Maxine Dexter will take the House District 33 seat seven months earlier than she planned.
Dexter, a Kaiser Permanente physician from Northwest Portland, was appointed Friday to succeed Democrat Mitch Greenlick, who died May 15 at age 85. Dexter won a four-way Democratic primary May 19 for the open seat. Greenlick had announced during his 2018 campaign that his ninth term in the House would be his last.
Dexter's appointment marks a first. According to the House Majority Office, women now represent half of the 60 House districts in Oregon.
Dexter was sworn in Sunday by Justice Adrienne Nelson of the Oregon Supreme Court in a private ceremony. If the seat remained vacant on Monday, 30 days after Greenlick’s death, state law empowers the governor to appoint any qualified Democrat.
“I will do all I can to make my role in this government one that people can look back on as one who really aspired to fill the shoes of Rep. Greenlick,” Dexter said just before the vote by commissioners in Washington and Multnomah counties. “He was willing and able to advance the importance of public health, regardless of the pressures outside. Being able to be candid and forthright is something I would like to emulate.”
Dexter, 47, has been a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Kaiser for 12 years. She sat on the KP board for six years and led it for more than two years. She also joined the board of the Tualatin Hills Park Foundation in 2019. She is married to Robert Dexter, who’s also a physician. They have a daughter and son.
Dexter has identified racial equity and adequate housing as top issues facing the Legislature and elected officials.
“The (racial) fault lines have existed for generations and it is time to address them,” she said.
She won about 40% of the Democratic primary vote. Dick Courter of Portland was unopposed for the Republican nomination. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 45.5% to 16.7%, according to May figures; about a third of district voters have no party affiliation.
Dexter was nominated by Democratic precinct committee members, who also put forth Valerie Aitchison and Pamela Kislak. Both had supported Dexter in the primary and urged the commissioners to appoint Dexter. State law required the party to propose three to five names for consideration by the commissioners.
“This is a situation where we can all agree on who the obvious choice will be,” said Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten.
The votes were weighted 64% for the five Washington County commissioners and 36% for the five Multnomah County commissioners, based on the registered voters within the district. The district extends from Northwest Portland into unincorporated communities in Washington County north of the Sunset Highway.
All of the votes were cast for Dexter. Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann did not participate, and the law bars proxy voting.
Commissioner Roy Rogers, who represents an area outside House District 33, said he hoped Dexter would take the time to learn about other Washington County issues.
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