[The Mercury Election Strike Force is News Editor Courtney Vaughn, News Reporter Taylor Griggs, Arts & Culture Editor Suzette Smith, and Editor-in-Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey. We do not endorse in uncontested races. Oh and by the way, putting these endorsements together takes LOTS of hard work—and that's on top of our regular excellent reporting. Show your appreciation for the Mercury with a small contribution, please, and thank you!—eds]

Oregon Attorney General: Dan Rayfield

Fun fact: According to state law, one does not have to be an attorney to be Oregon Attorney General... but it certainly can't hurt, which is why we're endorsing attorney and former House Speaker Dan Reyfield, purely on his wealth of experience. Apparently we're not the only ones who think so, as Rayfield boasts a truckload of endorsements from labor, educators, and health providers, and vows to focus on protecting Oregonians' reproductive health and combating threats to abortion, stopping gun violence, and holding corporate polluters accountable. So, yeah... vote for Dan Rayfield.

All that said, please take a good look at his primary competitor for this seat, Shaina Maxey Pomerantz, who is extremely impressive and someone we would love to endorse in the future for the appropriate office. While her legal background and legislative experience doesn't match that of Reyfield, she's kicked ass as a civil rights investigator and as a member of Portland's Office of Equity and Human Rights. She's also been the vice chair of the Citizen's Review Committee, and sat on the Police Bureau Equity Advisory Committee. So our question is, "Why isn't Pomerantz running for Portland mayor (which desperately needs this type of candidate) or city council?" That isn't a slam—we're begging for smart, progressive folks like Pomerantz to flex the muscles that will specifically help Portland. (Call us greedy, but we hope to see much more of Pomerantz in the future!)

Oregon Secretary of State: Tobias Read

Following the disappointing implosion of former Oregon Secretary of State, Shemia Fagan, it's imperative that she be replaced by someone who is trustworthy, creative, and has an excellent track record. We're lucky to have two such candidates in this race, State Treasurer Tobias Read and State Senator James Manning—both of whom have served Oregon well in their respective positions. Manning has proven himself as a very accomplished leader with a well-regarded history of auditing experience, as well as being a tireless proponent for education in the state, while vowing to protect voter integrity. However, when it comes to providing actual concrete ideas for securing elections and putting voters' minds at ease, he has thus far lacked specifics.

Meanwhile, Read, who is currently state treasurer, as well as a former representative and co-chair of the budget committee, has vowed to choose the subjects of state audits based on data points (rather than partisan politics). Plus he's got some nifty, specific ideas to safeguard election integrity, including setting up a statewide system that would text voters to let them know their ballot has been counted, while also implementing a program that would allow Oregonians to (safely for all involved) witness vote counting. While a vote for either Read or Manning will put Oregon in good, steady hands, we're choosing Read for his wealth of experience and creative, specific plans for putting voting fears to rest.

State Treasurer: Elizabeth Steiner

The office of state treasurer covers a lot of ground and is critically important, as this official manages more than $100 billion in state investments, including the convoluted and massive Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) for the state of Oregon. There are two "Democrats" (in quotes for reasons we'll explain in a bit) running for this position: State Senator Elizabeth Steiner and investment manager and former Lake Oswego City Council member, Jeff Gudman. Steiner has served in the Oregon legislature for 12 years and also served as the state's lead budget writer—so she knows a lot about the delicate balance of large financial projects, and which should be prioritized. Besides being eager to manage that monstrous $94 billion PERS fund, Steiner is also focused on financial literacy to help Oregonians save for college, retirement, and future health needs, as well as divesting the state from the grasp of fossil fuels.

While Gudman does have a solid financial background and some government experience (at least on a local level), he's a bit of an unknown quantity in comparison to Steiner, and up through the Trump presidency he was registered as a Republican... though now says he "no longer recognizes" his former party, and made the switch to the Dems. Okay... welcome to the family we guess, but is this revelation something that makes you go "hmmmmmm... 🤔"? Us too, which is why, on the basis of experience, good ideas, and being a known quantity, we're saying vote Steiner for treasurer.

33rd District: Shannon Jones Isadore

Here's yet another race where we have three good candidates—and with only a little breathing room between each in regards to their priorities. Environmental lawyer Peter Grabiel's top priorities include (surprise) climate protection, though that seems to be where his expertise starts and ends. Plus he accepted a significant contribution from the Portland Business Alliance's PAC, which—in a field of good candidates—is, and should be a deal-breaker for most, due to the oversized influence the PBA has over their chosen politicians. A more impressive choice is Dr. Brian Duty, a urology professor/surgeon at OHSU who has a lot of specific ideas and very good progressive chops, and whose priority is health care (surprise again) in general for Oregonians, and protecting a woman's autonomy over her body. We were particularly impressed with his acknowledgement that the failure of Measure 110's drug decriminalization was actually a failure of the legislature, which did not do enough to create an infrastructure for this historic and right-minded law to be the success we all deserved.

That said, we're endorsing Shannon Jones Isadore in this tight race, who is a Marine vet and founder of the Oregon Change Clinic which is billed as "a culturally-specific, outpatient treatment facility for substance use recovery and mental health disorders." We like the idea of someone like Isadore in the legislature—who would be the only Black woman of that body with the departure of Janelle Bynum who's now campaigning for a seat in the 5th District—offering her clear expertise in the intersection of mental health, substance abuse, and housing. While Duty correctly claims that the entirety of his campaign contributions come from "individual donors" instead of super PACs (nodding in the direction of Isadore and Grabiel), most of his moolah was provided by Nike bigwigs and his own bank account. He currently has six times (!) more money in his campaign coffers compared to Isadore, but as the song says, "that don't impress us much"... particularly considering where the money came from. 

Make no mistake, Oregon would be fine with a fine candidate like Duty in office (while Portland would be better off if he jumped into our city council race), but when push comes to shove, Isadore's hands-on experience, as well as life experience as a Black woman, makes her the best choice to serve—and hopefully influence—the state legislature.

46th District: Willy Chotzen

House District 46 encompasses a large chunk of Southeast Portland, including a big piece of SE 82nd Avenue and the Lents neighborhood east of I-205. The seat is currently held by Representative Khanh Pham, who is running for the Oregon Senate and leaving the spot open. During her time in the state house, Pham has been a strong advocate for East Portland, one of the most diverse parts of the city, much of which faces a crucial infrastructure deficit. We believe Willy Chotzen is the person Pham should pass the torch to. (And for what it's worth, Pham agrees.) 

As a public defender, Chotzen has valuable experience with a different side of the criminal justice system than what we typically hear about. In the legislature, he wants to serve on the House Judiciary Committee, acting as a "strong voice to expand access to justice and to ensure our courts work as they should."

"My goal is not only to address the public defender shortage, but to create a future where we don’t need so many public defenders because we are proactively addressing the root causes of crime," Chotzen told the Mercury. 

Chotzen also emphasized the importance of transportation and education funding reform in the upcoming legislative session.  

Chotzen's opponent is Mary Lou Hennrich, a retired public health professional with an impressive resume that includes leading the Multnomah County Health Department in the 1980s. While Hennrich is nobody to scoff at, we think Chotzen—with his experience in the justice system and his focus on racial and economic equity for all Oregonians—is the right leader for District 46 right now. 

[Want to see all the Mercury's endorsements in one convenient place? Check out our handy-dandy Voter Cheat Sheet! Reminder that election day is May 21, and mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than May 21 in order to be counted. Here are your local ballot drop locations.