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A Newcomer Will Seek to Unseat City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Next Year

Vadim Mozyrsky, a lawyer and community activist, will try to tap into voters’ discontent.

Sept. 9 marks the opening of the candidate filing period for the 2022 primary election. One of the first candidates to file for next year’s ballot will be Vadim Mozyrsky, a Portland lawyer who works on disability rights and serves on a number of boards and committees. He’d like to add the Portland City Council to that list.

WHO HE IS

Mozyrsky, 48, moved here seven years ago from his hometown of Houston. A Ukrainian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. in 1979 and says he grew up in poverty, he has wasted no time in diving into Portland’s civic life. He serves on the city’s Charter Review Commission, which is pondering whether to change Portland’s form of government; the Portland Police Citizen Review Committee; and the separate Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing, as well as the boards of the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization and the Goose Hollow Foothills League Neighborhood Association. Mozyrsky has never run for office before. He says the deterioration of his adopted home in the past two years convinced him to run. “I’m concerned about public safety and the murder rate and that not enough is being done to help the most vulnerable,” he says. “In the conversations I have, there’s a palpable sense that Portland is heading in the wrong direction.”

WHO HE’S RUNNING AGAINST

Mozyrsky has chosen to run against incumbent Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who won her seat in 2018 and, as a former two-term lawmaker in the Oregon House and a leader of nonprofits, including the NAACP of Portland, has long and deep ties to the community. Those ties helped her form the coalition that overwhelmingly passed the Portland Clean Energy Fund in 2018.

WHY THAT’S INTERESTING

Incumbents are difficult to beat in Portland City Council races. From 1992 to 2016, when Chloe Eudaly defeated incumbent Commissioner Steve Novick, no sitting City Council member lost a race. Eudaly lost her seat to now-Commissioner Mingus Mapps in 2020, so the power of incumbency may be waning. Still, Mozyrsky could have chosen to challenge Commissioner Dan Ryan, who only took office a year ago, after winning a special election to serve the remaining term of late Commissioner Nick Fish. Ryan won with support from Hardesty, but has alienated her and other police critics with more moderate views. He’s still finding his feet in City Hall and, in some ways, is more vulnerable to a challenge.

WHAT IT MEANS

If Mozyrsky can qualify for matching public campaign funds, as he hopes, he will try to make the election at least in part a referendum on Hardesty’s attempts to reform the Portland Police Bureau. Those efforts, which include disbanding the Gun Violence Reduction Team and historic budget cuts to the Police Bureau, have contributed to the departure of more than 100 officers in the past year. “We’ve had 90 murders in the past 12 months and 830 shootings,” Mozyrsky says. He notes that Hardesty and a majority of the council rejected Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposal to spend $2 million on a team to reduce gun violence earlier this year and instead earmarked money for unspecified nonprofits and more parks employees. “Youth are dying on our streets on a daily basis,” Mozyrsky says. “Instead of a practical solution, we get more park rangers.”