Murmurs: 3rd Congressional District Race Heats Up

In other news: La Mota vacates longtime processing facility.

3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT RACE HEATS UP: State Rep. Maxine Dexter (D-Portland) officially entered the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Dec. 5, which also happened to be Dexter’s 51st birthday. A Kaiser Permanente pulmonologist and chair of the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness now in her second term, Dexter will compete with Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales and former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal to succeed Blumenauer, who will retire after 14 terms. Also on Dec. 5, the website Jewish Insider published an article speculating that pro-Israel political action committees could spend heavily to defeat Jayapal, who, like her sister, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), has been less supportive of Israel than the lobby would like. A recent flashpoint: Jayapal’s refusal to sign a Multnomah County Board of Commissioners statement strongly condemning Hamas and supporting Israel in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. Instead, she issued her own statement condemning “Hamas’ appalling terror attack on Israel.” Jayapal told Jewish Insider she’s doing her best to navigate a complicated situation, explaining, “my views then and now are largely shaped by my conversations with Jewish community members in Multnomah County.”

RENE GONZALEZ WILL VIE FOR MAYOR: City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez will announce his bid this week to become Portland’s next mayor, according to three sources familiar with his plans. He joins fellow commissioner Mingus Mapps, who announced this fall his intention to run. Meanwhile, on Dec. 4, Commissioner Dan Ryan announced he would not seek the mayoral seat, though he alluded to running for another elected office. (Mayor Ted Wheeler is not running for reelection.) All expectant eyes now fall on Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who is rumored to be strongly considering a mayoral run. Rubio, the most progressive member of the current City Council, has curried favor with the business community in recent months with her efforts to fix the city’s construction permitting process.

LA MOTA VACATES LONGTIME PROCESSING FACILITY: Cannabis chain La Mota continues to falter in Oregon, recently shutting down one of its newest Portland stores and vacating the facility where it processed most of its dabs, vapes and extracts. La Mota’s lease at the 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Northeast Portland, where it created most of its products, expired last summer; at the end of November, according to the landlord, La Mota left the building and removed all its extraction equipment. By now you know La Mota’s story: Its founders, Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, became prominent Democratic donors in Oregon in recent years, piled up tax liens and lawsuits, and hired Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan for a consulting job—until a WW report of her moonlighting forced her resignation. It’s unclear whether Mitchell and Cazares have found a new processing facility; associates say they aren’t sure of the couple’s whereabouts. The departure is likely to be a significant blow to the company and its various product brands, including Nuggies, Caked and Dab Society. Without an extraction facility, those products are impossible to make. Meanwhile, Nuggies, a dispensary the couple opened just this spring in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood, recently shut down.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Disco Dabs is a La Mota brand. That’s incorrect. Disco Dabs is not affiliated with La Mota. WW regrets the error.

OREGON IN THE DARK ON DRUGS: Policy wonks and politicians are weighing whether Oregon should recriminalize drug possession or otherwise tweak Measure 110, but they’re working with incomplete data because the Oregon Health Authority has not produced a report it had promised after a January audit by the Secretary of State’s Office. The audit of the 2020 measure concluded that a “lack of clarity” about roles and responsibilities for drug treatment had “contributed to delays, confusion, and strained relations” between OHA and the volunteer Oversight and Accountability Council, which awards more than $100 million annually in cannabis tax revenue to recovery organizations, with help from OHA. More broadly, auditors wrote, “without sufficient data collection and reporting, it will be impossible to effectively measure the outcomes and effectiveness of M110.” Prodded by auditors to remedy that, OHA agreed to “publish a plan by September 2023 for how the M110 program integrates into the overall behavioral health system in Oregon.” That report is overdue. Spokesman Dean Carson says OHA is working on two studies of the behavioral health system that will be completed by next summer. He didn’t say if either was the study that OHA committed to doing back in January. “State health officials look forward to sharing preliminary data in coming weeks,” Carson says in an email. The report would have come in handy this week as the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response mulls whether to amend Measure 110 when lawmakers meet in February. Critics, many of whom blame the measure for an uptick in brazen fentanyl use on Portland’s streets, have filed ballot initiatives to overturn it if legislators don’t act.

PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU SEEKS A TASER UPGRADE: Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office is asking the Portland City Council to approve an estimated $3.4 million contract to upgrade cops’ Tasers. The current model has been discontinued, the bureau says, and isn’t compatible with the bureau’s new body-worn cameras, which must start recording when a police officer draws a weapon, per the city’s new policy approved earlier this year. The bureau plans to upgrade to the Model 7, which, like cops’ current Tasers and the body-worn cameras, is manufactured by Axon. This is the second multimillion-dollar Axon purchase to come before the City Council in the past week. The council approved a contract with Axon worth up to $2.6 million to purchase the body-worn cameras Nov. 29. The U.S. Department of Justice has previously criticized the bureau for excessive Taser use against people with mental illness.

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