I want to represent Senate District 22; this is why.

Karol Collymore

I want to represent district 22 in the Oregon Senate.

I’ve spent my career in public service. I started in politics at 21 in the trenches of campaign work in New Mexico. I worked first for Gore/Lieberman 2000 as African American outreach coordinator, then deputy director at the Democratic Party of New Mexico, development coordinator for Richard Romero for Congress in 2002 and finally at the State Capitol as a bill analyst. When I moved to Oregon, I worked for the American Heart Association, Pro-Choice Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon and Supreme Court Judge Virginia Linder.

I am an activist for my community. I believe that shows through my volunteer work with Basic Rights Oregon, Hands on Greater Portland and my year-long experiment hosting progressive dinner parties for small non-profits. It also shows in my writing at Blue Oregon and my current work for County Commissioner Jeff Cogen.

I threw my name in the ring for this seat because being a senator in Oregon is more than gaining clout, power or street cred, it’s a real responsibility to my community. It will be an honor – and a challenge - to quiet my own voice and to become a vessel for the concerns of my neighbors in North and Northeast Portland. These concerns include gentrification, two failing high schools in North Portland, tentative funding of human services, severe unemployment of people of color and continuing issues of equity around race and class. There are no miracle bills that will fix these issues. If there was, well, the kid I used to ride the bus with from St. Johns wouldn’t have to keep going to school in Woodstock. Solving our state’s complex issues takes the determination of an activist, the heart of a social worker and the brain of a strategist. It also takes the courage to put your ego aside and listen to the thoughts of others in order to make progress. I have what it takes.

I’m running because I want more young people and people of color representing their communities not just in district 22, but at all levels in Oregon. We need to be afforded the opportunities to not only ask for help, but to help ourselves. We need to be able to be role models to our own children and to show once and for all that leadership comes in all colors in Oregon. I would like to think being a representative for my neighbors at the state level is accessible for people like me; people that are young, experienced and willing to dedicate their lives in public service.

I also want to be clear: This is the job I want. For those of you who know me, it should be no surprise that this would be the next step in my career. I filed for this race at a time that may not have been comfortable for opinion makers, but it was entirely comfortable to me. An opportunity to be a senator is not something entered into lightly. I asked for advice from people I trusted, I deliberated and came to my own decision. For me, my best decisions are not made in haste. I did not have the chance to organize folks to come to that Multnomah County Democrats meeting last Thursday, but I walked in and made a case for myself and my neighborhood and made it to the top three.

I would be honored to have the chance to serve the people of District 22 and Oregon.

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    A note for our readers:

    All three nominees for the SD-22 appointment have long been BlueOregon contributors. In order to keep this space from becoming a battleground over the appointment, we've proposed the following guidelines - and all three have agreed:

    • Until the appointment is determined, none of the three will blog here on any topic -- as is our typical rule with candidates in competitive races -- with the following exception:

    • Each of the three is welcome to post a single "why I'm running" piece, to inform our readers, engage in dialogue, and make their case before the community (and not incidentally, before the Multnomah County Commission.) They can post anytime, at any length, and without any editorial interference (as usual).

    • Of course, if they've got news to share, they're welcome to contact any or all of the editors - and we'll make our usual judgment calls about whether it's worth posting.

    I'm hopeful that we'll have a meaningful, substantive, and polite discussion.

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    I have followed your blog posts and I spoke to you briefly at the BlueOregon celebration. I consider you a thoughtful, qualified candidate. I do not live in your district. I am well represented by Senator Diane Rosenbaum. But I have four statewide issue questions that I would ask each of the candidates. These are the four issue I care the most about. I know this is asking a lot, but I’ll put the questions out there anyway. Answer what you want.

    1. China’s economy is forecast to be twice the size of the US economy in 2050 with a high-tech equipped military to match. Currently about 1% of Oregon’s K-12 students get any Mandarin before high school graduation, and very few are fluent. Would you support measures to increase that? Do you have thoughts on whether more of the students in your district should study Mandarin?

    2. Economic forecasters predict that eighty percent of global economic growth in the next few decades will be emerging markets, like China, India, Brazil, Russia and others. For our long term economic growth, does it make sense to send more of our high school students for a year of study in these markets, learning their languages, living with their families, and attending their local high schools? Would you support legislation, costing no additional state or local dollar, to send high school students to study abroad?

    3. I think the current Columbia River Crossing proposal is a boondoggle (see here). What is your position on the Columbia River Crossing?

