Jefferson Smith (politician)

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Jefferson Smith
Jefferson Smith of Oregon - 2008.jpg
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 47th district
In office
Preceded by Jeff Merkley
Succeeded by Jessica Vega Pederson[1]
Personal details
Born (1973-06-29) June 29, 1973 (age 41)
Portland, Oregon
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Oregon
Harvard Law School
Profession Attorney

Jefferson Smith (born June 29, 1973) is an Oregon Democratic politician, founder of the Bus Project and a former member of the Oregon House of Representatives, representing District 47 in east Portland, having been elected in 2008. He was a candidate for Mayor of Portland in 2012, being one of two candidates to advance beyond the primary election, but lost to Charlie Hales in the November general election. He served in the 2012 Legislative session, but to facilitate his run for mayor he did not run for reelection to the House and he vacated his seat in the Legislature after serving four years.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Smith was born in Portland in 1973 to attorney and former Umatilla County district attorney R. P. Joe Smith and family therapist Suzanne Peck.[2] He was named for U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.[2] He is a great-great-great grandnephew of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism. His parents split before his second birthday, and he moved with his mother to South Pasadena, California.[2] He returned to Portland during his seventh-grade year, and later became class president at Grant High School.[2][3] His mother died of breast cancer when Smith was a teenager.[2]

Smith earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Oregon, where he was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.[2] At his father's insistence, he took a year off during college, serving as a youth counselor in Lane County and then running youth sports programs in Washington, D.C.[2] Smith went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School, where he finished in the top five percent in his class.[2][4][5]

Following law school, Smith took a job at the New York City law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. His second day on the job, he was asked to take a case defending tobacco companies.[2] He declined, and returned to Oregon.[3] He took a job with Stoel Rives, but became motivated to establish an organization dedicated to engaging young people with progressive politics.[2] He soon left the law firm, founding the Bus Project in 2001.[5]

Political career[edit]

In 2008, Smith was elected with no opposition to the Oregon House of Representatives representing House District 47. The seat had been vacated by Jeff Merkley, who was running for the United States Senate.[6]

In the Legislature, Smith collaborated with representatives from rural Eastern Oregon to develop a statewide water strategy. He co-led the initiative called "Cool Schools" to create jobs by helping Oregon public schools begin retrofitting for energy savings. Smith co-led the legislature's budget transparency initiative to put Oregon government spending information online, and carried a bill to reduce the ratio of middle managers to line employees in state government. Smith also co-led the initiative to create online voter registration in Oregon, and carried a bill in the Legislature to allow trafficked minors to expunge their prostitution convictions upon reaching age 21 if they have had no other trouble with the law.[7]

In April 2011, Smith released the results of a video he compiled of Oregon state representatives reciting the lyrics of Rick Astley's 1980s pop hit "Never Gonna Give You Up".[8]

In September 2011, he announced he would run for Mayor of Portland in 2012.[9] In the May 2012 primary election, Smith defeated most other candidates to become one of the two candidates advancing to the November general election. He received 32.9% of the vote in the primary, while Charlie Hales received 37.2%.[10] In the general election, closing on November 6, 2012, Smith received approximately 31.3% of the vote and was defeated by Hales, who received 61.2%.[11]

Smith served in the 2012 Legislative session, but to facilitate his run for mayor he did not run for reelection to the House and vacated his seat in the Legislature after serving four years.[1]


Smith is married to Katy Lesowski, also a Portland native, and a co-founder of the Bus Project.[5][12] His stepmother, Meredith Wood Smith, is former chair of the Oregon Democratic Party.[2]

1993 fraternity party incident[edit]

In 1993, Jefferson Smith was involved in an incident at a fraternity party. A young woman mistakenly believed that Smith had tipped over the sofa she was sleeping on. When she awakened she angrily attempted to strike Smith and in the ensuing confusion Smith struck her face with his hand, as a result of which she received stitches. Smith paid the woman's hospital bill and agreed to a diversion agreement.[13]

Smith threw a punch at another player while participating in a pick-up game of basketball at the now-closed Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women. Smith said that a player threw him to the ground and denies punching the player in the groin. Instead, he said he hit his thigh.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Wong, Peter (November 10, 2012). "Capitol Watch: New members of the Oregon House and Senate". Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon). Retrieved November 18, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Law, Steve (March 26, 2009). "Mr. Smith goes to Salem". Portland Tribune. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Collins, Cliff (May 2006). "Jefferson Smith: Active in the Forum". Oregon State Bar. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Jefferson Smith". Project VoteSmart. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Meet Jeff". Retrieved 2008-11-13. [dead link]
  6. ^ Friesen, Mark (November 4, 2008). "Oregon Legislature Results". Oregonian. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Oregon House of Representatives, Representative Jefferson Smith". Oregon State Legislature. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ "How one Oregon lawmaker convinced his colleagues to 'Rick Roll' the state legislature". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2011-04-08. 
  9. ^ Slovic, Beth (September 13, 2011). "Jefferson Smith announces he will run for Portland mayor, challenging Eileen Brady and Charlie Hales". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ "May 2012 Primary Election - Official Results". Office of the City Auditor, Portland. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ "November 2012 General Election - Official Results". Office of the City Auditor, Portland. December 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ Law, Steve (March 21, 2008). "Timely moves set up races". East County News. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  13. ^ Slovic, Beth (October 8, 2012). "Police report: Woman said Jefferson Smith 'really popped me' in 1993". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 18, 2012. 
  14. ^

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