Podcast: City Council Candidate Angelita Morillo

At just 27 years old and with no prior experience in elected office, southeast Portland resident Angelita Morillo is currently leading the entire field of 2024 council and mayoral candidates in total number of campaign contributions. And it’s not even close.

That fact alone should pique your interest in this rising political star who wants to represent District 3 on Portland’s City Council.

I started following Morillo on her popular social media channels long before she declared her candidacy. I appreciated how she deftly described detailed city policies, educated her (mostly young) followers about local government, and then encouraged them to vote and get involved. I didn’t know at the time she immigrated to Portland from Paraguay at a young age, or that she attended Lincoln High School. When I saw a photo of her, on her campaign website, standing in the middle of the school’s national title-winning Constitution Team in 2014, it all began to make sense.

I’ve since watched Morillo build a huge following on TikTok, and when she announced her city council run, I knew it was just a matter of time until we sat down for a chat. In the past few months, I’ve talked with her several times and have come away impressed. Her combination of smarts, life and work experience, communication skills and work ethic should make her someone to watch in local political circles for years to come.

When she recently asked to do a bike ride of her district and visit Bike Happy Hour, I happily obliged.

On Wednesday I towed my wife’s bike (they’re the same height) down to Worker’s Tap on SE 12th and Ankeny (the worker-owned and “democratically run” pub is one of Morillo’s favorite spots.) From there, we did a 6.5 mile loop (route) before Bike Happy Hour and then I did a short interview with her at the event, followed by some audience Q&A. We were mic’d up for the bike ride and I recorded the Happy Hour conversations and turned all of it into this podcast episode.

Here’s a bit of what you’ll hear in the episode:

From our ride:

“My mom never had a car and she doesn’t know how to drive. So we grew up riding bikes, and then taking the bus. I moved to Portland when I was in middle school… I’ve never learned how to ride a bike for city riding.”

“It’s honestly been the cost of getting a bike that’s been a barrier. But I really need one, because the buses run so infrequently… I really do wish I had a bike for things like go to the grocery store.”

“There’s just been a lot of propaganda about bicyclists like, ‘Oh, they’re just annoying and entitled’,” and it strikes me very much as a millennial critique.”

Why do you think that’s such a popular narrative among your followers?

“I honestly just think we’ve had decades of propaganda around cars and car infrastructure. I was talking to someone else who was telling me they really feel like their car gives them a sense of freedom they don’t get otherwise, because they feel constricted by time if they have to take the bus. Or if they have to, you know, go on a bike, it’s not like they can carry the same amount of things.

And I was trying to explain to them that the reason they experienced that freedom is because being in a car is prioritized by all of the infrastructure.”

“We’ll have to do more of these [rides] if you’re up for it.”

“Okay, [a bike] is gonna be my my tax refund purchase this year!”

From the interview at Bike Happy Hour:

“During my time at PSU [Portland State University, where she studied political science], I was homeless for a little under a year. And a lot of my schoolmates didn’t know that I was homeless… my high school teachers actually ended up finding out that I was homeless for that portion of my life, and they took me in, and if it wasn’t for them, I probably would not have graduated university.”

“I worked at City Hall where I did constituent services for former commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty… that’s where I learned people don’t know who is in charge of what decisions and they don’t know which bureaus are responsible for the messes that are happening. And because of that, we aren’t able to effectively organize and hold people accountable. So I ended up creating a TikTok to explain local government and policy to people who otherwise wouldn’t be informed about these issues.”

“I get very sentimental about the bus. I’ve seen people with their families. I’ve seen their kids grow up. I’ve seen people fall in love on the bus. So I think people have horror stories about the bus. I’m a young woman. So obviously I have horror stories about existing in a public sphere. But I think it was always something that I really deeply loved.”

“Mainly what I’ve seen is just the public being frustrated that our current city council really lacks political courage and imagination. So everything that they’re doing right now is to destroy things. They’re trying to destroy Portland Street Response, they’re trying to remove bike lanes, they’re trying to prevent charter change from being implemented. Right? So I think that what people are asking is for us to be bold, and to just have a different vision for the city.”

Listen to the full episode in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Happy Guy PDX
Happy Guy PDX
2 months ago

I doubt you will publish this but it sounds to me like Angelita Morillo has the same vision as her old boss Joanne Hardesty did. Vote accordingly. 🙂

Granpa
Granpa
2 months ago
Reply to  Happy Guy PDX

If elected, Ms. Morillo may be able to leverage a similar white liberal guilt to that which Hardesty used during her tenure to browbeat the mayor, warp Portland’s priorities and alienate the police.

