Kayse Jama, co-founder and executive director of a nonprofit that advocates for immigrants, people of color and low-income families and children, won appointment to the Oregon Senate Wednesday.
He will represent a long, narrow district spanning east Portland and northern Clackamas County along Interstate 205.
Nine of 10 commissioners from Multnomah and Clackamas counties indicated they viewed Jama as the strongest of three nominees for the position put forward by the Democratic party, who included nurse and former nurses union head Adrienne Enghouse and Democratic Party of Oregon operations director Candy Emmons.
They cited his widespread and fervent support in the community, his track record of inclusive leadership that lifts up the voices of the powerless, his personal history as refugee from Somalia who learned English as a second language and his success building partnerships that have yielded policy gains and on-the-ground progress.
Newly elected Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull was the lone commissioner who favored a different choice, Enghouse, saying she was best equipped for the issues of 2021, apparently alluding to her knowledge as a front-line health worker in the age of COVID-19.
Tootie Smith, one of his fellow Republicans on the Clackamas commission, favored Jama, despite her strong desire to see more women in office, and heartily seconded his appointment to the seat.
Ultimately, all 10 unanimously voted to appoint Jama to the Senate seat vacated Dec. 31 by Oregon’s new secretary of state, Shemia Fagan. All 10 said they were greatly impressed by all three nominees and thought each had the policy chops, lived experience and other credentials to serve as a state senator.
Jama will be the third Black member of the 2021 Oregon Senate, along with Lew Frederick of Portland and James Manning Jr. of Eugene, and the chamber’s lone immigrant and naturalized citizen.