WITH EIGHT WELL-QUALIFIED candidates running for Jeff Cogen's newly vacated seat as Multnomah County commissioner, it's still anybody's guess which two candidates will emerge from the primary on May 18 to slug it out in a November runoff.

Cogen announced his intention to run for the county chair's office last week, after the surprise death of State Treasurer Ben Westlund led to the appointment of former Chair Ted Wheeler in his place ["Musical Chairs," News, March 11].

If there's one thing all the candidates can agree on so far, it's that having such a tight field is good for democracy.

"It really is kind of a dream race," says Reverend Chuck Currie. "The other night we were talking about hunger in East County, and there were eight people all trying to outdo each other on how they'd be advocates on how to get hungry children fed. I think that's great."

There is a line being drawn between political insiders and citizen candidates, with many candidates keen to stress their experience either inside or outside government. For example, Paul van Orden, the city's noise control officer for 14 years, says that his candidacy "is about having people run for office who aren't career politicians, moving from job to job to job."

Meanwhile, endorsements are seen as crucial among political insiders when it comes to raising money for the race, with Cogen's staffer Karol Collymore picking up Cogen's endorsement along with those of House Majority Leader Mary Nolan and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Maria Rubio has the endorsement of former Mayor Tom Potter, having served as his policy director, while former County Commissioner Gary Hansen has the endorsement of City Commissioner Randy Leonard. Congressman Earl Blumenauer has given transportation expert and lobbyist Tom Markgraf the thumbs up.

All the candidates are focused on revenue reform, but they have different ideas about how to go about it. Many think a county tobacco tax is a good idea, although Hansen thinks it's "elitist," because it would target poor people, who tend to smoke.

Rubio suggested a county sales tax in our interview, while Currie is pondering a housing levy. Markgraf brought up the idea of a gas tax, while Roberta Phillip suggested that whatever is proposed, she'll be in an ideal position to judge the impact of the idea on traditionally underserved communities.

If you want to find out more about each candidate, click a chicken below to read their interview.

Loretta Smith
Tom Markgraf
Maria Rubio
Gary Hansen
Roberta Phillip
Chuck Currie
Paul van Orden
Karol Collymore