lined up with one of his old donors).
No matter the reason, something else is clear: Cogen, once beloved as an earnest mensch, made another mess on his way out the door.
It's no secret County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury will run for his seat—even though, because of county rules, she'll have to quit her current job once she officially files.
But if Cogen had quit even just a few days earlier, there would have been time for a special election this year. And Kafoury wouldn't have had to go without a paycheck or bully pulpit for long. Assuming she won, she could have run for re-election, in next spring's regular election, as a comfortable incumbent.
(Kafoury really is the presumptive favorite, by the way. She's better known than some of her colleagues, has had big accomplishments, can count on labor money, and is very tight with consultants like Mark Wiener. And while you might hear mutters about surprise candidates like Nick Fish and Steve Novick, you should ignore them.)
Now she's in a holding pattern. She can file for next year's election as of September 12, and start raising money. But that would be a long time away. She can wait all the way until March to file—but even a strong candidate can't go that long without raising money and not be devoured by foes.
And then what if her colleagues on the county board do the same thing—declare but wait to file? It's hard to imagine anything getting done. Every vote, every speech, a campaign event. And we'll be right where we've been this whole time. In a mess.