In Short

Stephenson claims victory as Oregon’s labor commissioner

By: - November 9, 2022 2:51 pm

Christina Stephenson has declared victory in the labor commissioner race. (Campaign photo)

Employment attorney Christina Stephenson held a more than 20-point lead over her competitor in the race to lead the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, leading her campaign to declare victory Tuesday night. 

Though final results could be days away, by Wednesday morning, polls continued to show Stephenson, who had a huge fundraising advantage, leading by about 61% compared to 40% for her competitor, Bend restaurant owner and former Republican lawmaker Cheri Helt. Helt has not yet conceded the race.

BOLI enforces anti-discrimination, labor and civil rights laws in the workplace and in housing and oversees apprenticeship programs and state workforce development programs. 

In a statement Tuesday night, Christenson wrote that she was prepared to get to work immediately as commissioner.

“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves on day one: expanding apprenticeship and job training opportunities; ensuring small businesses get the support they need; and working through the backlog of potential civil rights and wage violations, so that every Oregon worker can confidently access their rights in the workplace,” Stephenson wrote.  

Stephenson has won a majority of votes in 17 of the state’s 36 counties, including 80% of the vote in Multnomah County, the most populous. 

She would replace former commissioner Val Hoyle, who declared victory in her election to represent Oregon’s 4th Congressional District in Congress, and would oversee a current biennial budget of more than $62 million. The role of commissioner is nonpartisan and has a four-year term. 

In a statement, the statewide federation of unions Oregon AFL-CIO called her an advocate for working people. 

“We are ecstatic about Christina Stephenson’s victory, and know that as our next labor commissioner, she’ll be a strong advocate for workers in every sector of our state’s diverse economy,” the group wrote. It represents about 300,000 workers in Oregon, and had endorsed Stephenson in her campaign. 

Stephenson raised nearly $1.7 million compared with $537,000 for Helt, according to Secretary of State campaign finance data.

Helt, owner of Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails in Bend, is a former Republican state House representative and former member of the Bend-La Pine School District. Like Stephenson, she campaigned on expanding apprenticeship programs in the state and addressing the agency’s backlog of civil rights cases, though the two differed on the management of the agency’s budget. Helt did not respond to calls, emails and texts by Wednesday afternoon.

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.

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