Why I'm running for HD 45.

Michael DembrowBy Michael Dembrow of Portland, Oregon. Michael is a literature and writing teacher at Portland Community College, a member of the State Board on Higher Education, and the president of the PCC faculty union. He is now a candidate for House District 45, the seat currently held by Rep. Jackie Dingfelder. (Previously, we covered candidates Jon Coney and Cyreena Boston.) Learn more at MichaelDembrow.com.

If you're like me, you've been frustrated the last few years with where things are going for our families and the decisions politicians make that hurt our future.

We're stuck in a war for oil that has cost tens of thousands of lives and wasted countless billions of dollars. Ethics scandals grow, but corporate lobbyists keep buying access and selling out regular people.

The priorities we share -- quality public schools and colleges, providing good health care to every Oregonian, creating more family wage jobs and protecting our environment – get lost in political gridlock.

Thanks to the new Democratic majority in the State House, we saw major progress this past session. But there's much more left to be done. With Representative Jackie Dingfelder leaving to run for the Senate, we need to make sure Northeast Portland continues to have a true progressive leader as our voice for change in Salem.

That’s why I’ve decided to run for State Representative in House District 45.

My background, my leadership experience, my record of integrity, and my commitment to progressive causes all make this the right decision.

In my years as an educator at Portland Community College's Cascade Campus, I’ve seen where our need for academic change is greatest. We need to provide all Oregonians with a college education at an affordable price. As Faculty Advisor to the State Board of Education, I’ve drawn on my experience to help build a public education system that allows our children to move seamlessly from pre-K through college.

As President of PCC’s Faculty Union, I’ve fought for better treatment for Oregon's workers and a health care system that serves all Oregonians. As State Representative I will fight for high-quality, affordable health care that provides universal coverage -- even for part time and temporary workers. And I’ll push to make Oregon a state where we truly value the independence and dignity of all our senior citizens.

My wife Kiki and I raised our son and daughter in Portland's Alameda/Irvington neighborhood, where we've lived for 21 years. We now have two lovely grandchildren.

I'm running for State Representative to make sure that we step boldly forward with progressive solutions that keep Oregon at the forefront and make sure every Oregon child gets a real chance.

I hope you’ll join the fight for bold, progressive leadership in Salem. I'd be honored to have your support in this campaign for the future of Oregon.

Michael Dembrow

Democrat for State Representative
House District 45

  • Mary Lane Stevens (unverified)

    Michael has been the strong leader of my union here at PCC for fifteen years. Because of his leadership and his ability to articulate the union viewpoint, we have higher salaries and better benefits than we would have had without him. Michael never gave up on getting health benefits for part-time teachers, and finally they are a reality. He is anything but a figurehead -- whenver any individual has a problem with a contract issue, Michael helps out, intervenes, does research, and makes sure that the right thing gets done. And he does it so gracefully that the "other side" likes him too! He is persuasive, diplomatic, and extraordinarily hard-working. I don't live in district 45, but I will be delighted to have Michael in my legislature.

  • Michael Wilson (unverified)

    If I recall correctly a recent article in the New York Times mentioned that in the U.S. we recruit our teachers from the bottom third of college graduates. Given what I have read elsewhere that would seem to be correct.

    How would you improve that situation so that the students get better teachers in the classroom?


  • Duke Shepard (unverified)

    Dembrow has been a dedicated and passionate advocate for quality public education at all levels. I've had the opportunity to work with him personally on community college issues. His knowledge and perspective are real assets, but more importantly he's a true believer in the power of education to create economic independence and upward mobility for people from working class and low income backgrounds. I also have to say that I appreciate that while he's employed at PCC, he maintains a statewide perspective on improving and investing in all of our educational institutions.

  • MCR (unverified)

    Having had the chance to speak personally with Michael Dembrow on a few occasions, I've come away impressed by his knowledge, his candor, and his dedication to working toward a K-college education system that will be affordable and equitable. I think that we need a leader for higher education in the Oregon House, somebody who has an intimate understanding of the issues and a unique perspective on the problems and their solutions -- and Michael Dembrow looks like he fits the bill.

