ONE OF THE REGION'S worst kept secrets is that the Multnomah County Commission has been a den of tumult for the past couple of years. It might be surprising that anyone would willingly jump into it, but the campaign for seat 2 is now locked in with four candidates.

Serena Cruz Walsh has represented the district, which covers much of North and Northeast Portland, since 1999. She's now term-limited out of office, making room for a batch of new blood. Here's a brief introduction of each:

Jeff Cogen—Cogen is technically still City Commissioner Dan Saltzman's chief of staff, though he now spends more time campaigning than dealing with day-to-day city issues. Two of his biggest ideas involve using wind energy for municipal electricity needs—he's been working on this from a city standpoint—and switching the county's computer systems over to open-source software, which would save money in licensing fees and provide work for local techies.

Lew Frederick—Frederick's background is in education. A 30-plus-year resident of North Portland, he was a public school teacher in the 1970s and is currently serving on the national Parent Teacher Association Board of Directors. And he was a television and radio reporter for more than 15 years. He spent part of his childhood in Atlanta when the civil rights struggle was boiling over—few Portland politicos can say the same.

Gary Hansen—Of all the candidates, Hansen has the most experience for the position because, well, he served as Multnomah County commissioner from 1990 to 1998. Prior to that, he was an elected member of the Metro Board of Supervisors from 1982 to 1990. Since leaving the county, he's been representing North Portland (Oregon House District 44) in the state's House of Representatives.

Xander Patterson—At first blush, Patterson seems like the ultimate Portland stereotype. He's worked with the Sierra Club, People's Food Co-Op, KBOO, Oregon AFL-CIO, was the co-chair of the Pacific Green Party for two years and the executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, where his job was to organize anti-war protests. He even gave the keynote address at the World Can't Wait protest downtown in January. He's spent the past five years on the East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District, covering North and Northeast Portland. But before you go calling him a hippie, he also has an MBA from PSU.

The primary election is on May 16. If any of the candidates manages to fire up a large number of voters and gets 50 percent plus one vote, they'll automatically win the seat. If none of the candidates get that majority, the top two vote-getters will duke it out in November to join the commission.