Jeff Cogen has simplified the 2016 election for Charlie Hales.
The embattled Multnomah County chairman announced last week he'll resign Sept. 16—two months after revelations of his affair with a county employee.
His departure gives Hales more job security in the Portland mayor's office—but also creates a power vacuum.
Cogen had for years openly coveted the mayor's job. Before admitting to a two-year affair with health department manager Sonia Manhas, he used his political heft to push back hard on the rookie mayor when the agendas of the city and county conflicted.
But Hales will also feel Cogen's absence.
"It's incredibly important that you have strong leaders in City Hall and at Multnomah County," says Judy Tuttle, who served as chief of staff to former Mayor Vera Katz and worked for later Mayors Tom Potter and Sam Adams. "It's a disaster when they don't work together."
Cogen's departure will also redirect media attention to City Hall. Hales got a boost during his run for office by not being scandal-plagued like Adams or mayoral opponent Jefferson Smith, and since July he's benefited from not being Cogen.
Now the spotlight will be on Hales. After nine months in office, it's unclear whether his priorities extend beyond filling potholes and moving homeless camps.
While Hales looks like a man who needs some motivation, that's not true for the many politicians and would-be pols who spent the weekend after Cogen's resignation announcement trying to figure out how the vacancy would topple political dominoes.
Cogen's fall is that rare opportunity for others to make a quick leap upward. Until the special election in May his seat will be held by Cogen's former chief of staff, Marissa Madrigal, who says she has no desire to run.
And whoever does run will in turn leave open more offices behind them.
Cogen may have cleared out of 2016, but he's turned the 2014 races into a mosh pit. Here's who's dancing:
County Commission Position 1
House District 42