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Nkenge Harmon Johnson plans to run for Jackie Winters' Senate seat

The Democrat is the third entrant into what's expected to be a competitive race in Marion and Polk counties.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Nkenge Harmon Johnson of the Urban League of Portland, plans to run for a Salem-area Senate seat held by the late Jackie Winters.Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Portland, has filed to run for the Salem-area Senate seat previously held by Jackie Winters.

On Monday, Harmon Johnson, a Salem resident, created a candidate committee to run as a Democrat against Denyc Boles, a Republican who was appointed to the seat in June following the death of Winters.

PMG/EO MEDIA/SRWinters, a Republican, was elected in 2002 to the Senate seat representing south Salem and part of Polk County. The district's party registration has trended in favor of Democrats in recent years. But Winters, a well-liked moderate, managed to hold the seat.

The Senate seat is up for re-election in 2020 and both parties see it as a competitive race. Deb Patterson, a congregational minister who previously ran against Winters in 2018, has already filed to run again and started fundraising.

Harmon Johnson served as communications director for former Gov. John Kitzhaber. She left that position after objecting to the influence of Kitzhaber's girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes. She has served in her current role since 2015.

Harmon Johnson could not be reached for comment.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or jake@salemreporter.com or @jakethomas2009.