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In an Unusual Move, Union Leader Floats a Run for Oregon Governor

Melissa Unger, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 503, may run.

Melissa Unger, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 503, is weighing a run for Oregon governor in 2022, multiple political insiders tell WW.

For months, one of the central questions surrounding the 2022 Democratic primary for governor has been whom public employee unions would support (“Open Oregon,” WW, June 2, 2021).

Related: For Just the Second Time in 25 Years, the Oregon Governor’s Mansion Is Up for Grabs. Here Are Four Ways the Race Could Go.

But it’s a surprising step for a union executive to mull a run for office, rather than exerting influence from the outside. A SEIU 503 spokesman did not deny Unger was considering a candidacy, but said she had other priorities:

“Melissa is focused on her current job,” says Ben Morris. “At the same time, our union is closely watching the candidate field in the governor’s race. We believe there must be a candidate who is a champion for Oregon’s working families… When that candidate emerges, our members will be ready to support them.”

Others dismissed the political likelihood of a union leader successfully running for the highest office in the state.

“It’s a joke that will never happen; they just don’t realize it yet,” says one observer.