Former executive director of Unite Oregon hopes to win election representing areas of Multnomah and Clackamas counties

COURTESY PHOTO: PRAXIS POLITICAL LLC. - Sen. Kayse Jama.Sen. Kayse Jama on Thursday declared his intent to seek election to Oregon Senate District 24, representing portions of east Portland and northern Clackamas County.

Kama's SD24 area has been largely east of 1-205 and is expected to shift even farther east following redistricting, moving its Clackamas portion from the Clackamas Town Center area to the Damascus area, according to the redistricting plan recently passed by the legislature.

In January, commissioners representing Multnomah and Clackamas counties unanimously cast votes approving Jama to fill the vacancy left by Shemia Fagan, who resigned to assume her role as secretary of state.

"I am running for election to the seat I was appointed to earlier this year because I believe we can shape an equitable, inclusive system that works for women, people of color, indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ+ folks, people with disabilities, working-class families and rural communities," Jama said. "I know when we work side-by-side, we can face any crisis."

Jama, formerly the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Unite Oregon, made history as the first former refugee, Muslim and Somali-American to serve in Oregon's Senate.

If elected, Jama pledged to continue his efforts to address the systemic inequity faced by marginalized populations in Oregon, particularly among racial, immigrant and refugee communities.

Other priority issues he pledged to continue addressing include COVID-19 impacts and a worsening state housing crisis, which he has taken steps to mitigate as chair of the Senate Committee on Housing and Development.

Throughout his first legislative session, Jama pushed for several policy initiatives including:

• Passing legislation to provide mortgage foreclosure and renter protections for Oregonians during the pandemic

• Investing a total of approximately $765 million in affordable housing construction

• Distributing federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to small businesses, community initiatives, and COVID-19 recovery programs throughout portions of Multnomah and Clackamas counties.

• Passing a total of approximately $470 million in funding for support services related to mental health and addiction

• Passing the "Cover All People" program to extend state health coverage to all Oregonians regardless of immigration status

• Passing legislation to address systemic racism and police accountability in the criminal justice system

• Creating Oregon's first-ever Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement

Jama's campaign has been endorsed by leaders from throughout the region including Oregon Sen. Kate Lieber, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.

"I have witnessed first-hand how Senator Jama has led with integrity and unflinching determination in the Senate," Lieber said. "He has a unique ability to bring community members and lawmakers together to push for solutions that best serve all Oregonians, always centering the most vulnerable. Senator Jama's perspective, leadership and skill have served his district and our entire state well, and I am thrilled to support his campaign."

"I am honored to support Kayse's reelection campaign," Kafoury said. "From day one, he's been a valuable addition to the Oregon Senate and I look forward to his continued leadership on behalf of this community. Kayse's commitment to housing affordability, expanding access to addiction treatment, and creating equity for impacted communities are exactly why we need him in the Senate."

"First as a community activist and nonprofit leader, and now as the Senator for one of the most diverse legislative districts in Oregon, Kayse Jama has been an exceptional champion for those who are too often overlooked in our political process," Jayapal said. "I am excited to see what Kayse will do in this campaign."

Jama will begin his campaign efforts with a virtual 6 p.m. event on Wednesday, Oct. 27, featuring Lieber, Kafoury, Jayapal and other supporters in the Oregon State Legislature.

Members of the Oregon Senate slated to appear in the virtual event include Rob Wagner and Lew Frederick.

From the Oregon House of Representatives, Tawna Sanchez, Karin Power, Teresa Alonso Leon, Khanh Pham and Andrea Valderrama are scheduled to attend the kickoff event as well as former Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer.

Other expected attendees include Washington County Commissioner Nafisa Fai, Portland City Commissioners Carmen Rubio and JoAnn Hardesty, former Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Metro Councilor Mary Nolan, community leader Reyna Lopez, civil rights attorney Ashlee Albies, community leader Wajdi Said and community leader Christine Chin Ryan.

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