Digest: Friday, January 7, 2022

Kristof deemed ineligible to run for Oregon governor

Nicholas Kristof’s gubernatorial run hit a major snag yesterday. The Elections Division of the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office informed Kristof that he does not meet the constitutional requirements to serve as governor — specifically that he has not been a resident of Oregon for the past three years. While social media has been full of delight and jokes at Kristof’s expense, it may be too early to tell if the decision will stick. Kristof has several avenues of appeal he has already announced he will pursue, including launching a lawsuit. Since Kristof can use money raised for his campaign to fund such a lawsuit, he has plenty of money to spend and no incentive not to — after all, if he isn’t eligible to run, Kristof won’t need those funds for anything else. In order to be on the May ballot, Kristof needs a decision by March 17. In the meanwhile, Kristof will likely get a level of media coverage far beyond other Oregonian candidates: The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Daily Beasthave all run articles about Kristof’s eligibility, even though those publications almost never report on Oregon’s elections.

Major changes in state legislature leadership

Announcements of major shakeups in the state legislature also came out this week: House Speaker Tina Kotek announced she is resigning her position and Senate President Peter Courtney announced he will not run for reelection. Kotek is the longest-serving Speaker of the Oregon House in state history with nine years in the position, as well as the first openly lesbian speaker of any state house. Courtney is currently the longest-serving member of the Oregon State Senate; he was initially elected by Salem voters in 1984. Courtney has been president of the Senate since 2003. Kotek’s resignation is effective January 21, before this year’s legislative session starts on February. The move is something of a surprise, given that many Democratic legislators had expected Kotek to provide leadership during the busy one-month legislative session. Her resignation will allow Kotek to focus on her run for governor; similarly, Betsy Johnson resigned from the Oregon Senate to do the same in December.

When Courtney’s term ends in January 2023, Oregon will practically have a whole new slate of legislative and executive leaders when compared to even a year ago. Governor Kate Brown’s term ends at the same time, as does Tobias Read’s term as state treasurer. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan took office last January. And on top of Courtney and Kotek’s absences, both the Senate and the House Minority Leader’s office changed hands in fall 2021. Additionally, numerous legislators are choosing not to run as a result of the redistricting process (or are running for different offices).

School closures in Portland Public Schools highlight staffing issues

As Omicron spreads through the Portland area, schools are being hit hard, despite Portland Public Schools’ policies around masking and testing. Two high schools are closed today — McDaniel High School and Cleveland High School — and students at those schools have received online assignments to complete independently due to a shortage in substitute teachers. PPS plans to move those students to online classes for next week. Prescott Elementary School in the Parkrose School District is also closed, “due to excessive staff and student absences and not enough substitutes available.” Over 700 students are have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 400 staff members are sick, leaving PPS short of 175 substitute teachers. Given that PPS has been unwilling to negotiate with the Portland Teachers Association to deal with the staffing crisis, these closures are likely only the beginning. Furthermore, this is not only a Portland-area problem: teachers in San Francisco held a wild cat labor action this week to highlight unsafe working conditions.

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from Autostraddle.com to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at ThursdayBram.com.