    4. For transportation, we are too dependent on foreign oil. We need to reduce our use of gasoline to reduce carbon emissions, to reduce the flow of funds to petro-dictators and enemies abroad, and to keep more of the funds we now send abroad for oil home in our own economy. Would you support a substantial, revenue-neutral, phased-in gas tax, or are you a wimp (see here)? If not, what would you support?

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    Hi Dave,

    1. Having just returned from China, I witnessed the sheer buying power of that country. Mandarin and Cantonese are both spoken and Cantonese was spoken where I was. I support the learning of second and third languages starting in kindergarden when childrens' brains are most able to learn those languages. Schools should have the ability to offer several language tracks. It would be wonderful if children and parents could choose together what that second language will be. There is no good reason that American children are still most likely to only know English. I would be happy to advocate for that.

    2. Studying abroad is certainly a life enriching experience. Having not studied the cost of of sending teens overseas I can't answer that fairly. I do think I'd rather see Oregon pay for our high school graduates to go to state college for four years. That is an effective use of resources and maybe frees up some funds for those kids to think about going overseas for a year.

    3. My thoughts on the Columbia River Crossing are these: One, we need a new bridge between Washington and Oregon. The current bridge is only good for about 20 more years and forward thinking is vital to make sure we aren't in a Sellwood Bridge situation in 2030. Two, the bridge needs to have MAX train tracks, bike and ped lanes and enough lanes to reduce congestion but not encourage too many cars. Three, there needs to be plenty of attention paid to the people who live along the I-5 corridor whose health will be at risk from years of construction. Four, the enviros, Washington state, Oregon and the rest of the people around that huge table need to start playing together nicely. Not everyone is going to get the perfect bridge in their mind's eye, but it has to get done.

    4. The choice between being a wimp and gas tax seems hardly fair, eh Dave? Really, I don't drive. I walk and I take Trimet and I use ZipCar. One of the only ways to get people out of their cars is getting high speed rail. Any city I've been to that have people who function very well (and live way outside of a city center) without cars have high speed rail. No one is going to get on a MAX if they can get there faster in their own car. If we keep using vital transportation money on street cars that any healthy person can outwalk to their destination on a good day (yup, done it.) we aren't going to get folks to reduce their use. How to pay for that? Gas tax. And I tell you, if I didn't know how government worked, I'd say no phase in. But, I do so I know it will have to be phased in.

    Thanks for your questions and your kind words. Pleasure meeting you.

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    Karol, thanks for your thoughtful responses.

    Yes, there are a number of languages and dialects spoken in China. Mandarin is the official language of the country and spoken by the most by far. It is also the most spoken language in the world. The written language is shared among many Chinese languages. See wiki here. So Mandarin is the primary Chinese language to teach. But we do have Cantonese speakers living in Oregon.

    FYI, there was legislation in the last session, HB 2719 (here), to create the Go Global High School Study Abroad Program which would have permitted (not required or mandated) local school district to pay part (or, for cheaper study abroad programs, all) of the fees of study abroad programs offered by existing organizations like AFS, ASSE, and CIEE. The local school district could have used the funds it receives from the state for such study abroad expenses and count the student as in-district for the distribution of state funds. It would not have required any additional state or local funds. It would have switched, to the small extent students went abroad, the use of some funds from in-district expenses (mostly teachers pay) to study abroad fees. But no new funding would be needed.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)

    Good luck to you Karol. If I lived in that district I'd hire ya in a heartbeat. Let me know if you ever move out here to Mulino....

  • pacnwjay (unverified)

    Karol, Do you have a website?

  • Roey Thorpe (unverified)

    Karol, for all of us who have watched you and learned from you and worked along side you for all these years, your bid for public office makes perfect sense and is the perfect fit. As a former elected official myself, I know that you have the blend of dedication, intelligence, and commitment to make you successful, and I know that you can be relentless in moving an issue to resolution. Plus, you have that special ability to listen to others and translate their concerns into productive solutions. District 22 would be very well represented by you and so would all the rest of us in Oregon who value progressive voices and are looking for the next generation of leadership. Good luck!! -- Roey

  • Becky (unverified)

    I wish all three candidates luck in this race. They are all well qualified. So what does it matter who wins.

