Just days before the 2021 legislative session was gaveled in, Senator Alan Olsen (R-Canby) – representing Senate District 20 since 2011 – abruptly stepped down from his seat. This resignation triggered a replacement process overseen by the Marion and Clackamas County Commissions. Both county commissions met in a joint session on February 1st to ultimately appoint former State Representative and Clackamas County Commissioner Bill Kennemer to fill the open Senate seat. Senator Kennemer will fulfill the remainder of Olsen’s term until the 2022 election, when voters will elect someone to a full four-year term.
Another new addition to the Senate Chamber is Senator Kayse Jama (D-Portland). On January 6th, Jama was appointed at a joint meeting of Multnomah and Clackamas county commissioners to the seat representing Oregon Senate District 24. Senate District 24 was previously held by current Oregon Secretary of State, Shemia Fagan – who had to vacate her seat to move into that role. It should be noted that Jama becomes the first Muslim in the history of the state to hold an Oregon Senate seat.
Over in the House chamber, that body is set to have a new member in the coming months. After battling allegations of abuse of power, misconduct, and a swelling call for resignation, State Representative Diego Hernandez (D-Portland) – representing District 47 since 2017 – decided to step down from his seat effective on March 15th. Much like the resignation of Sen. Olsen, the decision on who fills the open seat will be made by the Multnomah County Commission. According to OPB news, four candidates are vying to move into Rep. Hernandez’s seat:
Robin Castro, who ran for Portland City Council in 2020.
Adrienne Enghouse, a nurse who also tried to fill the Senate left by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.
Cayle Tern, who works in human services, and
Andrea Valderrama, a policy director for ACLU of Oregon.
The Democratic Party of Oregon’s members are moving quickly to vote on who they would prefer to fill the open seat. They will send their recommendations to the Multnomah County Commission on or before March 15th to ensure that this position is filled as quickly as possible. Stay tuned to hear who is picked to represent District 47 moving forward.