Jamie Woods, an assistant professor of economics at Portland State University, announced today he will challenge incumbent state Rep. Barbara Smith-Warner (D-Portland) in next May's House District 45 Democratic primary.
House District 45 covers much of Northeast Portland, extending from Northeast 24th Street to Northeast 141st Street.
Woods' announcement is noteworthy because it's relatively rare for incumbent Democrats in safe legislative seats to face a primary challenge—absent highly motivated interest groups like those who unseated former Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) in 2012 and are taking aim at state Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland) next year.
Smith Warner, a two-term incumbent, served as a staffer to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) before being appointed to the Northeast Portland seat vacated by now Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), when Dembrow moved to the Legislature's senior chamber.
Woods brings a long record of civic involvement to the race. He served eight years on the Parkrose School Board from 2005 to 2013 and was on the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Committee in 2012-2013, as well as numerous local and county-wide committees. He's also been a contract negotiator for the union that represents professors at PSU.
In an email, Woods cited a couple of reasons he's getting in the race.
"First, there was a general lack of communication with the district. We were spoiled with Michael Dembrow's updates, which come at least monthly, and his frequent coffees and town halls," he says. "With the current representative, we get updates, maybe, twice a year."
The second is more closely related to his background. He says he has serious concerns that lawmakers, including Smith Warner, could get rolled by industry as they try to address climate change through cap-and-trade legislation.
"As an energy economist I can tell you that a lot of details in that bill should not be left to the rule making process," Woods says. "There are too many interactions with the Public Utilities Commission, the Environmental Quality Commission, and Global Warming Commission."