Political Notebook: SF backers host fundraiser for out Oregon House candidate Morales

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 18, 2024
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Oregon congressional candidate Eddy Morales will be in San Francisco this weekend for a campaign fundraiser. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Oregon congressional candidate Eddy Morales will be in San Francisco this weekend for a campaign fundraiser. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

San Francisco supporters of queer Oregon House candidate Eddy Morales are hosting a fundraiser for him this weekend. Their aim is to help him clinch his Democratic primary contest on May 21.

Due to the makeup of the Beaver State's 3rd Congressional District, the winner of the intraparty race is all but assured of clinching the seat in November against their Republican opponent. Oregon still uses party-based primaries to decide the candidates that will appear on the general election ballot.

Morales is seeking to succeed Congressmember Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), who opted not to run for reelection this year. He has endorsements from the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and Equality PAC, the political action committee of the Congressional Equality Caucus. Out Democratic Congressmembers Becca Balint of Vermont, Ritchie Torres of New York, and Mark Takano of California have also endorsed Morales in the race.

First elected to the Grisham City Council in 2018, Morales is in a competitive campaign for the seat. Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal has endorsements from high-profile progressives such as her sister, Washington state Congressmember Pramila Jayapal (D), gay Congressmember Mark Pocan (D) of Wisconsin, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

Also seen as a top contender is Dr. Maxine Dexter, who serves in the Oregon House of Representatives and lives outside the House district in Northwest Portland. She has been endorsed by two of her state's former governors, John Kitzhaber and Ted Kulongoski.

Should Morales win the seat, he would be the first LGBTQ congressmember elected from Oregon and the first person of color to represent the district. By winning the primary and having a relatively easy path to victory come the fall, Morales would be able to help fundraise for other Democratic House candidates across the country, in particular other out contenders such as Delaware state Senator Sarah McBride, who aims to become the first transgender person elected to Congress.

It is why he hopes Bay Area Democrats and others interested in seeing the party retake Congress' lower chamber this year will come out to the fundraiser Saturday, March 23, being held at the Mission District home of Alfredo Pedroza and Wayne Bautista. (It takes place from noon to 2 p.m. with the address provided to those who RSVP online.

"I am going to be put to work to help other people because our district is so safe. People should see this as an investment toward helping other LGBTQ people as well," said Morales during a recent phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "We can win it. Our internal poll shows we win by 11 points, we just need to get our story out."

Pedroza serves on the board of HONOR PAC, the political action committee aimed at electing LGBTQ and straight allied Latinos to public office that also has endorsed Morales in his race. The two out Latino leaders first met over a dozen years ago via mutual acquaintances and have been friends ever since, Pedroza told the B.A.R.

"My husband and I do not often open our home to political fundraisers, only rarely. This is the first one in our home in over 20 years," said Pedroza. "He is just a phenomenal individual we have been privileged to know for more than 15 years now."

In addition to being "smart" and "strategic," Morales is "an incredible fundraiser," noted Pedroza, who will be a key asset for the Democratic Party if deployed as a presumed congressmember-elect.

"Getting him elected to Congress in May will help us win the House because he will go out and fundraise for candidates running for contested seats we need to pick up to win the House back in November," said Pedroza, adding that Morales will bring a needed voice to Washington, D.C. "His lived experience is something I think will benefit not only members of his district in Oregon but queer Latinx people across the country. It is important for us to continue to see our community reach the halls of Congress."

Morales, 44, was born in Los Angeles, the ninth child in his family. His mother and siblings had fled Mexico in the trunk of a car to seek a better life in the U.S.

When his father turned to alcoholism and was abusive to his mom, she once again piled her children into a car and headed for Oregon's Willamette Valley. They settled in Woodburn, where his mother worked as a child care provider, and later lived in Portland.

Resilient in face of tragedy

Morales was the first in the family to attend college, and during his freshman year at the University of Oregon in 2004, his mother returned to Mexico to care for her ailing mother. Because she only had a green card, and didn't file the required paperwork to leave the U.S., she was barred from returning for a decade. She died three months shy of when her travel ban was to expire.

