The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Nov. 16, declared a vacancy in District 2 and called for an election in the May 21, 2024 Primary Election to fill the seat left by former Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.
Jayapal, who would have served until Dec. 31, 2026, stepped down on Nov 1, 2023, after five years in the office to pursue the open seat in Oregon’s Third Congressional District after Rep. Earl Blumenauer announced his retirement for January 2025.
The board's vote is part of the formal process requiring the declaration of a vacancy and the calling of an election to fill the seat, explained County Attorney Jenny Madkour.
According to the County Charter and Code, when a vacancy occurs with more than one year remaining in the term of office, a person must be elected at the next May or November Election date that meets the state law filing requirement to fill the remainder of the term.
At the time of Jayapal's resignation, the state law filing deadline for the November 7, 2023 Special Election had already passed, making the May 21, 2024 primary election the next available election date that meets the state law filing requirement.
"Because of the timelines involved, we are declaring the vacancy as of 8 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2023,” said Madkour. “We are calling an election on May 21, 2024, to fill the remainder of the current term for District 2. And we are also approving the setting of the candidate filing deadline for March 12, 2024.”
The unanimous board vote to adopt the resolution declaring the vacancy, calling an election and setting the candidate filing deadline included interim Commissioner for District 2 Jesse Beason. Beason, who was named Commissioner Jayapal’s Interim Designee on Jan. 6, 2022, stepped into the role immediately after her resignation and was formally sworn in at the start of the Nov. 16 board meeting. He will serve in the role until a person is elected to the office.
Commissioner Julia Brim Edwards inquired about the process of selecting a designee and the possibility of an emergency election.
“This is just a comment,” she noted. “When I first took office, I needed to appoint a designee,” she said. “In talking to former county commissioners and current commissioners about who is selected … what struck me as odd was that we pick our own successor and it’s approved by the rest of the commission.
“As someone looking at things with fresh eyes, is that the best way to do it? The question that I have is whether it is worth asking about the timing of the election and a mechanism to allow it to happen earlier through a special election and fully enfranchise voters.”
“I think it’s a good question to revisit. For me, the enfranchisement of the voters is key,” said Beason. “The concern about an emergency election from my vantage point is the turnout in an emergency election is low, particularly in communities where voters may already feel disenfranchised. But I think it’s a question to ask the Charter (Review) Committee.”
Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson acknowledged the complexities of how a potential runoff election could impact timing and participation, and noted her appreciation for deliberating the topic.
Ultimately, she said, the Board must try “to make sure that we are respecting the democratic process and making it inclusive.”###