  • Barry Edwards (unverified)

    As a member of both the Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers - Oregon, I've worked with Michael Dembrow for a number of years on issues that effect the quality of education for our state's community college students, faculty, and classified staff. Michael's leadership has been effective in getting the job done for our colleges and he will give the same leadership in Salem for all the issues that effect our great state. I support his run for State Representative in House District 45. In addition, another group I belong to, the Oregon Coalition for Contingent Academic Labor (Oregon COCAL), endorses Michael Dembrow for House District 45. Support our students, support our colleges, and support our state. Vote for Michael Dembrow.

  • David Rives (unverified)

    I've known Michael through my years at Portland Community College and I have been impressed with his leadership style. He's been able to unite those with differing opinions, resolve conflicts, and work together with students, educators, administrators, and the community to help make our college a place you can really appreciate working or studying at. Just recently, the college has extended health coverage to over 400 long-term adjunct instructors, and Michael helped to bring this about in a way that was beneficial for both management and workers. I'm looking forward to him doing the same thing in the legislature to get health care in Oregon for everyone who needs it.

  • (Show?)

    Michael Dembrow won't need on-the-job-training when he becomes State Representative for House District 45.

    I have been Michael's colleague at PCC for approximately 15 years. During that time I've observed him as: faculty member; president of our union; lead negotiator for our bargaining unit; community activist; parent; and advocate for public education testifying before the Legislature several times.

    Dembrow is not just smart and articulate - he is an authentically caring individual who has dedicated his life to fighting for students, public education, and working people.

    Dembrow's knowledge and experience means that in January of 2009 we will immediately have a champion for unions and working people, as well as a seasoned higher education professional conversant with public education policy in Oregon.

    If the voters in HD 45 are looking for substance over symbolism, and someone with a long record of accomplishments as a union leader, educator, and community activist, then Michael Dembrow is your man.

    And one of the things I love about Dembrow is the fact that he will be embarrassed about these comments. Fact is - they're all true.

  • Frank Goulard (unverified)

    Michael Dembrow has been a longtime champion of virtuous goals, be they regarding education, community, or labor issues. Through all these matters, Michael has a unique trait of respecting perspectives in an intelligent and reasoned way. All of us benefit from such a manner, whether it involves the legislature or anywhere for that matter. His common sense approach resonates with folks, I've seen it over and over through the last 20 years.

    Michael will be a genuinely wonderful addition to the 2009 Legislature. Please join me in your support of Michael Dembrow for HD45.

  • Tony Greiner (unverified)

    Michael isn't just a committed teacher and a union president, he is also a guy who works to make his neighborhood culturally rich. As the organizer and founder of the "Festival of African Films" held every February for the last 16 years, he has brought dozens of films, and often their directors, to Portland. Some of these have never been shown elsewhere in our country. And the movies are free!

  • Michael Cannarella (unverified)

    Michael Dembrow has demonstrated over a long period of time his commitment to fairness, to listening to and understanding all sides of a story. His interest in people and their problems is genuine. I have seen him work and find a way to bridge differences and allow parties to settle contentious issues without feeling compromised. He has already been a great representative in Salem for the Portland Community College community; students, faculty and the Community College as an institution. The folks in District 45 could not do better. For the rest of us, regardless of where we live he will be a reliable steady influential leader in Salem. No one could say we don't need more of that.

  • Terry Coughran (unverified)

    I work as a custodian at Portland Community College and I have incidentally bumped into Michael Dembrow several times over the years. I very recently encountered Michael at the last Portland Public School Board Meeting, and he spoke warmly to me about his family. I have mostly observed from afar Michael’s work at the college and the wider community, and I greatly admire his humanity, intelligence, tenacity, and equanimity. I support Michael Dembrow for House District 45.

  • Theodore K. (unverified)

    I'm sure Mr. Dembrow is a nice guy, but hearing from people other than his co-workers would be a little more convincing. HD 45 needs more in Salem than a rep for PCC (which is not in the district, FYI), we need a rep for the whole district. So far he's not convincing me that he's in touch with the district at all.

  • Russell Jones (unverified)

    Umm... pardon me but it's naive and somewhat insulting to say that his African film festival is bringing culture to our district. Besides the fact that African films have almost nothing to do with anything relating to the district, it's a very ignorant and insulting thing to say that this is bringing culture to our district. Is this some sort of ploy to cater to minority voters? That just seems silly when you're running against an African American woman.

