Recently, XRAY In The Morning and Jefferson Smith had the pleasure of sitting down with candidate for Oregon State Senate, Shemia Fagan. While Senator Rod Monroe runs for re-election, Shemia takes on the issues of housing, taxes and social justice in District 24. Look for her name on your ballot on May 15th, 2018.
Jefferson: You’re listening to XRAY. We’re going to jump right to it, because right now, in studio with me is one of the candidates for the most important state legislative race in the state of Oregon. Shemia Fagan, good morning.
Shemia Fagan: Good morning, Jefferson.
Jefferson: Shemia Fagan, you have served in the state house. You are running for the State Senate. Who are you? Why are you running?
Shemia Fagan: Jefferson, my name is Shemia Fagan. I am a civil rights attorney. I stand up to corporations and fight racism and sexism and discrimination against Oregon workers on a daily basis, but I started my legal career 10 years ago as a pro bono attorney fighting wrongful evictions against Oregon families. Housing security, I think, is the defining crisis of our time here in Oregon, in this district, in particular, encompassing East Portland and North Clackamas.
Jefferson, housing security is something that I’ve not only fought for in my entire career, it’s something that I’ve been fighting for my entire life. My mom was homeless for much of my childhood right here in East Portland. In fact, she was a bartender at the Glass House Tavern at 97th and Sandy for 30 years. So even when she was housed or homeless, she was always living near the Glass House. I remember one time, in 1997 my brother took us to visit her in East Portland. My dad was a single parent raising us out in Eastern Oregon, but my mom was living in East Portland. She had been on and off the streets, at that point, struggling and battling addiction and, obviously, having periods of homelessness, but she finally had a home, and she invited us to come visit.
I remember my brother, who drove us there, pulled up to this huge house in East Portland. It was kind of a white Victorian-style house with a huge wrap-around porch. We were thinking, wow, Mom, nice house. She greeted us and then walked us around to the front steps, but instead of walking up the steps, she dropped to her hands and knees, and she crawled under the porch. Then, she invited us into her home. My brother and I dropped to our hands and knees, and we crawled under the porch behind her and spent the day with her. I remember she had a sleeping bag unzipped to cover the dirt floor. My mom, like most people who experience homelessness, didn’t drive around with a U-Haul, so she had one box that she kept with her that was full of pictures of us and letters from us. Jefferson, I think that too many politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, begin to approach our greatest challenges, like our housing crisis, as empty statistics, as numbers on a page that can wait.
Jefferson: And they’re human to you, and I hear that.
Shemia Fagan: Right.
Jefferson: So let’s get to housing. You’re running against Rod Monroe. Rod Monroe’s a member of the State Senate. He’s a Democrat. So are you. So is Kayse Jama, who is running. Typically, a member of a political party who serves in the legislature has a challenging race after the primary. This race is challenging in the primary. You decided to run against Rod, the background being Rod was viewed as the principle vote against housing protections. What were those housing protections? After that, I’m going to ask what else was there that promoted you to get in the race and prompted folks to get you into the race or ask you to run? Run down the little background housing stuff.
Shemia Fagan: Jefferson, there was a bill in the 2017 session, House Bill 2004. It was sponsored by Speaker Tina Kotek in the House. It was supported by a large coalition of nonprofits and organizations that support affordable housing that serve families experiencing homelessness. It passed the Oregon House, and the idea behind House Bill 2004 was a couple of things. Number one, it was to repeal Oregon’s ban on rent stabilization. Back in 1985, lobbyists for the builders and the realtors and the Landlord’s Association, like many states across the country, passed a complete ban on any kind of rent stabilization or rent control so that they couldn’t try-
Jefferson: Do you know who the lobbyist was?
Shemia Fagan: I don’t. Do you?
Jefferson: Charlie Hills.
Shemia Fagan: Oh, okay. Well, there you go. I remember supporting someone else for mayor against him.
Jefferson: Me, too. Go on.
Shemia Fagan: Basically, it said no city, no county in Oregon could enact any kind of rent stabilization. So our housing crisis, that has really been blossoming over the past 10 to 15 years, is driven, in part, by the fact that local governments can’t, in any way, help stabilize rents and prevent the extraordinary increases that people are seeing in their rent bills. That was just one piece of it.
