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Multnomah County board taps nurse for position vacated by Tina Kotek; two more metro area appointees to go.

Travis Nelson, a registered nurse, was appointed by Multnomah County commissioners to the House District 44 seat vacated by Tina Kotek.NELSON

According to the House Majority Office, Nelson will be the first Black LGBTQ+ member of the House — there have been a few white gay men, including current Rep. Rob Nosse of Portland — and Nelson will become the 10th member of color in the current House.

The commissioners acted Thursday, Jan. 27.

Nelson will be sworn in at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 30 minutes before the start of the 2022 legislative session. He will serve through Jan. 9, 2023, and is a candidate for a full two-year term in the May 17 Democratic primary.

Kotek vacated the District 44 seat — which serves North and Northeast Portland — after 15 years, including a record nine years as House speaker, to focus on her bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in the primary.

Democratic precinct people within the district gave Nelson more votes than his three rivals combined.

"As a legislator, I will advocate for and approach policy through an equity lens to help bring opportunity to all," Nelson said this in a statement issued by House Democrats. "We must break down the systemic barriers in place that for too long have kept folks who look like me from these positions of power and influence."

Nelson earned a degree in nursing from Washington State University. He moved to the Portland area in 2005. He is a board-certified registered nurse, a member of the Oregon Nurses Association and a founding member of the Alliance of Black Nurses of Oregon. He also has been a union representative and a former Black Caucus chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon.

Nelson will be the 10th member from a racial or ethnic minority in the current House — a record. There also are four Black senators in the People of Color Caucus, among them Sen. Kayse Jama of Portland, the caucus co-chairman.

"His experience as a champion for equity will serve our communities well as we work toward closing racial disparities in health care and protecting the rights of workers," Jama said.

Two other vacancies are pending in the House as the 2022 session gets underway.

Washington County commissioners are scheduled to meet Monday, Jan. 31, to select a successor to Democratic Rep. Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro, whom the county board named to the Senate District 15 seat vacated by Democrat Chuck Riley of Hillsboro after seven years. Sollman was in the middle of her third term in the House. She took her Senate seat Jan. 21.

Democrats have nominated for Sollman's House District 30 seat (in alphabetical order, all from Hillsboro) Barry Johnson-Smith, a cybersecurity consultant for Nike; Nathan Sosa, a lawyer who is president of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation; and Lamar Wise, an organizer for Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Wise was a candidate for the Senate appointment; Sosa considered it but decided to switch to the House seat.

Clackamas County commissioners will appoint a successor to Republican Christine Drazan of Canby, who is resigning her District 39 seat on Jan. 31 to focus on her bid for the Republican nomination for governor. Drazan resigned as House Republican leader ahead of the Dec. 13 special session.

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NOTE: Corrects number of Black senators. There are four.

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