Wyden labor liaison Smith Warner headed to Oregon Legislature

Barbara Smith Warner, labor liaison to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has been appointed the new Democratic state representative for Oregon House District 45.

Barbara Smith-Warner
Barbara Smith Warner

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 19 chose Smith Warner, 46, to replace Michael Dembrow. In November, those same county commissioners appointed Dembrow to the state Senate to fill the unexpired term of Jackie Dingfelder in District 23. Dingfelder resigned mid-term to join the staff of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Dembrow is a longtime union activist and former president of the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon, Portland Community College Faculty Federation Local 2277. He was first elected to the House in 2008.

Smith Warner was well known in labor circles prior to joining Sen. Wyden’s staff in March 2009. She worked for the national AFL-CIO as a state legislative issues coordinator and as a campaign director against several anti-union ballot measures sponsored by Bill Sizemore. From 1993 to 1996 she was the Western Regional field coordinator for the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Smith Warner was campaign director for former labor commissioner Dan Gardner, a member of IBEW Local 48. She also has worked as campaign director for Forward Oregon and Future PAC, and on the re-election campaigns of Wyden, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

Commissioners chose Smith Warner  unanimously to represent District 45, which includes parts of Northeast Portland, the city of Maywood Park, and the Parkrose area. She was one of three nominees submitted by the Democratic Party of Oregon. The other contenders were Thomas Sincic and James Woods.

Smith Warner stressed to commissioners her commitment to education and health care reform, as well as her many community connections ranging from her two children’s school (Beverly Cleary) and the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association to the Children’s Book Bank and St. Andrew’s food pantry.

Smith Warner told the Labor Press she will  work to expand the idea of “wraparound care” in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s health care transformation to other areas such as housing, job training (including union apprenticeships) and mental health.

Smith Warner will resign from her job as Wyden’s labor liaison. Her last day is Jan. 5. She will be sworn in as a state representative on Jan. 15.

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