Other black candidates run in crowded fields
By Beverly Corbell
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff Derrick Peterson face voters in the May 17 Primary vote-by-mail election.
Jo Ann Hardesty, the first Black woman elected to Portland City Council, is campaigning on the initial success of the city’s new non-armed street response team, and an impressive list of political leaders who have renewed their endorsements of her, as she seeks a second term in the May 17 Primary.
Other members of the Black community facing voters in the vote-by-mail election include Captain Derrick Peterson, a long time corrections officer running for Multnomah County Sheriff; Elizabeth Taylor and Derry Jackson, both running for County Commissioner from District 2; Bruce Broussard running for county commission chair against three incumbent commissioners; and Ashton Simpson who is running for the Metro Council unopposed.
Ballots are already in the mail.
Under a political landscape dominated by rising crime and homelessness issues, Hardesty is facing 10 other candidates. But she points to her accomplishments, chiefly establishing Portland Street Response, as an example of making progress on law and order issues. Street response substitutes unarmed social workers for police to answer mental health crisis calls. Its success in the Lents neighborhood is now being duplicated in other parts of the city.
Hardesty also points to her work with the mayor and others to establish village-style shelters and a safe park area for the unhoused; creating the Portland Clean Energy Fund that creates jobs and builds green infrastructure; and writing and passing a police accountability measure supported by 82 percent of voters.
Hardesty has dozens of endorsements that include several unions, the Sierra Club, former governor Barbara Roberts, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Secretary of State Shamia Fagan, City Commissioner Carmen Rubio, County Commissioner Susheena Jayapal, District Attorney Mike Schmidt, and Metro President Lynn Peterson.
In many ways, Hardesty did what she set out to do in her first term, with “fewer sweeps of homeless camps, more oversight of police officers and better infrastructure east of 82nd Avenue,” according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The question is whether “a frustrated electorate may have shifted away from her progressive brand of politics” and her opponents “are banking that the city’s grumpy electorate is now ready to swing hard to the center,” OPB reported.
Two of the leading candidates opposing Hardesty are white men, Vadim Mozyrsky, an administrative law judge and a native of Ukraine, and Rene Gonzalez, a lawyer and business owner. Mozyrsky, who serves on the Police Citizen Review Committee, was recently criticized by a Black member of the committee for emails he sent that she claimed used “a tone of anti-Blackness,” according to Willamette Week, and demanded he resign. Mozyrsky refused and said the criticism was politically motivated.
Gonzalez, in his campaign, calls for the creation of additional shelters for homeless people so that authorities can clear out outdoor homeless camps. He wants more police officers on the street and a council-wide shift toward the political center. His endorsements include the Portland Police Association and the Oregonian.
In his bid to replace Sheriff Michael Reese, who is term limited, Derrick Peterson, a longtime member of Portland’s Black community, points to his more than 35 years with the Sheriff’s Office where he has held many positions including chief deputy, commander of court services and the detention center, emergency response commander, hostage negotiator and public information officer.
Peterson is the local chapter president of the National Organization Black Law Enforcement Executives and has served 25 years as a diversity instructor at the police academy. He also serves on the boards of the Social Sciences Department at Portland Community College and the Collins Grace Foundation.
In a December interview with the Portland Observer, Peterson said he was promoted to captain three years ago to oversee county jails, where he wants to increase efficiency.
“I’ve gotten to the point in my career where I’ve gained enough skill sets and tools while also being able to successfully garner support from various community leaders,” he said. That support includes state Rep. Janelle Bynum, former county commissioner Loretta Smith, city Commissioner Dan Ryan, Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall and former state senators Avel Gordly and Margaret Carter.
Peterson is opposed by Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, the Multnomah County Undersheriff. O’Donnell has also gained a wide net of support, including endorsements from former governors Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, state Senators Chris Gorseck and Kate Lieber, and Rod Underhill, former Multnomah County District Attorney.
O’Donnell told KATU TV that she decided to go into law enforcement after her family was “rocked by the trauma of gun violence” when her father was shot during a robbery at their family owned store.
“I grieve for families who experience the trauma of gun violence and know we can do more to make our communities safer for everyone,” she said.
In the race for county commissioner, Elizabeth Taylor says her priorities would be to help struggling senior citizens, and tackle mass incarceration, mandatory sentences and bail issues that impact low income people.
“I believe racism is alive and the results today show huge disparities,” she stated. “I have observed the many unhealthy decisions made by local government. We need to stop gentrification. It destroys and displaces family ties and relationships,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who is retired, previously worked in the Oregon Legislature under Sen. Bill McCoy, Sen. Lew Frederick, Sen. Jackie Winters and others. She is a former participant in the Democratic National Convention and was education and outreach specialist with the Oregon Rape Victim Advocate Program. Taylor has won the support of Portland Observer Publisher Mark Washington, along with endorsements from other community leaders, including World Arts Foundation President Michael “Chappie” Grice and Pastor Dwight Minnieweather.
Derry Jackson, a former Portland School Board member, has campaigned on economic issues, including inviting the U.S. Navy to Portland “to build the latest and greenest warships on earth, bringing back the pride in the Black community, who came here originally as ship-builders.”
All city and county races are designated nonpartisan. The top two candidates will advance to the November general election if none gets 50 percent plus one for an outright win.