Former Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen is preparing for a run for state representative in the Southeast Portland district currently represented by Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland), who is retiring at the end of the year.
Last year, Cogen's friends were pushing him as a possible contender for City Council when Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced her retirement. But Cogen tells WW that issues in the forefront of his work at the county inspired him to instead make a run for state office where he can have impact on the budget and policy for education, health care and public safety.
"I'm invested in those issues, so I'm going to run for state legislature," he says.
Cogen resigned as Multnomah County chair in 2013, then served as executive director of the nonprofit Impact NW. Three years ago, he suffered a stroke, which he says has also impacted what his priorities as a state legislator.
He could not speak in the aftermath of the stroke and, for more than a year, thanks to disability insurance, attended speech therapy two or three times a week.
"I don't think people want luck to be a part of whether people get over a long-term health crisis," he says. "So I'm going to push to have everyone get short-term and long-term disability insurance. That was not on my mind when I was county chair."
Cogen resigned from his county post after an affair with a county health department employee while he was chair.
"I've been a part of this community for a long, long time," says Cogen. "And I think that the people are great and are forgiving by nature. I have more to give to this community. I made a mistake, but I acknowledged it and resigned. Based on my history, I hope that people will forgive me, and I think they will."
Cogen has not formally filed to run in the race, and there are already three Democrats filed to run, including Khanh Pham, who is a director at the nonprofit Opal Environmental Justice and was a leader in the effort to pass Portland's Clean Energy Fund. She has raised over $9,000.
Cogen hasn't reported any donations, but has more than $11,000 in his account from past runs for office.