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House Representative, District 41

Kaliko Castille

Though the shorthand for Oregon House District 41 is "Milwaukie," it's worth noting that the area it encompasses contains parts of both Clackamas and Multnomah counties, including Portland neighborhoods Sellwood, Eastmoreland, and Brentwood-Darlington.

The breakdown of the district's populations is vast in economic terms, but it's also becoming increasingly diverse culturally. Those minority populations were at the front of our team's mind when making a decision about who should represent District 41 in the state's capitol.

The choice between candidates Kaliko Castille and current Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba was a difficult one, but ultimately we settled on Castille as our pick. Castille has been running on a platform of "representation matters," asking voters to see themselves in—or at least recognize the importance of electing—a Native Hawaiian working class father who is active in his community and local political sphere.

At the forefront of Castille's concerns are the struggles of working families. During the Mercury's endorsement interview, Castille said he would focus most immediately on affordable housing, universal preschool, and baby bonds—a government plan aimed at reducing intergenerational wealth gaps, where children born in the area receive a trust account at birth, which matures over time and can be used in adulthood for purposes like education or buying property.

Gamba has a longer history of working directly in politics, due to serving as mayor of Milwaukie since 2016 and on the Milwaukie City Council before that. However, Castille's current work at Portland-area racial justice nonprofit Brown Hope and his previous experience with the National Cannabis Industry Association are no less impressive and signal that he has commensurate experience with the legislative process, especially in two areas that are becoming increasingly important to Portland and Oregon in general. We encourage you elect Castille to District 41.

House District 45

Thuy Tran

House District 45 represents a large swath of Northeast Portland—an increasingly diverse section of the city that’s significantly affected by housing affordability, transportation safety issues, and rising gun violence. Understanding the district’s residents' lived experiences and struggles is a major first step in crafting effective policy solutions, which is why we’re endorsing Thuy Tran.

While she does not have traditional government experience, Tran’s on-the-ground relationships with community members and robust understanding of the issues they face is deeply valuable. In our endorsement interview, Tran detailed a range of issues impacting her community, from housing insecurity to lacking behavioral health services to gentrification. As an optometrist and board member for Family Forward Oregon, an organization lobbying for reproductive justice policies, Tran also has a strong understanding of the barriers people face when it comes to accessing basic health care services.

Tran doesn’t stop at just naming problems, but rather cites solutions generated by the community, like leasing motels to shelter housing-insecure families and adjusting the requirements to access adult education programs that have unintentionally barred some Oregonians from the resource.

Tran’s passion for fighting for Oregonians who have been left behind by policy gaps is evident whenever she talks about her priorities as a representative. We’d like to see her bring that energy to the Oregon House and encourage you to vote for Tran for House District 45.

Labor Commissioner

Christina Stephenson

The Bureau of Labor and Industry's (BOLI) labor commissioner position has always served an important role in Oregon: enforcing state employment laws, advocating for labor rights, and overseeing programs for workforce training. However, the state's current historical labor shortage and resurgence in workplaces calling for unionization signals that this election may prove especially critical.

The position is non-partisan, so voters will be asked to choose from all seven candidates. None are incumbents, as the previous Labor Commissioner, Val Hoyle, is currently pursuing the congressional seat previously held by Peter DeFazio. Though Hoyle only served as Labor Commissioner for two years, the position is notoriously long-held. There have only been nine since it was created in 1903.

We think that Christina Stephenson's background as an employment law attorney and an employer makes her an excellent fit for the position. Stephenson stressed that while her current day job has her representing workers, she's also a small business owner who had to grapple with the financial stressors of the pandemic.

If elected, Stephenson says some of her priorities will be looking into industries with high noncompliance issues and forging a better partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA). She also plans to petition the legislature to invest more in expanding BOLI staff. "Oregon's population and labor market is only getting bigger," Stephenson told the Mercury during our endorsement interview.

Stephenson also has her eye on regulation of the state's apprenticeship program, which will be a big priority for whomever is elected. In March, the passage of Senate Bill 1545 added $200 million to the state's workforce training programs, aiming to close the state's current, historic labor gap by directing funds towards training workers to fill the empty positions.

While the Mercury is supporting Stephenson in her bid, we were also impressed by Casey Kula—who took charge as a kind, self-appointed moderator to our sizably populated interview. (We know that sounds annoying, but he pulled it off.) Kula's background as a farmer, small business owner, and Yamhill County Commissioner is impressive. We particularly noticed his passion for tribal labor issues, as well as his endorsement by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and agreed that tribal labor issues deserve due attention. Ultimately we think Stephenson is the best choice—her list of endorsements is vast—but we hope to see Kula in future election races.


Tina Kotek

It’s no exaggeration to say that most of Oregon’s biggest problems could be solved with affordable housing. Accessible, affordable housing has been shown to reduce crime rates, increase job stability, strengthen local economies, benefit mental and physical health, improve education outcomes, decrease fossil fuel emissions, and protect people from the growing impacts of climate change. There’s only one candidate for governor who has a proven record of addressing the state’s housing crisis: Tina Kotek.

Kotek, Oregon’s former House Speaker and representative from North Portland, has used her position in Salem to champion critical housing and land use policies meant to protect renters, prevent homelessness, and allow for more types of housing across Oregon cities. In 2019, Kotek spearheaded a bill allowing duplexes in areas zoned for single-family homes in Oregon cities and helped pass the nation’s first rent control law. In 2020, she passed legislation that made it easier for Metro to create its sweeping supporting housing services fund and funneled $75 million to Project Turnkey, a program that converts motels into transitional housing. And in 2021, Kotek led legislation that codified a federal court ruling prohibiting cities from banning unhoused people from sitting or sleeping in public. What’s more, Kotek’s solutions aren’t tailored to respond to the loudest (and most monied) lobbyists—they’re informed by actual renters, unhoused people, nonprofits, grassroots groups, economists, urban design wonks, and neighbors.

In our endorsement interview, Kotek said that one of her first tasks in office would be to pass an executive order that would spur the immediate construction of housing across Oregon. Kotek says it’s a lack of housing supply that has led to the state’s skyrocketing housing prices and rate of homelessness, a concept that we (and much smarter policy nerds) agree with.

With House Speaker on her resume, Kotek has the chops to negotiate and reach consensus with lawmakers across the political spectrum. She also has a reputation of holding her ground on issues she’s not willing to budge on—which is something we need in the governor’s office.

We heard from a number of Democratic gubernatorial candidates, with many bringing fresh perspectives and ideas to the table. While we don’t believe he’s primed for the top office in Oregon, we believe candidate George Carrillo should continue to pursue politics and craft policy—his thoughts on equity, health care, and clean energy shouldn’t be ignored. Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read is considered Kotek’s top opponent in this race, yet we weren’t won over by his vague policy ideas.

When it comes to selecting a Democratic candidate for governor who can compete with the other candidates come November, Kotek is our choice.

Check out our other May 2022 endorsements here—and if you find them helpful, please consider appreciating our hard work with a small $$ tip!