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 ChairAfter Portland mayor, county chair is the most visible position in local politics. The chair gets paid $140,000 a year, nearly $20,000 more than the mayor, and enjoys far more executive authority over his colleagues. County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury is the consensus favorite to replace Cogen. She tells WW she will run—but because she must resign her seat to campaign, she won’t file for office immediately. The longer she waits, the more potential opponents gain motivation for a fight. These include former City Commissioner Jim Francesconi, now in private legal practice. Francesconi didn’t return calls, but friends say he’s pondering a run. Dan Ryan, a former member of the Portland Public Schools board, has also been mentioned but says he’s staying put at All Hands Raised, the foundation for PPS. Former Metro Commissioner Rex Burkholder’s name has circulated, but he’s told friends he’s more likely to run for the Legislature. Two of Kafoury’s colleagues, County Commissioners Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel, have also mulled running but probably will defer to Kafoury. Tom Rinehart, chief of staff to Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, is also reportedly considering running but could not be reached for comment. One rumored candidate who ruled himself out is Bill Dickey, whose Morel Ink printing company produces much of the candidate literature in local races. “No, I’m not running for county chair,” Dickey says. “I’m hoping whoever runs turns out to be my customer.”
County Commission Position 1State Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) jumped a probable pack of wannabes for this seat. Kafoury’s district includes Portland’s west side and the area east of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and south of I-84. “I have enormous respect for Deborah and would be delighted to see her be chair,” Bailey tells WW. “If she decides to do that, it would be my desire to run for her position.” Former interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton, who lost a race for attorney general last year, was mentioned as a possible candidate but says he will not run. Brian Wilson, the former chief financial officer of Kalberer Co., is also thinking about the job. “I’m seriously considering it,” he wrote to WW.
House District 42
Bailey will give up his seat to run for the county commissioner job. In three terms, he earned a reputation for brains and effectiveness, most recently chairing the House Energy and Environment Committee. In his politically active district, a number of candidates will be seeking his seat. Ted Keizer, chairman of the Multnomah County Democrats after losing to Bailey in 2008, says he’s ready. “I would definitely consider running again,” Keizer says. Rob Nosse, an organizer for the Oregon Nurses Association, would also like to replace Bailey. “I’ve thought about running for office for a long time, but as long as Jules held the seat there was no reason to,” Nosse says. Burkholder, who ran for Metro Council president, is pondering a run, as is Marisha Childs, a lawyer and 2012 graduate of Emerge Oregon, a political boot camp for Democratic women candidates.