  • MCR (unverified)


    So, I'm to understand that because there is an african-american woman running in the HD45 primary, nobody is allowed to mention Michael Dembrow's connection to an African film festival? Sounds pretty silly to me.

  • Judy Zimmerman (unverified)

    I've seen Michael work steadfastly for higher education, labor, and health care for fifteen years now. Michael demonstrates fairness and a real willingness to listen to all points of view. Michael has repeatedly shown diplomacy and compassion in the midst of some contentious issues. His even-handedness is needed in our state legislature.

    I don't live in District 45, but wish I did. I would be honored to have Michael represent me.

  • Linda Eby (unverified)

    I have served with Michael Dembrow on the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon (AFT-Oregon) state executive council for about ten years. Our council represents certified and classified education employees and healthcare workers all over the state. Michael is no stranger to the political issues of Oregon. He has certainly spent his fair share of time in Salem. He is a known entity on the political scene. Read the other comments for his various skills and experiences. I want to talk about his character. Michael is not running for the legislature for personal power or self aggrandizement. He is a True Believer in democracy and the power of the people. I know that he will pursue education and health care resources for his constituency as well as for all Oregonians. Michael Dembrow is a tireless community activist, honest even when it's difficult, optimistic without being naiive, and the best candidate for the representative of district 45. Put this guy in the legislature and he will use his vote for good, not evil.

  • (Show?)

    Tony wrote: As the organizer and founder of the "Festival of African Films" held every February for the last 16 years, he has brought dozens of films, and often their directors, to Portland.

    Russell wrote: Is this some sort of ploy to cater to minority voters? That just seems silly when you're running against an African American woman.

    That's right, Russell. Michael spent 16 years organizing a film festival because he knew -- all the way back in 1991 -- he knew that in 2007, he would be running against an African-American candidate. Yeah, right. That's a helluva lotta work just to set up a "ploy".

    Wow. Some people see conspiracies in bizarre places.

    [Full disclosure: My company hosts MichaelDembrow.com, but I speak only for myself.]

  • (Show?)

    What makes Michael's experience and commitment to the film festival relevant is that it indicates, along with many other things, his awareness and celebration of cultures that differ from his own. In a state where more than 60% of anyone moving here is a person of color, that perspective and inclusion will make a heck of alot of difference in how well Oregon experiences its future growth.

    BTW, PCC's district encompasses all of Multnomah and Washington County. In addition, Michael's work there is so varied and successful that it speaks to the skills and abilities that he will carry to Salem and the fact that so many of the people, from a variety of positions and perspectives are so solidly behind Michael speaks volumes to the legacy that he has built there.

  • Michael Dembrow (unverified)

    After walking the dogs this morning, I plucked up my courage and read the blog entries. My immediate inclination was to respond to a couple of them, but knew I had to get out door-knocking, and I did. (After last weekend, I practically felt spoiled pounding the pavement today. Still the same issues for people--education, health care, and the environment--my own core issues. But there were many interesting wrinkles and variations.)

    Now that I'm back home and have warmed up a little, I do want to respond to a couple of the emails. First, obviously, I'm enormously grateful to all of my friends and colleagues who had such positive things to say. And Rep. Galizio is correct--I am pretty embarrassed by them. But very appreciative. One doesn't do this kind of work for the kudos, but when they come, it definitely feels good!

    To Michael Wilson and his reference to a New York Times article that apparently says we recruit our teachers from the bottom third of college graduates: First, I'm very skeptical of that statement and will try to find the article to check out the context. Strikes me as something that calls for some critical reading. My own experience as a college teacher has been that the future teachers are among my best students, not my worst. They are also obviously the ones with a real zeal for public service.

    What I've learned from my tenure on the State Board of Ed has been that the problem is not in our ability to attract the best people, but in our difficulty in RETAINING the best--all too many new teachers are dropping out of the profession due to inadequate compensation and support. These are things we need to work on, though better working conditions and serious mentorship programs.

    To Russell Jones and any other readers who are not familiar with the Cascade Festival of African Films: I encourage you to check out the Festival--www.africanfilmfestival.org. Contrary to Russell's supposition, the Festival (now in its 18th year) does in fact include many films by African-American filmmakers and has brought many very important African-American filmmakers and scholars to Portland. It is extremely important to the African-American community.