    My perspective is that we need to have at the least one person of color from the community (I would love more). We need the perspective that only a person of color brings to the debate. You cannot feel or experience what a person of color does unless you are in fact a person of color. That perspective is now limited to the Republican caucus through Jackie Winters and Sal Esquival. More important is the need for more women in the chambers.

    We continue to lose more of that perspective. We know that women prioritize spending and policy matters differently than me do...this is not a bad thing but it is a real issue. Seems to me that NE Portland has the opportunity to elect two women of color to the House and Senate this year they should take advantage of that opportunity to do the right thing.

    We all understand that Chip Shields is seen as the "shoe in” candidate that everyone just assumes will move up the Senate. Maybe no one should be the shoe in or in the assumptions category. Maybe the new electeds from NE Portland ought to look like the community before gentrification and provide a voice for a community that has little in the way of voices. I don't get to vote in this decision but maybe those who can need to be a little clearer about the needs of a community that has lost the clout it needs to provide a real future and real changes for young men and women who look more like President Obama than Vice President Joe Biden.

  • ron (unverified)

    Thank you, i enjoy reading.

  • mp97303 (unverified)


    Best of luck to you. I have always found you to be one of the few here willing to engage in honest and civil discourse about topics we may disagree on. That is a quality that will serve your potential constituents well.


  • rw (unverified)

    It has been a little disheartening to read the acid and icky undertones here. Folks, I might go to a presentation Bowman is a part of. I want to be able to step up and say "Hi! I'm that fat little crank from Blue Oregon" and actually hold steady eye contact. I'm not proud of myself up here too often: do you ever consider that when you carp on the coziness, you are carping on people who KNOW each other, do REAL LIFE activities with one another and so are accountable for civil discourse and civil disagreement amongst one another?

    I think we can tell the difference between the real world actors who are engaged in the process, and those who merely jump on the net and lay waste to all. The latter show the ugly effects of the lack of interpersonal accountability that allows for longterm work between those of diverse views.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    This is where Joe White is supposed to post something about how Karol being "African American outreach coordinator" for Al Gore makes her a racist.

  • rw (unverified)

    Oops! have to correct here -- the OTHER thread that introduces the three contenstants has been featuring some icky stuff. I meant THAT thread's tone! It has struck me today that what is perceived as "coziness" in the webworld may merely be "basic courtesy" and "interpersonal accountability".

    Sorry for the misfire here!!

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    My thoughts on the Columbia River Crossing are these: One, we need a new bridge between Washington and Oregon. The current bridge is only good for about 20 more years and forward thinking is vital to make sure we aren't in a Sellwood Bridge situation in 2030. Two, the bridge needs to have MAX train tracks, bike and ped lanes and enough lanes to reduce congestion but not encourage too many cars.

    Karol, thanks for engaging and explaining where you're at on the bridge. I have some follow up questions, then...

    What do you mean by "only good for about 20 more years?" In terms of capacity, in terms of structure not falling down, what?

    And in saying "we need a new bridge" - you're implying "we need a new bridge more than we need $4.2 billion in other infrastructure instead." Is that what you mean?

    I'd argue we're in part in the Sellwood Bridge "situation" because we've already spent $100 million on the CRC - money that could have been focused on other infrastructure.

    Four, the enviros, Washington state, Oregon and the rest of the people around that huge table need to start playing together nicely. Not everyone is going to get the perfect bridge in their mind's eye, but it has to get done.

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by this - are you implying that the enviros haven't been playing nicely, offering complex solutions and focusing on key impacts of the bridge on climate change? Or that the highway departments have systematically railroaded the advocates and elected officials have gone back on their commitments to protect the environment?

  • Joba (unverified)


    You seem very committed to the Senate appointment.

    Does that mean if you aren't appointed, and say, Chip is, you won't try to be appointed in HD 43?

  • anon (unverified)


    I think volunteer work to being a functionary in a commissioner's office to going to the State Senate is leaping too far too fast. Go for some local boards and commissions then run for state rep. Come up through the ranks. You have much more to learn before the leap.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Best wishes, Karol. You are an articulate and thoughtful person, steady and non-reactive in your positions. You will do well.

  • Brian Collins (unverified)

    I'd like to respond to Anon's comment suggesting that Ms. Collymore serve in local government before the state legislature. When Ron Wyden ran for Congress, people told him the same thing - why don't you run for state or local government first? And the answer he gave was that he was interested in federal isssues, particularly senior issues such as Medicare and Social Security, given his background as a community organizer for senior citizens.

