Oregon Senator Kathleen Taylor represents the 21st district, which includes Oak Grove, the city of Milwaukie, a small part of Northeast Portland, and inner Southeast Portland. This is her second term in the Oregon Senate, but she has also served a term as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives. She’s lived in Oregon for 25 years and is a mom of two teenagers. She has been an auditor for the city of Portland and for the state of Oregon. These experiences provide background knowledge for her current political position as she spent time evaluating the efficacy of different strategies and resource allocations.
For a long time, Taylor didn’t think she could have a role in politics. She’d always wanted to have one but had looked at those positions of power and seen them filled with white men. It felt like an unrealistic goal. If she could go back and change one thing about her high school and college experience she “…would have gotten involved in politics at a younger age and run for office at a younger age.”
Taylor eventually decided to run for office. After one term as a representative for the 41st district, she decided to run for a senate seat. In 2016, with the odds and endorsements in her opponent’s favor, she went canvassing door to door. She ended up winning the Democratic primary by 89 percent of the vote and moved on to the general election where she won with 77 percent of the vote. She was re-elected to that seat in 2020 with almost 100 percent of the vote.
“I can remain sane and still do my work fighting for people who can’t fight for themselves,” says Taylor. Her main goal is to help meet others’ needs as her needs are already met. She has a high appreciation for her position and wants to work on realizing her privilege while continuing to help others. She also emphasizes the importance of examining the “lenses” that we use to look at issues. Taylor uses “lens” to refer to each individual’s perception of the world; social lenses like someone’s race, culture, religion, and economic status can play into the way that they see things. In order to take a step back and really see an issue, you need to recognize how your lived experience plays into your understanding of the world.
Besides her broad goal of meeting others’ needs, her top priority is the climate: “I always start every speech in town halls with ‘climate change is the issue of our time.’” Her focus on this actually ties into her priority to fight for people who need it the most because “those who are the most vulnerable suffer the most.” This is in reference to the disproportionate effect that climate change consequences have on groups disadvantaged by social inequalities and inequities.
She thinks that civics education is very important and wants more passionate young people to have access to the system so that they can fight for what they care about. Government, especially local government, can be accessible, and Taylor says she wants more people to see exactly “how powerful an individual citizen can be.”