Shemia Fagan ousted incumbent Sen. Rod Monroe in a competitive state Senate race dominated by housing issues.
Fagan captured more than 60 percent of the vote, more than enough to unseat Monroe. Kayse Jama came in third.
The race was predominantly focused on Portland’s housing crisis. Monroe, who is a retired teacher and lay minister, is also a landlord who owns a 51-unit apartment complex in East Portland. Many progressive Democrats blame Monroe for the state Senate’s unwillingness to overturn a statewide ban on rent control.
It’s rare for incumbent lawmakers to face a competitive challenger in the primary, let alone to lose a primary. But Monroe, who has served in the state Legislature off and on for decades, drew two strong opponents.
Fagan is a civil rights attorney and former lawmaker. On the campaign trail, she often spoke of her mother’s homelessness.
Jama is a Somali immigrant who fled his country and relocated to Portland. He is a prominent community organizer and executive director of Unite Oregon.
Both Fagan and Jama believe the Legislature should give cities the ability to impose rent control.
Money flowed into the unusual Democratic primary in Oregon. Labor unions poured large amounts of cash into Fagan’s campaign, while real estate agents and landlords backed Monroe.
Fagan’s presence in the state Senate could shift the moderate Senate politically to the left.
Her victory is also expected to send a message to fellow lawmakers that people want to see state Senators tackle the city’s housing affordability crisis.