District 14 (Beaverton, Aloha)
Kate Lieber (D)
Democratic Sen. Mark Hass held this seat for 12 years, until he ran for Oregon secretary of state in the 2020 primary, narrowly losing the party nomination to his colleague, Sen. Shemia Fagan. We're sorry to lose Hass, a sensible and erudite lawmaker, but we're enthusiastic about the candidate Democrats found to replace him in a district that spans Washington County from Beaverton to Aloha, including the economic engine that is Nike.
Kate Lieber, 54, is a former Multnomah County prosecutor who now teaches criminal justice at Portland Community College and chairs the board of Transition Projects, a nonprofit that helps houseless people find and keep apartments. She also chaired the state's Psychiatric Security Review Board. That's quite the résumé for a first-time candidate—and Lieber is one of the more impressive entrants we've met this year.
Lieber's enthusiasm (she calls herself a "teacher at heart") and legal expertise are much-needed qualities in the dreary state Senate, a place where liberal dreams go to die. Having grown up gay in Indiana in the 1980s, Lieber learned how to confront people who had different opinions. Lieber says the GOP walkout during cap-and-trade negotiations inspired her to run for this seat. If elected, she plans to introduce legislation that will help people with a criminal history get access to housing. As a former prosecutor, she'll have the moral authority to make that case.
Lieber's BS detector was pinging throughout her endorsement interview alongside Republican challenger Harmony Mulkey, a 40-year-old mom with a background as a mental health therapist and case manager. Mulkey emerged from Oregon's "medical freedom" movement, a euphemism for vaccine skeptics. Mulkey doesn't believe in requiring childhood vaccinations. In fact, she thinks the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is through developing "herd immunity"—that is, getting so many people infected that the disease fades away. In our interview, Lieber called this a reckless approach to public health that would lead to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
This race offers an unusually stark choice: an enormously qualified candidate against one who's actively dangerous. Go with Lieber.
Lieber's most awkward moment on Zoom: Not realizing she was unmuted, she yelled at her new puppy for peeing on the carpet. Other people on the call didn't know she had a puppy and assumed Lieber was yelling at her teenage son. Lieber assures us her teenage son does not pee on the carpet.
Oregon Senate District 25
(Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview)
Chris Gorsek (D)
State Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) is retiring from this seat after 20 years in the Capitol. Her district has significantly greater needs—in terms of economic assistance and basic infrastructure such as sidewalks—than the parts of Multnomah County west of Interstate 205.
State Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale), who has represented half of District 25 in the Oregon House for the past four sessions, is more likely to win attention and resources for the district than his GOP opponent, restaurant owner Justin Hwang.
Gorsek, 62, a former Portland cop who teaches geography and criminal justice at Mount Hood Community College and Portland State University, wants to focus on reducing poverty in the district. Another of his priorities: providing better transit options.
He's passed some useful legislation in the House: a bill requiring that police record all interviews with minors to protect their rights and another preventing landlords from raising rent in the first year of a month-to-month tenancy. He's been willing to buck his caucus, railing against a Democratic bill that would allow new development in tsunami zones, for instance, and being one of only seven Democrats to vote against a leadership-sponsored bill that cut retirement benefits in 2019.
Hwang, 35, who emigrated from Korea, had built an impressive empire of nearly 30 restaurants prior to COVID-19 devastating his industry. He's independent enough to distance himself from President Donald Trump—a risk for GOP candidates—but short on specifics about what he would do for his constituents and how, as a member of a party deep in the minority, he would deliver. We hope he'll stay involved in civic life and continue building the relationships that will help him become a stronger candidate.
Gorsek's most awkward moments on Zoom: Often when he's in the middle of a call, his German Shepherd will bark at squirrels he sees out the window.