Another piece of House Bill 2004 was to end the practice of no-cause evictions. Jefferson, most people find it crazy, if they haven’t rented in a while, to know that a landlord can kick somebody out of their house when they’re doing everything right. They’re paying their rent. They’re following the contract. They’re taking care of their property. They can still be kicked out for what’s called a no-cause eviction. In my experience, when I was a civil right’s attorney working for housing and fighting evictions, a no-cause eviction was very frequently an illegal-cause eviction. Somebody had asked to have their oven fixed or had a leak in a roof, and they asked to get that fixed. Not shortly after, they would get this no-cause eviction. So, that was the principle core of House Bill 2004.
It then went over to the State Senate and went through the committee process, and it came out of the House committee … Or, excuse me, the Senate Committee on Housing-
Jefferson: Just pause there for a moment, just in case. And this is review for almost everybody, but sometimes it’s helpful to review: how does a bill become a law? It needs to pass one chamber then pass the other chamber, then it gets signed by the governor. So you just said it got passed by one of the chambers. It goes to the other chamber and the chamber Rod Monroe happens to sit. Keep going.
Shemia Fagan: So it went to the Senate Committee on Human Services and it came out significantly weakened. They had removed the repeal on the ban on rent stabilization so even under this bill rent could still be increased by any amount by a landlord. It only ended no-cause evictions after the first nine months of a tenancy. So within the first nine months of a tenancy families were still vulnerable to face what’s called a no-cause eviction. It also included the relocation ordinance that we’ve seen be successful in the city of Portland. It had that provision in state-wide for people facing a no-cause eviction, and then it essentially languished and died in the State Senate.
Jefferson, something earlier that you said is that Rod Monroe was the principal vote against it. It’s even scarier than that. He never had to take a vote, because of the culture of our State Senate, where even somebody with a significant conflict of interest, like Senator Monroe who owns a large apartment complex in East Portland and has been a landlord for decades, he didn’t ever have to take a vote on the bill because of the crazy procedure in the Oregon State Senate where they sit in the caucus meeting closed door and they put a bill forward. And then the caucus members write on a piece of paper whether they’re a yes or no, and that paper is secretly passed to the front of the room as if we’re in a fifth grade class president election. Only the Senate President and the Majority Leader get to see that. If a bill doesn’t have 16 votes, it never goes to the Senate floor.
Betsy Johnson is a conservative Democrat out on the coast. She’s almost always a no on these sort of things, and there are 17 Democrats on the Senate, which means you’ve got one-
Jefferson: You need everybody else other than Betsy.
Shemia Fagan: You need everybody else other than Betsy.
Jefferson: One of the things that I heard was that … And so the way this race has been framed … and I think this framing is important, and when I said I think it’s the most important race in the State legislature, money’s pouring in this race … How has your race been so far? How much is this race going to be in the Primary, you think?
Shemia Fagan: I have raised $120,000 and I predict that we’re on track to raise a little north of $200,000.
Jefferson: What about Rod?
Shemia Fagan: I haven’t checked.
Jefferson: It’s been a while since I looked, but when I looked, it looked like he wasn’t getting … that some of the folks that you might … If the race was about housing and if it were about stopping something like House Bill 2004, the kind of people that would have wanted to stop 2004 have donated to his campaign.
Shemia Fagan: Correct.
Jefferson: I think it’s a fair framing in some respect. On the other hand, they said, “Oh Jeff, Rod took his take in the slings and arrows for this,” but he wasn’t the only Democrat on the State Senate who didn’t want to vote on that thing. There was speculation, other than Betsy Johnson, there still might not have been 16 votes other than Rod. Based on your best information is that accurate or not accurate?
Shemia Fagan: That’s not accurate. In fact, he tried to make that case in the newspaper shortly after I announced that I was running against him and I believe it was Senate Majority Leader, Ginny Burdick who went in the newspaper and said they had 15 other votes. He tried to characterize it as only have “six votes”, six yes votes, in the State Senate, and his own Majority Leader who’s supporting him in this race has already been in the paper saying that’s just not true.
Jefferson: When did you decide to get in the race?
Shemia Fagan: Jefferson, I got approached towards the end of June about getting in the race, which was right around the time the session was adjourning. I had a six-month-old baby.
Jefferson: By whom? I don’t mean who’s the baby by.
Shemia Fagan: I was going to say.
Jefferson: But who approached you? Shout out to your wonderful husband.
