December 19, 2013

Barbara Smith Warner was chosen Thursday by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners to fill the vacant seat in House District 45.

Smith Warner, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), replaces Michael Dembrow, who left the House District 45 seat this fall.

The county Board of Commissioners last month chose Dembrow to be the new state senator in Senate District 23, filling the Senate vacancy created after Jackie Dingfelder resigned to work for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

The board chose Smith Warner for the House District 45 seat representing parts of northeast Portland after hearing opening statements from her and fellow contenders Thomas Sincic and James Woods, and then questioning the three contenders.

All three finalists told the board about their community roots and desire to make positive change in the state Legislature, with Smith Warner stressing her commitment to education and health care reform as well as her many community connections ranging from her two children’s school (Beverly Cleary) and the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association to the Children’s Book Bank and St. Andrew’s food pantry.

“You need to be eager to listen,” she told the board about what it takes to be a legislator.

“You need to be eager to learn, and you need to be eager to lead,” said Smith Warner, adding that doses of humility and humor are also key.

County commissioners’ questions covered education, public safety, mental health funding and ability to collaborate with others.

Commissioners lauded all three hopefuls for their commitment, intelligence and community roots.

“This was an incredibly difficult vote for me,’’ county Chair Marissa Madrigal said. “I wish this was a job share.”

The three contenders were sent to the board for its consideration by the Democratic precinct committee people in House District 45. Since Dembrow is a Democrat who represented a House district entirely in Multnomah County, state law says the nominations to fill that vacancy be made by that same party in that legislative district.

Smith Warner said she is eager to begin her new role in Salem.

“I’m very excited to go down there,’’ she said, “and be that advocate for Multnomah County.”