    The Festival is all about bringing together people of different cultures and backgrounds and building new community through education and dialogue. After every film we try to have a conversation with an individual or individuals from the country that produced the film. It has been extremely important to the many thousands of individuals who attend the programs (5,000 last year alone). Really, I urge you to check it out—go to the website, get on the mailing list, look at the past programs and program notes that I’ve written over the years, and take advantage of it.

    Finally, to Theodore K and his statement that PCC is not in the district: while it’s true that PCC-Cascade is technically not in HD45—it’s located a mile to the west—I’m not sure why that matters. A great many of its students do indeed live in the district. Over the last 26 years, I’ve taught many thousands of students from N/NE Portland. I myself have lived in the district for 22 years. I know it, and am firmly committed to it.

  • Shawn Carter (unverified)

    I think the point Mr. Jones was making was that is it's condescending/naive of the person who said it to say that Mr. Dembrow is bringing culture to HD45 with his festival and that sort of attitude is dismissing the culture that we in NE Portland already have. In terms of cultural diversity, NE Portland is by far the most significant in Oregon. Kari, I don't think he was saying Dembrow was conspiring anything, he was saying that using that as a platform in a district with one of the highest percentages of African Americans in the state is suspect. It may not but true but it's a legit concern.

  • Adrian R (unverified)

    I think what people need to recognize is that there are a lot of people in HD 45 and N/NE Portland in general that get ignored and are frustrated with what little is being done to create real change. While it's no South Los Angeles, there are parts of NE Portland that are downright grimy, and unless you live there you probably wouldn't know about them. There are gangs, drug dealers, and prostitutes that people have to live in the face of every day, on top of figuring out how they're going to hold down a job and feed themselves and their family. We need somebody who's been working on the ground level with this people to sincerely understand what it will take to bring change.

    Disclaimer: I work for the Cyreena Boston for HD 45 campaign.

  • Emily Plec (unverified)

    I am familiar with Michael Dembrow principally due to his political activism on behalf of working families and public education in Oregon. I have heard his testimony before the legislature on bills that support the interests of working people and their kids. He is exactly the kind of representative Oregonians need and deserve. I can't imagine a public servant with greater dedication and higher ethical standards than Mr. Dembrow. Fear appeals about crime, drugs and violence may make for good political soundbites but we all know that educational and (legal) economic opportunities are what transforms communities and individuals. I think Dembrow is a candidate who knows how to make this happen for District 45!

  • Adrian R (unverified)

    Emily, I wasn't making "fear appeals", I was stating the reality that some people have to live with. Nobody is making soundbites out of it, I'm saying that in order to provide those economic and educational opportunities in an effective manner, one has to fully understand the situation at hand and not be dismissive of it.

  • alan bluehole (unverified)

    Was someone dismissive and I missed it?

  • Bean Gilsdorf (unverified)

    As a supporter of Michael Dembrow who has lived in the NE since 1998, I'd like to respond to the idea that "we need somebody who's been working on the ground level with this people to sincerely understand what it will take to bring change".

    I know what you are talking about, Adrian R., because I've lived with drug dealers on my street and prostitutes who work the next corner up for many, many years now, and I, too, have been frustrated with the rate of change. But I support Michael because I've seen first-hand the way he works: intelligently, diplomatically, and sincerely. You don't need to be a member of a particular race or ethnic group to understand the problems that the N/NE faces or to care about the area. I believe that the organizational skills Michael has honed as a teacher and union leader at PCC will serve him well in being a force for positive change in the area. As a faculty member at the Cascade campus, he has been "on the ground level", working with people who have limited resources and who want to change their lives. I have no doubt that we can expect great things from Michael.

  • Caralee Angell (unverified)

    I am excited to see Michael taking his community work to the next level - he is honestly trying to give District 45 a better quality of life - culturally and professionally.

  • Timothy Flanagan (unverified)

    Michael Dembrow is a bright, articulate, and compassionate educator and leader. I have known Michael for seven years and appreciate his broad range of experience and expertise. Michael has always worked for quality education,universal healthcare, and safe and secure neighborhoods. We will alll benefit by having a professional communicator in Salem, who knows when to listen and how to lead. Northeast Portland and the state of Oregon will be well-served.

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