Shemia Fagan: Yes, shout out to my wonderful husband, father of both my children. It’s not so much important who the individuals were. They were progressive housing advocates. They were people who were looking for a change, and one of the key people that called me initially, early on, was Alissa Keny-Guyer who is a fierce progressive, and she is also the Chair of the Housing Committee in the Oregon House.
Jefferson: Worked hard on the bill and was sad to see it die.
Shemia Fagan: She was devastated to see it die, and she is somebody who has, one other time, been willing to support a challenger against an incumbent Democrat. And that’s when Representative Jeff Reardon defeated Mike Schauffler.
Jefferson: Same part of town.
Shemia Fagan: Same part of town; in fact, it’s the other half of this Senate District. She was the key member that approached me. I also got approached by Representative Rob Nosse and Representative Karin Power, two House members that were willing to buck the trend and go against the established Democratic caucus in the Senate and actually support me in the race. They approached me, but it was some thinking to do. As I mentioned, I have a six-month-old baby. I had only been out of the legislature for about five months at that period. My term had ended in January 2017.
Jefferson: Yeah, and you had decided not to run again.
Shemia Fagan: Correct.
Jefferson: And I thought you were leaving the legislature, and then you decided “I’m coming back.” Was it that you said, “Ah, you know, I miss it and I want to know what’s going on, and be there when things are going on” or is it, “Oh, the State Senate’s a better gig” or was it, “Oh, jeez, it really is kind of ridiculous that the representative from the part of town that has among the highest number of people who need help with housing is the principal metro area legislature blocking the protections in housing”?
Shemia Fagan: It was primarily the latter. I left the legislature in 2016, not because I didn’t enjoy the legislature, but because my husband and I wanted to have another baby, and it’s more challenging for women. I remember when I was in the legislature, a couple of my male colleagues’ wives’ had babies and the men would take a day or two off and be back. Women don’t have quite that opportunity, and so when I wasn’t pregnant by March, which was kind of the cutoff that I created with my husband, I announced that I wasn’t running again, because if I wasn’t pregnant by then, I wouldn’t know exactly when I would have a baby including potentially in the middle of session. We did have another baby; my daughter was born that December.
And so I didn’t leave the legislature because I didn’t enjoy service or because I didn’t believe there was still important work to do; I left the legislature because as a young woman who wanted to have another baby, I didn’t want to risk potentially missing half the session to a newborn. I wasn’t planning on going back, certainly not this early. When I got approached about running, it was a really tough decision because I have a very active law practice, I’m a civil rights attorney, I just had another baby, we had just moved. We were literally in boxes still when I got asked to run.
Jefferson: Your stuff was in boxes. You were safely outside the boxes.
Shemia Fagan: I was safely as were my children, safely outside of boxes.
Jefferson: Your children were in boxes.
Shemia Fagan: They were in and out of boxes, because when you unpack a house-
Jefferson: You never know what’s in there.
Shemia Fagan: Right, exactly. You do never know what’s in there. It was a tough decision. To be honest, Jefferson, there were a number of progressive issues that I care about. If Senator Monroe had gone sideways on even other progressive issues that I cared about-
Jefferson: Trial lawyers are mad at him. He is sometimes in favor of things like caps on damages, apparently.
Shemia Fagan: Apparently. I don’t know that those issues would have been enough to get me back in the race. We are the Big Tent Party. Democrats sometimes disagree on issues, but housing is something that has been a core of my identity and of my career. When he went sideways on that, it was something I had been fighting for my whole life, and to know the people in this community, I don’t think can wait. A Senate term is four years, Jefferson. That means that if he gets re-elected, he will be able to block potentially tenant protections for five years because there’s the one year leading up to it.
Jefferson: For as long as it’s on people’s minds.
Shemia Fagan: Exactly, and who knows what our housing crisis will look like at the end of another four-year term. And so that’s the issue that motivated me. I couldn’t really sit on the sidelines and watch this housing crisis continue to explode with somebody in the most vulnerable districts in the state, most vulnerable families in the state, not being able to count on their State Senator to fight for housing security.
Jefferson: Want to hear a fun story?
Shemia Fagan: I do.
