No clear winner in Multnomah County chair race

By Sam Stites (OPB)
May 18, 2022 3:36 a.m. Updated: May 18, 2022 1:02 p.m.

Jessica Vega Pederson and Sharon Meieran are leading in the race to become Multnomah County’s next chief executive

Jessica Vega Pederson and Sharon Meieran are likely headed to a runoff election in the race for Multnomah County Chair, according to early returns of Tuesday votes.

The two candidates, both current county commissioners, earned the highest number of votes among the six vying for the job, but neither captured more than the 50% needed to win the race outright. Fellow county commissioner Lori Stegmann of Gresham was also on the ballot.


Both will appear on the ballot in November, when county voters will make their decision between the two. The winner in that runoff will replace outgoing chair Deborah Kafoury, who has served in the role since 2015 and is term-limited from running again.

Vega Pederson currently represents Southeast Portland on the Multnomah Board of County Commissioners. Meieran represents all of Multnomah County west of the Willamette River, as well as Portland’s inner southeast side.

Vega Pederson was first elected to the county board in 2016, winning reelection in 2020. She previously served as a state lawmaker representing East Portland from 2013 to 2015.

Jessica Vega Pederson, candidate for Multnomah County Chair.

Jessica Vega Pederson, candidate for Multnomah County Chair.

Courtesy of Jessica Vega Pederson

As a county commissioner, she led the charge to establish preschool education for all Multnomah County children, a program that will launch this fall with 677 spots and eventually serve any 3- or 4-year-old in the county who would like to enroll.


Vega Pederson said she wants to hear from the community on how the county should spend millions in homeless services dollars from the bond measure voters approved in 2020. She said she plans to host community forums to gather ideas on how best to deliver services and choose locations for the construction of new shelters.

She said she also wants to focus on policies that mitigate the negative impacts climate change is having on low income families and communities of color.

Vega Pederson said she believes her experience executing plans is what Multnomah County needs in its next chief executive.

“Votes are still being counted, and I am so grateful to every single Multnomah County voter who has supported my campaign,” she said in a statement Tuesday night. “Their confidence in my vision of a county that works for every community is what has motivated me. I know that together, we will be able to deliver real change.

“I’m so proud of the campaign we’ve run, how focused it has been on empowering our community, bringing people together and reminding the voters of Multnomah County that collaborative leadership is our way forward.”

Meieran is an emergency physician at Kaiser Permanente. She also won her seat on the county board in 2016 and was reelected in 2020.

Her campaign focuses on the county’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and tackling the simultaneous public health crises of mental health and addiction.

Sharon Meieran, candidate for Multnomah County Chair 2022.

Sharon Meieran, candidate for Multnomah County Chair 2022.

Courtesy of Sharon Meieran

“You don’t have to look very far to see that we’re failing and that people are living on the street in horrific conditions,” Meieran said. “We’re the local mental health authority. It’s our role and responsibility to coordinate and oversee that we have functional systems.”

Meieran wants to establish new homeless villages in each of Portland’s 100 neighborhoods with sanitation services and casework support available for people who need it. She also wants to open up more safe sleep sites where people can sleep in their cars and access services.


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