Almost a Year Into the Pandemic, Sen. Michael Dembrow Is Still Sending a Daily Coronavirus Newsletter

Almost every night since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dembrow has banged away at his keyboard, cranking out updates for his constituents.

Lots of ambitious politicians ply constituents with never-ending fundraising emails, penned by consultants.

State Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Southeast Portland) is different.

Almost every night since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dembrow has banged away at his keyboard, cranking out updates for his constituents.

His email marathon began March 16, and since then Dembrow has pressed send on hundreds of daily updates, including on weekends, relaxing only rarely. (Records show him slacking on July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas.) The missives include graphs, charts, links and personal thoughts.

"The number of newly reported tests really soared today," he wrote Dec. 4, when the state reported a record 2,176 cases. "It may be that increased testing is catching a greater number of the cases that were otherwise going undetected. If so, that's a good thing."

If Dembrow were a doctor, an ambitious young politician seeking to climb the ladder, or the holder of a closely contested seat, it would make more sense for him to spend so much time digesting state and national reports and distilling them for his peeps. But Dembrow is none of the above.

The 69-year-old retired Portland Community College English and film professor does not aspire to higher office. Nor are there remotely conceivable circumstances in which he could lose one of the most reliably Democratic seats in the Legislature.

So why does he do it? Logan Gilles, Dembrow's policy adviser since 2009, says his boss has always loved the constituent service part of his job, having hosted more than 100 coffees since first winning election in 2008.

And while he's known in Salem for his work on education and the environment, Dembrow has repeatedly sponsored universal health care legislation. But as long as the pandemic continues, he plans to keep plugging away.

"He—and we—hoped we would have long ago exhausted the need for daily email," Gilles says. "But that hasn't happened—and the response has been overwhelmingly positive."

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