Jefferson: I served in the State … This is not the fun story. You know this part of the story. I served in the State House in the northern half of the Senate District you’re running in and Rod Monroe was the State Senator then. He has been in public service for a long, long time. He comes to my office and says, “Jeff, I need a favor.” I’m like, “All right,” and I’m a rookie member of the House at this point. I said, “All right,” and he says, “I need you to say that if Mike Schauffler runs for the State Senate then so will you. In fact, I need you to also say that if I, Rod Monroe, don’t run for the State Senate then you will.”
“Okay, why do you need this?” He says, “Well, because Mike Schauffler said he’s going to run for the State Senate, and I promised my wife that my last campaign was my last campaign and I wasn’t going to run again. But I said I wasn’t going to run again, because it’s not going to be a hard campaign so I’ve changed that promise to my family that I wouldn’t have another hard campaign. But if Mike Schauffler runs, that would be a hard campaign and I would be duty-bound not to run. And so Mike Schauffler would be in the State Senate, but if you say that you’ll run, Mike Schauffler won’t run because he wouldn’t beat you and then, I could stay and serve another term, and then after I’m done, you can have my seat.” That’s kind of a fun story. That, by the way, and he said he would serve one more term. I don’t know how long ago that was. That was a long time ago! He has served at least one more term since then.
We’ve had Rod on the show. He’ll be invited to come again, and I want to ask him some questions as well. Now that you’re in this race, the issues you’re talking about … and there’s more than just housing, but in this race, a lot of it is about that … it is an issue of national and state-wide concern. It is the top policy issue on the mind’s of Portlanders but not everybody gets to vote. Only the people in your district get to vote. Lot of people are caring about it. You don’t represent the whole state. You care about the whole state, you represent a particular district. How do you garner attention and how much attention is there in the district now? How many people are watching this? You’re going door-to-door all the time. Is housing enough to elevate people’s awareness to build the kind of energy you’re hoping to build?
Shemia Fagan: Yes, Jefferson, and there is awareness in the district, but primarily because of the campaign that our team has been running. We have been out canvassing religiously since December. In fact, we sort of knocking for Measure 101 in December and January, but we have been cut the turfs in Senate District 24 so I have yet knocking for Measure for 101, our healthcare measure that was on the ballot and was soundly affirmed by Oregon voters back in January. So I’ve been knocking doors since December and it is rare now for me to knock on the door, wearing my Shemia Fagan sticker, that people don’t say, “Oh, I’m voting for her.” Then they’re usually thrilled when I say, “Well, thank you. I’m her.” And they say, “Oh my gosh! Joey! Come in here. It’s actually Shemia Fagan!”
Jefferson: Yeah, you’re famous.
Shemia Fagan: And we have this conversation. Yes, the awareness is out there. We have also had an incredible amount of enthusiasm for the campaign. I don’t know if you remember the numbers in campaigns. You’ve run in competitive races as well. At least, in the state legislative race, we’d always order about 250 lawn signs every cycle in the two races that I ran, and I’d always end up with 50 to 75 unopened, unused lawn signs in my garage. In this race, we ordered 250 to start with, had 180 of them committed within the first month and a half of canvassing. So, we then bumped the order to 500. We ran out of those about two weeks ago. We’ve ordered 500 more. At the end of this race-
Jefferson: That’s a lot of lawn signs in the State Senate.
Shemia Fagan: We ordered 1000 lawn signs, and it is a ton of lawn signs in a state legislative district so literally, people constantly say, “Oh my gosh, I see your signs everywhere.” There is this very strong ground swell within the community. The people are willing to go against an incumbent. Every single door I canvas, I tell them I am running against our sitting State Senator and he is a Democrat. I don’t think it’s valuable for me to consider that person a supporter of mine unless I’ve given them all the information including the fact that I’m running against a sitting Democrat.
But you mentioned a funny story. I have a funny story too, Jefferson.
Jefferson: Oh, good, good, good. Go ahead.
Shemia Fagan: Jefferson, here’s the funny story that very nicely complements your funny story about whether or not Senator Monroe is willing to run a tough race.
Jefferson: Good, I have yet another one after you.
Shemia Fagan: Great. The battle of funny stories.
Jefferson: No, it’s not a battle, it’s a symphony. We’re going to have to cancel all the other programs for the rest of the day. Keep going, Shemia Fagan.
