August 27th, 2008 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Multnomah County

DENVER NOTEBOOK: Prominent Portland Republican Quits the GOP

Julia Brim-Edwards

Okay, it didn't happen here in Denver, but one of the most interesting pieces of chatter here at the Democratic National Convention is that after nearly 30 years as a Republican, Julia Brim-Edwards has switched her voter registration and become a Democrat. The defection comes at a time when the Oregon GOP has struggled with money woes and to field credible statewide candidates.

Brim-Edwards, 46, a Southeast Portland resident and former staffer to leading Oregon Republicans including former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood and current Congressman Greg Walden, has been one of the few high-profile Republican women in Multnomah County.

She has led grassroots efforts to increase K-12 funding, won election to the Portland School Board in 2001 (which she served as co-chair) and most recently has been a leading voice of the business community as Oregon director of government and public affairs for Nike.

Brim-Edwards says the decision to leave the Republican Party was not an easy one. She had not previously made such a decision even to vote in primaries for her husband, Randall Edwards, a Democrat, when he successfully ran for the Legislature and twice for state treasurer.

She says two reasons convinced her to become a Democrat: the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama and the continued rightward drift of the Republican Party.

"The world has changed, and in Obama, I see somebody who can make this country's diversity a competitive advantage," Brim-Edwards says. "The Republican Party I joined was concerned about civil liberties and the economy but they've shifted to the right."

Brim-Edwards actually changed her registration months ago, although nobody has reported the move until now. She says she decided to become a Democrat when Obama visited Oregon in April. "I wanted to be able to vote for the best candidate in this election," she says.

Although Edwards, who is term-limited out after eight years as treasurer, is often mentioned as a candidate for what will be an open gubernatorial seat in 2010, Brim-Edwards says her decision had nothing to do with his political career.

"Absolutely not," she says. "Randall has no plans to run for anything."
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