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Former lawmaker challenges Monroe for Senate seat

Former state Rep. Shemia Fagan said she was recruited by housing advocates to try to unseat Sen. Rod Monroe who is blamed for scuttling tenant protections bill earlier this year.

COURTESY PHOTO - Former Rep. Shemia Fagan on the floor of the Oregon Senate chamberPORTLAND — Former state Rep. Shemia Fagan announced Monday, July 31, that she plans to challenge fellow Democrat Sen. Rod Monroe in 2018 because of his opposition to a tenant protections bill earlier this year.

"The housing shortage has become a crisis that the Legislature needed to deal with this year, and I watched from the sidelines the Legislature and Sen. Monroe drop the ball," Fagan said in a phone interview Monday. "If a legislator is unwilling to listen to people who have an absolutely basic need for housing, then it's probably time to move on from being a legislator."

COURTESY PHOTO - Sen. Rod Monroe, D-PortlandMonroe, who represents Senate District 24, opposed House Bill 2005 because he said the legislation's provisions to allow rent control and to ban no-cause evictions would exacerbate the affordable housing shortage.

"I have supported every bill that has come to the Senate for a vote that improves housing opportunities for tenants," Monroe said. "What we really need is more subsidized low- and middle-income housing."

The Portland Democrat, who is a landlord of a multifamily apartment complex, continued to oppose the bill even after a Senate committee removed the provision to allow local jurisdictions to enact rent control. He proposed three amendments to the bill, which he said he could support. None were adopted by the Senate Rules Committee. The committee recommended that the Senate pass the bill, but the legislation never went up for a vote in the Senate because there were insufficient votes to enact it, said Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick. Asked whether he would have voted for the bill passed by the rules committee, Monroe said he never had a chance to decide.

Several other Senate Democrats indicated in caucus that they planned to vote against the bill, Monroe said.

"The bill would have never gotten out of the House except that Speaker (Tina) Kotek twisted arms and threatened members of the House that if they didn't vote for the bill, all of their bills would be dead," Monroe said, citing multiple unnamed House Democrats.

House Speaker Tina Kotek denied Monroe's claim.

"That is simply untrue and sadly, a desperate attempt to deflect the real issue," Kotek said. "The House bill involved compromise to pass it, and even with more compromises, the Senate was unable to protect tenants by passing a 'just cause' eviction standard."

Monroe said he was unfairly made into a "poster boy" by "radical housing advocates."

Portland Tenants United pressured Monroe to support the tenant protections bill, House Bill 2004, by demonstrating outside of his church in March before a Sunday service.

Housing advocates began trying to recruit Fagan to run against Monroe in June and asked her to be "a champion for housing protection," Fagan said. "I spent a couple of months mulling it over and decided to do it."

Fagan acknowledged that House Bill 2004 would not have increased the affordable housing supply in Oregon, but she said it was one of several solutions that could give Oregonians the stability of a home.

Fagan, a business attorney from Happy Valley, served two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives from 2013 to January 2017, representing East Portland and Happy Valley. She also served on the David Douglas School Board.

She said she plans to campaign on her legislative record of championing causes that help low- and middle-income families, including increasing minimum wage, paid sick leave and securing funds to improve Southeast Powell Boulevard.

Senate District 24 covers East Portland, Happy Valley and parts of unincorporated Clackamas County.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital BureaU
email: pachen@portlandtribune.com
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