Shemia Fagan: Okay. About two months ago in February, I was out canvassing in the torrential downpour. It’s one of those days you’re out canvassing, you’re by yourself, and it is absolutely pouring. So I’m trucking up this hill in East Portland, head down because if I look up, my entire face will be covered in rain, head down, trucking up this hill, and I kind of have the next address in my head. You know how you kind of just keep the numbers in your head? I look up. I do a quick sweep of the addresses thinking, “Okay, my next address …” and I do this sweep, and out of my peripheral vision I think, “I just saw Senator Monroe,” standing in his second-story window, TV on, arms crossed, looking down at me.
He saw me for sure, and I thought, “First of all, great for him to see me out on a Sunday in the pouring rain canvassing, walking up a hill”, but I instantly thought there could not be a better metaphor for why we need change in the Oregon State Senate. Because just like in the State Senate, there is work to do in the campaign. One candidate is relaxing on a Sunday afternoon, watching TV, the other one is trucking up a hill. One candidate is comfy and warm in a house, the other one is wearing a rain slicker out in the rain. One candidate is sitting at home shocked and surprised when the opposition shows up, and one candidate is bringing the fight to the opposition’s doorstep. That literally happened and I thought, “This is the perfect metaphor” because this shows one candidate that’s out doing the work, trucking up the hills, and one candidates that’s kind of resting on the laurels and doing a lot of paid canvassing, getting other people out there doing it for him, but not actually doing the work himself. That’s my story.
Jefferson: Lawn signs. I think Rod Monroe would not have been in the State Senate, but for lawn signs. I’ll explain. Rod Monroe ran in 2006. You put six fingers in the air, but I had this x even before your six fingers. I appreciate the help, but I had it before, because I knew it was two years prior to 2008. Well, back up. Frank Shields held the seat before then. On the final day of filing, everybody kind of assumed Frank Shields was going to run again because if you’re in the State Senate, you don’t tell people you’re not going to run again. You’ll say, well, you’re going to run again. And so there wasn’t any campaign. There wasn’t any plan to make a plan. There wasn’t any opposition, and just before the bell tolls that nobody can run and Frank Shields still hasn’t filed, all of the sudden … Unless he had filed and withdrew. All of the sudden, Rod Monroe, Frank Shield’s friend, known him for a long time, files to run, and it looks like Rod Monroe is going to have an uncontested path to the State Senate without anybody knowing he’s going to run.
Jesse Cornett, old Bus Project guy, friend, is one of the political nerds gathered in Salem for filing day. It’s a tradition that some people go and watch to see what’s going to happen on the last day of filing. It’s not usually that many fireworks. This qualified as fireworks. Jesse Cornett says, “Well, that’s it. I’ve lived in the district.” In fact, lived right around the corner from where Kay and I live now. “If Rod Monroe is running, and if this is … ” He characterized it kind of a devious thing, was Jesse’s case, that Rod Monroe was in cahoots with Frank Shields to make sure there wasn’t any opposition. Frank Shields then moved away from Oregon. And Jesse said, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to run.” And Jesse didn’t do lawn signs.
He was a short campaign. He only got to run from March to May, because he finalized it in March and the Primary’s in May and then it’s over if you don’t win the Primary. And he lost by, what was it, 92 votes? Was it 192 votes? Was it 98 votes? Anyway, under 200 votes, not very many votes. It was a very close race. My impression was that he would have won had he had more because Rod had greater name recognition, people had known who he was for a while. And that he would have won if his name recognition were higher and his name recognition, I think, would have been higher. There’s a debate and now you’ve already said how you feel about the debate. There’s debate about the value of lawn signs. I like lawn signs. I like them for name recognition, but I also like them because when you go to a door, it gives them something to do. And what’s your votes to win number? Like 10,000 votes, 6,000 votes? How many votes do you need to win this thing, you think?
Shemia Fagan: Less than that, I think. That’s a little bit secret sauce, proprietary, every campaign has their own prediction of turnout, but it’s a very capable number.
Jefferson: So what’s the highest number of votes that have been cast in a Senate Primary in the district? Ballpark.
Shemia Fagan: Probably in the high 30% of turnout for the district and that’s not including the under vote. People that vote in the top of the ticket but don’t vote down ticket.
Jefferson: And how many people are in the district you’re running?
Shemia Fagan: There are 30,000 Democrats. This is a Democratic Primary so we will only be on Democratic ballots, registered Democrats.
