Portland Democrat's primary loss set to shift Senate balance
By TOM JAMES
May. 17, 2018
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Among the results in Tuesday's primary election, one outcome in a Portland-area district is set to shift power leftward in the state Senate.
Former state Rep. Shemia Fagan beat incumbent Sen. Rod Monroe for the Democratic nomination in the 24th District. And no Republican candidate registered in the East Portland district, where GOP voters are outnumbered by Democrats nearly two-to-one, making it all but certain that Fagan will take the seat in the November general election.
Housing — and especially the question of rent control — dominated the fight. And with Monroe's loss the Senate swaps a relative moderate for a candidate further to the left on the issue, which has divided lawmakers and city councils up and down the West Coast, as officials struggle with housing shortages and rising homelessness.
In Oregon, conflict over the issue dates at least to the 2017 legislative session, when Democratic leaders in the Senate declined to bring a rent-control measure to a vote, effectively killing it and reflecting a deeper divide over the issue among liberals.
The measure would have allowed cities to pass their own rent control rules, and limited some types of evictions.
But Democrats were divided on the issue and Monroe, himself a landlord, told reporters at the time that he opposed both ideas. Fagan hit hard over the issue and cast herself as a tenants' advocate.
The tactic worked: Fagan captured 62 percent of the Democratic vote in the district — more than three times the share won by Monroe.
Swapping one Democratic senator for another doesn't shift the split between Republicans and Democrats, but it tilts the balance in the already Democrat-run Senate further left.
In an interview as the results were coming in Tuesday night, Fagan said eviction limits and permitting cities to set rent controls would be key priorities for her in the Senate, and that she wasn't fazed by the chamber's reputation for moderation.
"They need to take a message from my victory," Fagan said. "My community is not interested in watering down my victory."
Monroe blamed his loss on negative campaigning by Fagan, but said Tuesday he accepted the outcome.
As a state representative from 2013 to 2017, Fagan supported or sponsored proposals for paid sick leave, mandatory schedule negotiation by some employers, unpaid parental leave, a ban on discrimination based on familial status, broadened family leave, and a pedestrian safety funding package.