Nkenge Harmon Johnson, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, today formed a political action committee enabling her to run for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 10, which covers Salem and Monmouth. (Although Harmon Johnson works in Portland, she lives in South Salem.)
The seat is currently held by state Sen. Denyc Boles (R-Salem), who was appointed to her position earlier this year after the death of the longtime incumbent Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem).
Winters first won the seat in 2002, when Republicans held a significant voter registration advantage over Democrats, out-numbering them by 4,750 votes. Today, however, Democrats narrowly out-number Republicans in the district, by a margin of about 700 voters, less than 1 percent of the electorate.
Harmon Johnson grew up in Portland and Salem. After graduating from Florida A & M University, she earned an MBA from Trinity University, a law degree from Howard University and worked in a variety of jobs in Congress and the Obama administration before returning to Oregon in 2014 to serve as communications director for former Gov. John Kitzhaber. She was pushed out of that job after clashing with then-first lady Cylvia Hayes.
Harmon took over at the Urban League in 2015.
"This is an exciting and challenging time in Senate District 10 and the state of Oregon," she said in a statement. "Together Oregonians have so much opportunity. Now we need to build the pathways to seize it. In affordable housing, food and agriculture, small business and jobs, health and education, and the administration of justice, we can have lasting progress within our reach. I formed the political action committee because I am rooted in this community. My family has lived in the district for most of my life. With the passing of the honorable Sen. Winters, I'm prepared to use my energy, passion, and experience to work with others to turn Salem's opportunities into realities."