Union members running for office

On March 7, another 15 Oregonians graduated from the Oregon Labor Candidate School, a training program for union members who are interested in running for public office: From left, Nancy MacMorris-Adix, ONA, Salem; Mike Powers, SEIU 503, Salem; Judy Schaffer, ONA, Portland; Taylor Bacon, SEIU 503, Portland; Citlalli Nuñez-Barragán , UFCW 555, Aloha; Andrea Kennedy-Smith, SEIU 503, McMinnville; Vanessa Nordyke, AFSCME, Salem; Andy Saultz, AFT, Portland; Terri Niles, ONA, Vancouver; Kevin Sullivan, Director of OLCS; Tommy Thompson, former LiUNA local 483, Portland; Kayleigh Peterman, AFT, Springfield; Karen Williams, AFSCME, Portland; Jade McCredy, AFSCME, Salem; Travis Nelson, ONA, Portland; Dacia Grayber, IAFF, Portland

A handful of union members are running for office on Oregon’s May 19 primary ballot, and thanks to the Oregon Labor Candidate School, they know how to campaign. The school trains union members in the nuts and bolts of running for public office. Here are some of the school’s graduates who are running, along with a list of endorsing unions.

Senate District 10

When union home care provider Deb Patterson challenged Republican State Sen. Jackie Winters two years ago in Salem’s Senate District 10, she got 46% of the vote against the longtime incumbent. Winters died in 2019, and Republican State Rep Denyc Boles was appointed as replacement. Now Patterson is seeking the seat again, and her campaign may be one of the best chances for progressive Democrats to pick up a seat in the Senate, where so many labor-backed proposals have died in recent years for lack of a vote or two. Patterson is a congregationalist minister, a longtime health administrator, an active member of SEIU Local 503, and a believer in universal health care. Her Democratic opponent in the May 19 primary didn’t even file a Voters’ Pamphlet statement, so the real race to watch will be in November, when she expects to face Boles. Boles has been on the opposite side of the union movement on virtually every vote, and in 2020 she took part in the Republican walkout that shut down the legislative session. Oregon AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, Teamsters, OEA, PCUN, SEIU, UFCW  DebPattersonOR.org

House District 33

Two OLCS grads—Andy Saultz and Serin Bussell—are running  against each other to succeed retiring State Rep. Mitch Greenlick in House District 33. Neither has a union at work. Instead they’re voluntary associate members of American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Some local unions are backing another candidate in the Democratic primary, attorney Christina Stephenson.

Andy Saultz, an education professor at Pacific University, was formerly a teachers union member in Michigan. He grew up in the district, and his campaign knocked on 20,000 doors before the epidemic hit. OSEA, Insulators 36, Glaziers 740, United Farm Workers, and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the Teamsters AndyForOregon.org


Serin Bussell worked in procurement for three years at Metro, and served as a shop steward there with AFSCME Local 3580. She left to run Charles Gallia’s unsuccessful campaign for state senate, and then served as chief of staff for State Sen. Jeff Golden. AFT, AFSCME SerinForStateRep.com


House District 35

Dacia Grayber is a Tualatin Valley fire fighter and an active member of IAFF Local 1660. She’s running for the seat held by Margaret Doherty, who’s retiring. Her primary opponent filed no Voters’ Pamphlet statement.  Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon Building Trades, AFSCME, AFT, IAFF, LiUNA, OEA, OFNHP, ONA, OSEA, SEIU, UFCW  DaciaForOregon.com



House District 36

PSU IT specialist Rob Fullmer is a union steward and member of the SEIU Local 503 executive board. He’s running for the seat Jennifer Williamson vacated for her short run for secretary of state. Most unions are backing another candidate, longtime teachers union lobbyist Laurie Wimmer. AFT, SEIU RobForOregon.com


Salem City Council, Ward 7

Vanessa Nordyke –a member of AFSCME Local 1085– is an attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice, representing state employees who are sued on the job. She’s also the immediate past president of the Oregon State Bar. She was appointed to a vacant city council seat in October. Now she faces a challenge from hospital finance director Reid Sund, a conservative who turned down one union’s request for a candidate interview. AFSCME, IAFF, SEIU  ElectVanessaNordyke.com



Oregon Labor Candidate School is taking applications May 1 to Aug. 1 for trainings in the Portland area and the Salem/Eugene area. The day-long classes run October to March one Saturday a month. Get more details about it at oregonlaborcandidateschool.org.

5 Comments on Union members running for office

  1. Thanks for highlighting OLCS and some of our great alumni. I need to note that in HD 36, voters are blessed to have more than one true-blue, pro-labor candidate. The Oregon School Employees Association and many other unions have endorsed our sister in labor, Laurie Wimmer, in HD 36, who is the education champion that we need in the Oregon Legislature.

  2. House District 33 candidate Christina Stephenson’s campaign staff unionized with her full support. She represents workers every day as a worker’s rights lawyer. There is no one better equipped to protect working people than Christina Stephenson.

  3. A large group! It was much larger than the 2019 graduate cohort! Good luck to them all and to those running for office! Vote Blue, because it matters who!

  4. Thanks for the article on the current class of OLCS and those now running who have come through OLCS. To clarify the AFT endorsees are AFT-Oregon endorsed candidates. AFT national does not endorse state races and is left to the state federation to do that important work.

  5. If I lived in his District, I would vote Rob Fulmer 100%
    I think it is wonderful to see the list of dedicated Union workers getting involved, rolling up their sleeves and going into a race that matters so much to all Oregonians.

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