Political newcomer Candace Avalos announced Wednesday she has launched a campaign for a Portland City Council seat.
Avalos works for Portland State University in student affairs and is vice-chair of the Citizen Review Committee, the city's volunteer police oversight body. She has not previously held elected office.
She is running for the seat left open by retiring Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
Avalos is placing an unusual issue front and center in her campaign: Portland's form of government.
She says as Portland has grown, its government hasn't kept up. It's the last large American city where council members are all elected citywide.
Avalos believes having council members elected by geographic district would lead to better representation for Portlanders.
"We have seen a lack of representation from many of our neighborhoods on city council because of this at-large system," she said.
“Just being able to say, you know, I have something going on in my community, my roads need fixing, this is happening, and here is the city counselor who sits on this council and represents my needs."
Avalos's argument about the form of government may be timely.
By 2021, the City Council has to convene a group of 20 citizens to review the city's charter and recommend changes to put to voters for approval. This year, the City Club of Portland released a report calling Portland's commission system "inherently inequitable,"and recommending an overhaul.
At least five previous attempts to overhaul or eliminate the commission system have failed.
Avalos sees herself as someone who belongs to a number of different communities. She's a renter in the Hollywood neighborhood in Northeast Portland.
She says her parents immigrated to the United States from Guatemala in the 1960s, and she identifies as "a Blacktina" — African-American and Latina.
"I feel like I represent this movement of young voices that are trying to be heard and represented in their government," she said.
Avalos hasn’t filed any fundraising reports yet. She says she’s planning to opt in to the new city-funded campaign system. Launching this fall, the system gives matching dollars to candidates who meet certain fundraising targets, if they agree to only take money from individual donors and to cap contributions at $250.
Fritz has said she hoped that, by not seeking re-election, she would encourage a new generation of people to run.
Avalon said the choice by Fritz to retire early, and the commissioner's push for the Open and Accountable elections program, both encouraged her to run for the seat.
Carmen Rubio, executive director of the Latino Network and a well-known community leader, is also running for the open seat. She has reported $6,200 in contributions so far.
Rubio previously served as a policy advisor to former Portland Mayor Tom Potter and Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.