Our opinion: Andrea Valderrama is right fit for House District 47
A man accused — by several sources — of sexist behavior resigned his seat in the Oregon House and is being replaced by Andrea Valderrama, a woman who happens to be one of his accusers.
While it's tempting to dwell on the poetic justice of the moment, or to bask in the schadenfreude, our editorial board would rather take a moment to congratulate the Multnomah County Commission on the wise decision to name Andrea Valderrama to replace the man who resigned from House District 47.
She is one of the women whose accusations led to the state representative's resignation, true. But much more importantly, she has experience in city politics, educational issues and community activism. Valderrama is policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon; served on the staff of then-Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick; served as a policy adviser for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler; is chairwoman of the David Douglas School Board; and she ran a convincing race in 2018 for an open seat on the Portland City Council — a race for which the Tribune endorsed her that year. (See our story.)
The first-generation Peruvian-American, whose family fled from political violence, lives in Hazelwood in outer East Portland. When she spoke to us in 2018, she expressed passion and knowledge for bringing better transit and safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians to that side of town.
In all, Andrea Valderrama will fit in well with the young and diverse freshman class at the Oregon Legislature, bringing yet another smart and challenging voice to that body.
We wanted this editorial — and this moment — to be about Valderrama, not about Diego Hernandez, who was in his third term and who resigned Feb. 22 ahead of a potential expulsion vote in the House. That body's conduct committee recommended the ultimate penalty of expulsion — never invoked in Oregon's 162-year history — on the grounds of multiple violations of a legislative rule against sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
But he's not the point of this editorial: She is. It was up to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners to name the new representative, and they rose to the moment. Well done.
This will go down as one of the defining moments — in Oregon, and in the nation — of the #MeToo movement, the nation's too-long-delayed awakening to the realities of sexism. The alleged abuser is out; one of the accusers is in; and Oregonians (all Oregonians, not just District 47 constituents) gain a powerful new voice in the House.
We have spent so much time this year thinking of the pandemic, the recession and the wildfires. But when historians write about the second decade of the 21st century in America, we suspect the two most powerful changes they will recall are #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. The most vital, and ultimately positive, transition in our state and nation is that white men have finally acknowledged that which women and people of color have always known, that sexism and racism are systemic. And that the time to rid ourselves of these much-more-pernicious pandemics is now.
State Rep. Andrea Valderrama, welcome to the House.
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