When state Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland) faced revelations in May that he was the subject of a restraining order over alleged threatening behavior toward his former girlfriend, he was already secure in his bid to be the Democratic Party nominee for his legislative seat.
And in a district as solidly Democratic as House District 47, a Republican challenger, Ryan Gardner, is not considered much of a threat.
But now Hernandez faces a challenge from the left.
Ashton Simpson, 35, an Air Force veteran who works for the nonprofit Rosewood Initiative, is challenging Hernandez on the Working Families Party ticket.
Simpson, who grew up in Houston, has been active in transportation policy at the city and for Metro's transportation bond, including sitting on the Portland Fixing Our Streets Oversight Committee and the Pricing for Equitable Mobility Task Force.
He was inspired to run after he lost three people close to him this year—two to COVID-19 and one to suicide—he says.
He says his priority is to get more resources to East Portland, a community he says has been neglected too long. And he points to the Metro transportation measure, which would provide significant investment in east county as evidence of the underinvestment. (He supports the measure.)
"We need adequate representation," he says. "In this moment, there are things on the ground that our leadership has not taken a closer look at."
The Working Families Party has made such an effort before, running Amanda La Bell in 2018 in a legislative race in Bend after Democrats withdrew support for their nominee over sexual harassment allegations. La Bell ultimately withdrew over a scandal of her own. The Working Families Party has not elected a state legislator in Oregon solely on its ballot line.
Simpson already has the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, according to the Voters' Pamphlet.
The restraining order against Hernandez has since been withdrawn, but he is now the subject of an investigation by the Oregon Legislature over alleged sexual harassment.