Administrative law judge and former Portland City Council candidate Vadim Mozyrsky tells WW he is mulling a run for Multnomah County district attorney in 2024.
Mozyrsky came in third place in the 2022 May primary election for City Council Position 2, failing to make the general election with now-City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez and former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
His new aspiration for office might strike some as ambitious, seeing as Mozyrsky has no experience in criminal law, nor is he currently a member of the Oregon State Bar. (Oregon law requires that a candidate for district attorney must be admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Oregon.)
But Mozyrsky expresses confidence that he can address rising crime in Portland from the prosecutor’s office.
“I think it’s a very tricky problem to solve. It’s not just the police, not just the district attorney’s office, not just the sheriffs, not just the city, not just the county,” Mozyrsky tells WW. “But I do hear people saying that they don’t feel safe and they don’t feel their neighbors are safe.”
Mozyrsky is a federal administrative law judge, which means he safeguards the federal government’s Social Security dollars. (People end up in his courtroom after they’ve been denied benefits twice. If they appeal the second denial, the case goes to Mozyrsky.) He’s been a judge for a decade now.
“There’s not many people that come up over and over as individuals that a lot of Portlanders feel aren’t doing a good job in office, and Mike Schmidt is one of those names that keep popping up,” Mozyrsky says. “What I hear often is that people were really upset, and are really upset, at the handling of some of these prosecutions in Multnomah County.”
Schmidt won office in 2020 on a platform of criminal justice reform. For much of his two-plus years in office, he has been the target of criticism from observers who consider him soft on crime at a time when Portland is experiencing record rates of homicides and car thefts. Schmidt has soldiered on in his reforms, however, including shepherding a program to prevent some violent offenders from seeing prison time under Measure 11.
Mozyrsky cozied up to veteran City Hall politicos during and after his failed bid for a City Council seat. After he lost, he went on to campaign against the charter reform measure that appeared on the November ballot (it passed handily). He formed a political action committee with Kevin Looper of People for Portland to back Gonzalez, who ran to Hardesty’s right. Mozyrsky can be regularly seen at political events in a fresh-pressed suit.
“I feel very fortunate that people still remember me, and I feel fortunate when people come up to me in the streets or in the store and tell me they voted for me,” Mozyrsky says. “I get questions all the time [about running for office]. Yesterday I went to an event, and someone if I asked if I would run for mayor.”
Mozyrsky says he does not intend to run for one of the 12 City Council seats that will be available under the new form of government in 2024. (Nor will he run for mayor, he adds.)
On Thursday night, new NAACP Portland chapter president James Posey appointed Mozyrsky as the chapter’s political action committee chair. However, only one of the NAACP’s executive committee members voted to appoint Mozyrsky. Five members voted against the appointment, and two others abstained from voting.
Prior to the vote, Mozyrsky assured the executive committee he would produce results. “I do get results. I’m here as a member of the NAACP to ensure they get results,” Mozyrsky said from his car. “I will work with everyone here to get those results.”
Mozyrsky rebounded quickly. He told WW on Friday afternoon that “I don’t think the fight stops just because you weren’t elected to an office.”
In short: Mozyrsky likes the political life he’s tasted and intends to stay in it.