Jefferson: According to that math, it would mean that about 10,000 give or take Democratic votes cast in the Primary. You might not need half of those because I also want to ask you about another candidate because there’s another candidate. If you have a thousand lawn signs, it’s probably a thousand votes. It might be more than 1000 votes, each of them might have a friend, but I think lawn signs matter. You’ve already weighed in on your view about that. Here is how, from a distance, I’ve handicapped the race. I thought Rod Monroe can be beaten. He also has some votes going in. There are people that have lived in … Have you seen the movie Gran Torino?
Shemia Fagan: Yes.
Jefferson: If anybody hasn’t been in the district, that is my explanation for the district, where you have a World War II vet living next door to a mong family, where it’s a very racially diverse community, lots of the voters are people who have lived in the district a long time and who are older, retired voters, a little different now then 10 years ago, district is changing a lot. Rod Monroe has some voters. He’s got some people who voted for him election after election for the last while, has some votes built in.
Jefferson: Kayse Jama also running. Kayse Jama: friend of the show, personal friend, admire him and love him very much. He is running in the race, and I have enormous respect for you, and I worked with Rod. If it were just you and Rod, I would say, “Yeah, I think Shemia’s going to beat him. The incumbent’s always got a real good chance, but I think Shemia’s going to beat him. Housing plus your charisma, plus your willingness to work hard in the rain.” With a third candidate that maybe changes the math, because … and I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I know this. It changes the math because Rod might have some built in votes. Built in votes might not be 50%, might not be 5,001 votes out of those 10,000, but they might be 3,000. They might be 3500, maybe only 2200, maybe 4600, who knows. If you and Kayse Jama are competing for those remainder non-Rod votes, then maybe it’s a little trickier.
How do you handicap the race? I know the most important thing and what you’ll want to talk about is the impacts on Oregonians not the impacts on you or the sort of political machinations, but nonetheless, why is that analysis flawed or what is missing from it? How should people think about the politics of the race?
Shemia Fagan: Jefferson, I wouldn’t be in the race if I wasn’t confident that I would win. That’s the first thing. The reality is I’ve run for office, my fourth time running for office. I had also served in the David Douglas school board and beat a 25-year incumbent to join the school board and served four years in the Oregon State House which is two terms so I was not interested in running for office for the fun of running for office. It is exhausting, it is tedious, and it takes time away from your family. There are incredibly important things that you learn running for office, great people that you meet. The reality of it, it is a very difficult job. I have had to take leave from work. I have had to take time away from my family and my kids. So I wouldn’t be in this race if I didn’t believe I had the clearest path to victory. One thing that I think is flawed in your analysis is the expectation that Senator Monroe has this really strong built-in block. Jefferson, I-
Jefferson: Yeah, I didn’t say strong.
Shemia Fagan: Well, even in the 30% range based on your numbers, saying maybe 3,000 votes, you were just throwing that out there for analysis. Jefferson, I’ve personally knocked on over 4,000 doors. Me, our campaign is probably close to the 15,000 door mark. I, personally, knocked on over 4,000. That means I’ve talked to probably 12 to 1300 people, which is a pretty large sample size. If you’re doing a poll, you typically try to talk to 400 people. Jefferson, in 1300 conversations, I have met 2 people who were leaning Monroe. I don’t think he’s an incumbent that has this built-in base. He has a decent amount of name ID amongst the voters who have been around for a while, but my most common response is, I’ll say at the very end of my pitch, “Look, I want to be clear. I’m not the only Democrat in the race. I am running against our sitting senator, Rob Monroe. He is a Democrat.”
And they say, “Hasn’t he been around forever?” It’s time for a change. He’s been in office for longer than I’ve been alive. He’s been in office for over 40 years so I think there is not as big of a Rod Monroe base. In fact, Jefferson, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come in third in this race. That wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit. Now, he has significant amounts of money that neither I nor the other candidate can compete with. He’s got money coming in from California real estate development-
Jefferson: You’ll raise more money than him.
Shemia Fagan: I believe that I, my actual pack, has more money on hand than him. There is an expectation that this pack that’s built based on California real estate developer money, this more housing now pack, is probably going to run some significant independent expenditures that are benefiting Rod Monroe. All things being considered, we can’t compete with him dollar for dollar. I’ve raised $120,000 that only includes one $10,000 check from [Ask Me 00:29:40]. The other $110,000 is all individual contributions. I have not accepted and will not accept in this race any corporate donations. All individual money, but this race, it functions a lot more like an open seat with a 75-year-old white guy in the race, a young woman in the race, and then, yes, a person of color in the race, and so I would not be surprised to see Rod Monroe come in third in this race. That wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit.
