Contest Takes Shape for Multnomah County Commission Seat Vacated by New Chair Jessica Vega Pederson

Ana del Rocio is in; Julia Brim-Edwards will decide soon about running.

The race for the east county seat vacated by Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson is starting to shape up.

Ana del Rocio, a former policy adviser to Vega Pederson and onetime David Douglas School Board member, officially announced her candidacy Jan. 19.

In an unusual turn of events, that announcement came three days after del Rocio told The New York Times she was running. The newspaper had earlier featured del Rocio in a series about people who quit their jobs during the pandemic (del Rocio left a nonprofit she led called Oregon Futures Lab). In a Jan. 16 update, the Times reported that del Rocio was back in the workforce, serving as chief of staff to her sister, state Rep. Andrea Valderrama (D-East Portland), and was entering the race to succeed Vega Pederson in Multnomah County District 3.

Del Rocio won a seat on the David Douglas School Board in 2017 but resigned that seat in 2018.

In her announcement last week, del Rocio said, “East Portland deserves better.”

“This is my home, but we’ve all seen hunger and homelessness on the rise; most of us have felt the massive headache of our broken healthcare system; and our health takes a toll when we have to work day in and day out to afford our basic needs in this economy,” del Rocio added. “It feels like everything is broken, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to break out of poverty when the cards are stacked against you like this.”

In an interview today, del Rocio said she had ended her employment as her sister’s chief of staff to focus on her campaign. She has already lined up a list of 50 endorsements and says she would bring a perspective to the county board that is currently lacking.

“I’m single parent of public school students, a renter, and a transit rider,” del Rocio says. “I have the benefit of having previously worked for the chair and from my experience working with the county, but I also bring a lot of new things to the race.”

The other candidate looking seriously at the special election is Julia Brim-Edwards, a former longtime Nike executive who is a trustee at Pacific University and Oregon State University and is now in her third term on the Portland Public Schools Board.

Brim-Edwards says a number of people have encouraged her to run and she plans to make a decision in the next week or so. “I’m considering running to help our community be what we all want it to be—a safe and affordable place to live, work and raise a family,” Brim-Edwards said.

“For 50 years East Portland and this county have been my home,” she added. “I think we are on the precipice of turning things around. Working together, we can accelerate efforts to improve public safety and housing and shelter availability—but we can’t leave it to others to do all the hard work and just hope they succeed.”

The special election for District 3 is May 16.