    If Karol is interested in statewide issues, like funding K-12 education, getting more Oregonians a higher education, and improving our state's transportation infrastructure, then she is doing absolutely the right thing by pursuing an appointment to the state legislature, because that is where these issues are decided.

    Best wishes, Brian Collins

  • rw (unverified)

    Brian, I regarded anon's comment as a subtle backhand slap, trivializing Karol. Just my take on it. Thank you for speaking to it in a high-minded fashion.

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    Evan, I think your response gives some insight to why the CRC project is difficult. There is no perfect bridge design that solves the desires of all sides. I think all players need to give a little to get a better result. As far as the price tag, 4 billion dollars is no joke. What also isn't a joke is if we do not pay 4 billion now, we will pay 10 billion later. We can talk more about it offline if you'd like.

    Everyone, thanks for the support.

  • Michael O Hanna (unverified)

    Right on, Karol! This position would totally kick your ass, but I have complete faith and trust that you can do it. I look forward to coming down to Salem to lobby you. :)

  • Doug Allen (unverified)

    Karol, I enjoy your posts here, but I am concerned that while you rightly point out the potential for abuse (in terms of secret influence by a group excluding women) in the Junto, you don't seem to recognize the danger of becoming a shill for a massive public works project that is spending $100 million (of taxpayer money) to influence the public to support it.

    From your response to Evan, you have clearly been told something about the project, but I think you have heard only one side. I think you should ask yourself why that is?

    Deborah Kafoury and Amanda Fritz seem to be able to see past the influence of PB, Parametrix, Parisi Associates, CH2MHill, Tom Markgraf and dozens of other consultants. The CRC is a big deal in your district, so it is disappointing to hear things, like that the bridges have a 20 year remaining life, that even ODOT engineers wouldn't think of claiming.

    I hope that if/when you move into elective office, you listen carefully before taking sides on important issues.

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    Anon truly is an anonymous coward. And wrong. Karol's had far more experience than some Senators had before they joined the Senate. Besides, if she gets the appointment, it will be because the County Commissioners - who work with her daily and know her well - believe she'd do a better job than two with legislative experience. To say, essentially, "don't even try" is patronizing and insulting. And to do it anonymously is cowardly. (There is absolutely zero "say something against interest" rationale for commenting anonymously on this post - unless you're a lobbyist trying to protect your ability to lobby a future legislator you think shouldn't be there.)

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    Karol - I'd love to talk more off-line, as I think there are smarter, cheaper solutions that leave more resources open for other projects.

    Doug - I've heard all sides about the CRC and followed the issue for years, have a master's degree in public policy and urban planning, and have dedicated much of my adult life to transportation advocacy. My views are strong, yes, but they're informed. I'm sorry it appears that they're simply a repetition of talking points - they're actually a boiling down of a very complex subject into a blog post.

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    Doug & Evan, I didn't read Karol's comments as being entirely pro-CRC. In fact, she emphasized non-car transit options and the health impacts from construction. She stated a basic fact - the bridge won't last forever - and said that all parties need to come to the table. (Which may be perceived by advocates, perhaps on all sides, as a demand to cave on their principles; I read it as an invitation to dialogue.)

    And Doug, they're not spending $100 million "to influence the public to support it." That's the total spent on architectural planning, environmental studies, etc. Is some money being spent on advocacy? Surely. But if it was $100 million, you'd know it. (The entire U.S. Senate campaign - including all outside advertising - cost $50 million.)

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    Doug, Just because Amanda Fritz and Deborah Kafoury - both women I respect - don't like something doesn't mean I have to follow their lead. I'm my own person. I went to several meetings of the CRC committee in early 2007 and I found them enlightening. I haven't been influenced by anyone, I just pay attention.

    Like I said earlier in these comments, I'm happy to continue to talk about it, but all sides, ALL SIDES, need to give a little to create a solution.

  • Doug Allen (unverified)
    <h2>Kari, I don't want to lead this thread too far astray, but $100 million, whether spent on direct advocacy, or for environmental studies, has the effect of pushing this project forward. How much has been spent by the project, lobbying in Washington, versus how much Evan or I, as independent citizens, can afford to spend? The consulting firms are full of smart, articulate people. Don't discount how much advocacy they bring to this, even when it is just talking to their neighbors. Have you even taken the time to understand the Columbia River Towboat Association's proposal that would have virtually eliminated lifts on the current bridges? Money, just in absolute terms, is important to look at.</h2>

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