The community-trusted leadership we need: Kayse Jama for Senate District 24 

Op-Ed Submitted to the Portland Tribune by Kayse Jama

As Senator Shemia Fagan transitions to become Oregon’s next Secretary of State, the people of Senate District 24 need a strong, progressive candidate to fill the remainder of her term. With our community navigating the public health and economic crisis from COVID-19 and the myriad ways it has shone light on and exacerbated inequalities that have been embedded in our system for years, the stakes are high. We need a leader who is prepared for this moment.

I came to Portland over 20 years years ago as a refugee from Somalia, and I have dedicated my life here to serving and empowering communities. I am the father of two 10-year-old children, a Muslim, a Black man, and a husband, and I am dedicated to bringing folks from all walks of life together to build a better future together. My background and experiences means I understand the struggles—and the dreams—of this district’s diverse communities, and they are at the heart of my work. I will bring these voices and community relationships to Salem, and together, we will build a more equitable future.

At this pivotal time where our community is calling for action on racial justice, I am prepared to take this momentum and put it into action by continuing to pass policies that will ensure Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color have the rights and resources they need to thrive in our state. Representation matters, and I have worked closely with Oregonians in Senate District 24 and beyond to achieve significant policy wins, including Oregon’s End Profiling Act and Measure 107 (Campaign Finance Reform). I’ve co-founded several large cross-issue coalitions, such as Oregon Fair Shot Coalition and Oregon Health Equity Alliance, and currently serve on Governor Brown’s Racial Justice Council. Experience comes in many forms, including the lived experiences that are not adequately represented in our legislature, and the experience gained by 20 years in policy and community leadership.

As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis, we need community-trusted leadership that will always fight for the diverse communities in Senate District 24 and keep justice at the heart of leadership. I am honored to have been endorsed by elected officials such as Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, State Senator Lew Frederick, Portland Commissioner-Elect Carmen Rubio, and organizations including the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Latino Network Action Fund, and Safety and Justice Oregon.

This time of challenge can become a time of opportunity when we reexamine who our economy hasn’t been working for and support the creation of good jobs, small business innovation, and access to the resources every Oregonian needs to reach their full potential. And, as we move forward, it’s time to make investments in a sustainable future that creates good jobs and addresses the climate crisis. If there’s anything a former refugee knows how to do, it’s how to deal with a crisis and make ends meet—and work to build a brighter future.