Senator Rod Monroe (D-East Portland) was one of a couple of high-profile Democrats to help block tenant protection legislation in Salem this year that would have overturned the ban on rent control and restrict "no-cause" evictions.
That opposition to legislation passed by the Oregon House and championed by House Speaker Tina Kotek made Monroe, who is a landlord himself, vulnerable to a viable challenger from within his party.
And more than a month before she can formally declare for the May 2018 primaries, former Representative Shemia Fagan, who served two terms in the Oregon House before bowing out last year, announced Monday that she is running for Monroe's seat.
"I know what housing insecurity means to a family," Fagan, 35, says, in announcing her candidacy. "As a teenager, I watched my mom live on and off the streets in East Portland. My dad, brothers, and I experienced homelessness and housing insecurity in Eastern Oregon. It took my entire community to make sure I had stability. Every kid deserves at least that."
Monroe, 74, first won a seat in the legislature more than 40 years ago. He's a former teacher and a lay minister who has long championed health and safety regulations, including tough DUII laws and banning smoking in public buildings.
Fagan, an employment lawyer and a mother of two young children, served two terms in the Oregon House before stepping aside last year to concentrate on her family and career. She championed sidewalk and safety improvements for East Portland streets. Fagan says had she been in the legislature, she would have co-sponsored the tenant protection legislation.
Fagan, who beat a Republican incumbent when she ran for the House, is a significant threat to Monroe. She's lined up endorsements including Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, State Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, State Representative Rob Nosse and State Representative Karin Power.
"When families are facing the worst housing crisis of our time, we need leaders like Shemia Fagan," Kafoury said, in a statement for the official announcement. "Shemia has a proven record as a fighter for everyday working people and we clearly need a peoples' champion in the legislature."