Portland Tenants United grades the candidates: Senate District 24
Once again, we sent out questionnaires, looked at past action (or inaction) on tenant issues, and followed candidates on the campaign trail for the May 15 primary elections to evaluate their attention and policy commitment to tenant rights and protections.
This article, the first of two, will specifically address the Democratic primary race in Oregon State Senate District 24, which covers East Portland, Gresham, and part of Clackamas County.
Portland Tenants United does not endorse candidates, but we have kept a critical eye pointed at their platforms. Grades were weighted toward candidates who championed bold action to address the housing crisis in our city and our state, and weighted just as heavily against incumbents who have accomplished little, if anything, for the struggle for renters’ rights during their time in office.
Senate District 24 Candidates
Shemia Fagan: A
Former Representative Shemia Fagan is one of our highest-rated candidates this election. Fagan has worked pro bono as a tenant rights lawyer and has cooperated with housing justice groups in the past. Now, she’s made renter protections and affordable housing the central focus of her platform. In her campaign she has come out swinging in favor of rent control, collective bargaining rights for tenants and ending no-cause evictions. She has also refused to accept campaign contributions from the landlord lobby.
Kayse Jama: A+
Kayse Jama has a strong history of community organizing, combined with powerful lived experience as an immigrant and refugee. In his career as an organizer, he’s directly organized refugee tenants, giving him the experience needed to legislate on behalf of renters in Portland and the state of Oregon. Like Fagan, he supports ending no-cause evictions, is in favor of lifting the ban on rent control, and has pledged not to accept campaign contributions from the landlord lobby. He’s also taking bold action by advocating for expansion of government-funded housing.
Rod Monroe: F
The incumbent in this race, who is currently serving his third term, is State Senator Rod Monroe. There is no candidate in any race this election who has earned a grade lower than Monroe. We previously wrote about how he single-handedly blocked a critical piece of legislation that would have ended no-cause evictions and ended the ban on local rent control and also covered alleged mistreatment of tenants in his own Red Rose Manor apartment complex.
You read that right — State Senator Rod Monroe is not only a State Senator, but the landlord of a large apartment complex in East Portland. He’s currently being sued by one of his tenants for allegedly keeping her apartment in such disrepair that she suffered a serious injury and disability as a result. Never one to do the right thing when he couldn’t profit from it, Monroe responded with a retaliatory counter-lawsuit and has allegedly further harassed and discriminated against his tenants.
As if this weren’t enough, Landlord Senator Monroe has accepted tens of thousand of dollars in cash from the landlord lobby, as well as thousands in contributions from big banks, insurers, and telecom companies such as Comcast and AT&T.
It’s no surprise, in light of his sordid and disgraceful history around tenant politics, that Rod Monroe is doing his best to deceive voters in his district by outright lying in his voters pamphlet statement. He claims to have “voted to ban unfair rent increases”, when in reality he has actively done the opposite by blocking legislation that would have legalized local rent control from even reaching the Senate floor. Portland Tenants United has given candidates the grade of “F” in the past, but never before has a politician so thoroughly earned it.
Rod Monroe did not answer our questionnaire.