As Morales recounts in his campaign bio, the family suffered other tragedies. A sister, Monica, died in 2019 after battling an addiction to painkillers that stemmed from a shoulder injury that occurred while working on an assembly line.

Two brothers were lost to gun violence. When Morales was in middle school, his brother Jesus was hit in the head by a bullet while at a park and someone shot into the crowd the teenager was in. Having moved back to Mexico, his brother Salvador was on his way to work when someone shot him and stole his tools.

"Part of why I tell these stories is to — one — get rid of the stigma on this stuff, but also these are issues that people in my community, and I think across this country, are experiencing," said Morales. "All of us have a loved one or we know someone going through addiction, or may know someone we lost to gun violence, or has an immigration story."

He acknowledged that due to having a "good paying job," he was able to access counseling through his insurance to help him cope with what his family went through. He also credited his mother for being supportive throughout his life, particularly when he came out, and instilling in her children a community-focused ethic.

"Mom set the tone that we take care of each other and we take care of our community," said Morales. "I think that has been a through line in my life and my work."

He and his husband, Hugh Harris, have been together 21 years and co-own a public relations firm. Their "child" Besitos is an English springer spaniel and Alaskan malamute mix that Morales rescued while visiting family in Mexico.

Morales also co-founded the local group East County Rising, which recruits diverse candidates to run for local office, and serves as board secretary for Planned Parenthood of Columbia-Willamette. Before settling in Grisham Morales had worked in various capacities helping to elect other people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals across the country, such as Takano, and to support them while in office.

"We think it is time for Oregon to have an out LGBTQ person represent them in Congress. It's never had that," noted Morales.

Being able to press for federal policies around the various issues that have impacted his family and residents of the congressional district also motivated him to enter the House race, said Morales.

"The outlet of being able to then organize around common sense gun laws, around mental health and addiction, and housing and increasing affordable housing, I think, is a positive outlet for me. I want to ensure other families don't have to go through this," said Morales.

With the other top contenders in the race from Portland, Morales told the B.A.R. it provides him an opening being from one of the suburbs outside the city. Voters concerned about tent encampments and open-air drug use on Portland's sidewalks may be more inclined to support his candidacy, argued Morales, as his city has worked to address such issues.

"People are not happy with the way the city and county has been run. A lot of things people care about, like homelessness, housing, public safety, violence, and addiction, we have actually addressed those on my city council," said Morales. "People can cross the street into my city and don't see what you see in Portland."

California is currently the only West Coast state with LGBTQ representation in Congress, while Oregon and Washington State have yet to have out members of their congressional delegations. In addition to Morales, also aiming to survive her May 21 party-based primary race in Oregon is Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

A lesbian former councilmember in the Bay Area city of Santa Clara, McLeod-Skinner is running again for Oregon's District 5 House seat after falling short in 2022. She aims to take on a second time Republican Congressmember Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley. (Morales initially had endorsed a friend who later suspended their candidacy in the race and has yet to speak with McLeod-Skinner about endorsing her.)

Meanwhile, queer Democratic state Senator Emily Randall aims to succeed Congressmember Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) in Washington State's Puget Sound region. The Evergreen State holds its primary August 6, and like California, it selects congressional candidates based on a top-two system.

Randall, a former Bay Area resident, is facing a tough campaign for her state's 6th District House seat, as Kilmer endorsed Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to succeed him. But this week the state's senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Patty Murray, sole endorsed Randall, giving her a major boost in the race.

"I'm with Emily for Congress because I know she will be a strong voice for working people — the friends and neighbors she grew up with — in a district that is her home," stated Murray in a March 18 news release from Randall's campaign. "Emily will be a strong voice for women's rights and health care at a crucial moment, and she's someone with a proven track record of being able to deliver on common sense legislative solutions that will make life better for the people she represents."

Also supporting Randall and Morales is BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column provided a vote update in the closely contested Sacramento mayoral primary held March 5.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ This text will be the linkhttps://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko>.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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