| MUSICAL CHAIRS: Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler’s appointment as state treasurer set off a wild political scramble. |
IMAGE: Cameron Browne
The death last weekend of Oregon state Treasurer Ben Westlund set off a mad political scramble Tuesday that reached deep into Multnomah County.
In the minutes after Gov. Ted Kulongoski named Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler as the new state treasurer about 7 am, candidates for Wheeler’s job began popping up like March Madness brackets.
When one of those new county chairman contenders was Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, more political dominoes began falling in a rush to the 5 pm candidate filing deadline. Here’s a scorecard of what happened:
Besides Cogen, two other well-known Portlanders announced their runs for chair before lunch on Tuesday. One of those was ex-state Sen. Margaret Carter, a Democrat and longtime lawmaker who left her legislative job last year to become deputy director at the state Department of Human Services.
The other was Democratic activist Steve Novick, who narrowly lost the 2008 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and most recently played a prominent role in the passage of Measures 66 and 67 by Oregon voters. But in what may be a record for the shortest campaign, Novick changed his mind six hours later after conversations with Cogen and former county chair Bev Stein convinced him it was Cogen’s time.
Cogen, who hasn’t ruled out trying to be appointed as interim chair for the rest of 2010, and Carter both tilt left on the political spectrum. They will run in the May 18 countywide primary against Mike Darger, a former truck driver, and Wes Soderback, an unsuccessful county commissioner candidate in 2008.
Cogen had been up for re-election to his county commissioner’s job in District 2, which takes in parts of North and Northeast Portland. His decision to abandon that shoo-in race to run against a veteran like Carter set off its own political free-for-all.
Among those who dived in to replace Cogen were Karol Collymore, a Cogen aide; and Rev. Chuck Currie, a longtime social-services activist. And then there’s ex-County Commissioner Gary Hansen; city noise-control officer Paul Van Orden; newly hired Wheeler staffer Roberta Phillip; Loretta Smith, who worked for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); Maria Rubio, an ex-policy adviser for former Mayor Tom Potter; and political consultant Tom Markgraf.
Bottom line to all these machinations: What had been expected to be sleepy re-elections of Wheeler and Cogen to their jobs changed in one big hurry.