Multnomah County Commissioners selected Andrea Valderrama, a policy director for ACLU of Oregon, to serve as the next state lawmaker representing East Portland in the Oregon state Legislature.
Valderrama will replace Rep. Diego Hernandez who resigned from the state Legislature shortly before his House colleagues were poised to vote on whether to expel him from the statehouse. She will fill the remainder of his term in the statehouse, which lasts through January of 2023.
Once Valderrama is sworn in, it will be the first time in the history of the Oregon House of Representatives that women hold the majority of seats. The House will have 31 representatives who are women and 29 representatives who are men.
Valderrama said her district had urgently called on her to serve in this moment.
“I believe them when they say I’m the right person,” she told commissioners Tuesday.
“I believe them when they say they need their state representative to be a fellow mom, parent, who understands the exhaustion of balancing ... working from home,” Valderrama said. “I believe them when they say they need their state representative to be a person of color who they can trust to share their safety concerns with in the wake of so much hate and racism ... our Black, Indigenous, people of color communities don’t have any more time to wait. We’re facing too much, too quickly, too violently.”
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pedersen, who once served as the legislator representing House District 47 in the statehouse, said the person in the role will need to be a “fierce champion” for the district.
“I have seen someone who has already served the community and fought for the community and that’s Andrea Valderrama,” Vega Pedersen said.
Commissioners voted unanimously for Valderrama.
Valderrama was perhaps the most familiar name in the pool of candidates to replace Hernandez. She ran for Portland City Council in 2018 and chairs the David Douglas School Board. She was also ranked as the top candidate to replace Hernandez by the Democratic Party of Oregon.
Valderrama has had a long history with the man whose seat she is filling, Rep. Hernandez. At one point, the two were in a relationship. Valderrama filed a restraining order against Hernandez, reported by Willamette Week, which accused Hernandez of domestic violence. The restraining order was later dismissed, but an investigation into Hernandez’s workplace behavior resulted in lawmakers voting that he violated House rules relating to sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. The committee recommended Hernandez be expelled by the House. Hernandez’s resignation took effect on March 15.
Adrienne Enghouse, a registered nurse with Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside, was also in the running. Enghouse also ran for the seat vacated by now-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. She served as the former president of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals union. She is a single mother of three who put herself through community college.
Enghouse said her life experience as a labor leader, a nurse and a mother prepared her for the role in Salem.
Had she been chosen, she said, she would have prioritized removing health disparities, worked on improving racial inequities and strengthening gun laws.
“A lot of times, what I think about is the injustices I see that have landed people where they are … We can’t do anything about past injustices, but we can make changes,” she said.
The other candidate, Robin Castro, ran for Portland City Council in 2020. She spoke passionately about the need to address impending climate challenges, noting the state was already facing fierier summers and icier winters. She championed the idea of adding a note on every legislative policy noting its impact on climate change.
Housing policy, transportation policy, are both climate policies, she said.
“Our generation has been handed a global catastrophe that our leaders haven’t taken seriously,” Castro said.