Jefferson: We’ve got to wrap. It is terrific to have a chance to talk to you. One other thought and then you can answer this question without answering the question if you so choose, you can have the last word, anything you want. You said, “If Rod Monroe had gone sideways on some other issue, you might not have bothered running against him.” That suggests that there is a front ways and the front ways, as that term is usually used in the parlance, is following along with the herd, is voting alongside other Democrats and flipping the button the way you’re supposed to, the way the leadership wants you to flip the button. There is a concern that if somebody goes sideways, if they don’t fall in line, if they escape from the herd, and maybe it’s not on housing, and there is a risk that if you do that, you then get Primary. That we will have a monotheistic Democratic party that doesn’t allow for sufficient diversity of viewpoint, and that will punish innovative thinking, that will punish the idea of being a Big Tent, that will narrow the appeal of the party. What if that issue were police reform? What if that issue were transportation spending? What if that issue were taxation? What if that issue were something else entirely? How do you respond to that, and then finish up however you want.
Shemia Fagan: Jefferson, independence is important and in the State House, when I was in a swing district, one of the cautions to me constantly was, “You’re in a swing district, you need to be moderate. You need to stay off of this vote or not do this vote.” My bucking of the trend was to be one of the most absolute more progressive members of my caucus from a swing district that costs a million dollars a year or every two years to run in, because I wanted to be one of the most progressive members of my caucus and I didn’t want to sacrifice my progressive principals for the sake of maybe making my race a little bit less expensive the next time around because the Republicans might come after me a little bit less.
A good example is the Tax Bill that we’re all now fighting over, but this suits and scrubs tax break that was Governor John Kitzhaber’s idea to basically reduce the personal income taxes for private business owners making up to five million dollars a year in personal income. “Shemia, you got to vote for this, otherwise, they’re going to hit you on hurting small businesses,” but this wasn’t about small businesses in the mom and pop restaurant that’s flipping pancakes in the back that everyone thinks about. This benefits anaesthesiology groups and accounting groups and lawyer groups that are small groups and maybe you have one secretary, that now the partners in a law firm pay a lower personal income tax rate than their secretary does. I opposed that even though it was Governor John Kitzhaber’s signature legislation. It was all about you can’t oppose this.
I think that independence is important, but I’m also a Democrat for a reason. I believe in the platform of the party and in particular, on housing, the party platform is about supporting the most vulnerable among us. If Senator Monroe had gone sideways, but his sideways had been in the direction of being more progressive, I think that’s a different question, but when he’s going sideways to stand with real estate developers and landlords who are going against our environmental community, going against the most vulnerable people in our community, and making it where they can essentially exacerbate this housing crisis, I think that’s not a going sideways that I’m willing to tolerate. The reality is the Democratic Primary, this is a competitive one. If the voters in this district decide that’s not important enough to them and they want to re-elect Monroe, they have that choice. This is at least giving them the option to support somebody who does support housing reforms.
In closing now, I appreciate the conversation that we’ve had today. I think what it comes down to is people in this district are ready to have a fighter. The Willamette Week, as you well know, they publish this article every two years where they let lobbyists anonymously stitch on legislatures and just say anything they want about legislatures, they call it “The Good, Bad, the Awful” because the lobbyists get to be anonymous and they say what they really think. What a lobbyist said about me was “It wouldn’t surprise me if Shemia’s a cage fighter on the side.” She didn’t mean it as a complement, the lobbyist, but I take it as one, because I think that compared to Senator Monroe where I think there’s a little bit of complacency, there’s a little bit of relaxing and watching TV when there’s work to do, I think this district needs and deserves a fighter and I’m making the case to them that on May 15th, they should cast their vote for me, because I’m the fighter that this district needs.
Jefferson: Shemia Fagan, where can I find out more?
Shemia Fagan: Faganfororegon.com “For” spelled out F-O-R.
Jefferson: Let’s do this again.
Shemia Fagan: Let’s do it.
Jefferson: This is XRAY. We’ll be right back.