El timito
El timito
2 months ago
Reply to  Happy Guy PDX

What’s with all the Hardesty bashing around here? Is having a woman of color in a position of power that threatening to your beloved status quo? As an older, white, cis het, property owning dude, I gotta say I found her perspective and actions positive for our city council. Having lived in Portland for 3 decades I’ve seen a lot of mayors and commisioners from my demographic doing squat for the city – including, perhaps especially, the dude who replaced her.
She stood up a service, Portland Street Response, that provides actual solutions to city problems. RG has directed them not to do life saving work and has failed to deliver on a commitment to expand the service to 24 hours a day.
If “identity politics” isn’t working for you maybe your identity is already over represented in our power structure.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  El timito

Had to get all the labels in there eh? Maybe people don’t like Hardesty because they just felt she didn’t do much for them?

Christopher of Portland
Christopher of Portland
2 months ago
Reply to  El timito

I’m not saying Happy Guy PDX is one of them, but there’s a group (or probably just one person under several names) commenting/posting on the forums here that won’t shut up about Hardesty, Eudaly, and whoever else is on their growing list of enemies. They love words like pragmatic and ideologue.

Middle o the Road Guy
Middle o the Road Guy
2 months ago

You might have to ask yourself why those words bother you.

JonathanR
JonathanR
2 months ago
Reply to  El timito

I really like JoAnn, even though I didn’t vote for her. Smart and wicked dedicated. No one worth their salt plays it safe, and while I think she made some mistakes, she was a powerful voice for the voiceless. Mostly, I don’t think that the City Council gave her the same kind of platform to do as many good things as she did in the state legislature.

But to the broader point, the fact that Ms. Morillo worked for Comm’r Hardesty is almost entirely irrelevant; in the same way that Ron Wyden does a great job for the State, but I don’t think I’d ever vote for Loretta Smith.

Karl Dickman
Karl Dickman
2 months ago
Reply to  Happy Guy PDX

She worked in constituent services. Portland is far too big for each commissioner to answer the wave of emails and phone cdlls they get every single day. If you want your communications with city hall to be paid any attention at all, you need someone to handle it. You have every right not to like Hardesty, but even commissioners you don’t like also have dities to be responsive to the public. Insisting that anyone who does constituent services be held accountable for their bosses’ actions is a great way to dissuade anyone but the most sycophantic partisan hack from ever doing the job. Is that really how you want this city to run?

John V
John V
2 months ago
Reply to  Happy Guy PDX

Big if true, I’ll vote for her too if that’s the case.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago

It’s naturally early days and I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but from these excerpts, Morillo sounds very promising.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

Listened to the podcast! I still find Morillo promising.

One particular highlight for me: Non-drivers are probably one of the least represented groups there is in this city/state/country. It sounds like Morillo would be a step in correcting that at the city level.

 
 
2 months ago

“It’s honestly been the cost of getting a bike that’s been a barrier. But I really need one, because the buses run so infrequently… I really do wish I had a bike for things like go to the grocery store.”

This stuck out to me not because of the part about bicycles, but because of the part about how terrible TriMet is about providing any sort of reliable service. And I think that’s something we don’t talk about enough. In their infatuation with new shiny trains, TriMet has completely neglected bus service for decades, and the network is a hollow shell of what it could be.

As light rail lines have been added, bus service in other less-fortunate areas of the city has been constantly removed or scaled back. Fortunately this has been reversing in recent years with the upgrading of many new lines to frequent service such as the recent upgrade of the 48 and the less-recent upgrade of the 73. But it’s my belief that our love affair with light rail has actually been detrimental to transit for the vast, vast majority of Portlanders who don’t live right next to a light rail line. All the investment has gone to these narrow corridors — often in undesirable areas right along freeways — while the remainder of the network has suffered due to a lack of funding.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to   

I don’t know if your claim is correct – that investment in light rail has caused disinvestment in bus service. The MAX Red Line to PDX, for example, has provided a great service and attracted many riders, and also probably the MAX Blue Line to avoid the traffic on Hwy 26. My main criticism of the MAX is that it’s just too slow, especially thru downtown. It needs to be buried (or elevated) so it can run faster and attract more riders – though of course critics would see those costs as detracting from bus service even more.

A perceived lack of safety on the MAX also deters many would-be riders, but bus drivers are no longer able to keep non-fare-paying riders off buses, either, though you at least have a responsible adult on buses, unlike most MAX trains.

The one part of Angelita’s interview that made me LOL was her comment about how buses in her part of town (SE) run so infrequently – every 20 minutes (!).

C’mon out to SW, Angelita, where you’re lucky if your bus runs every hour – and that’s if there’s any bus at all!

rick
rick
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

TriMet once had frequent service on a bendy bus on TV Highway / Canyon Road from Forest Grove to Sylvan and then downtown. The buses sometimes burned down, but bus 58 provides barely any service and the buses don’t run past 5:40 pm on the weekends. West Slope doesn’t have a grocery store or the family-friendly businesses it once had, but that problem is somewhat because of land-use zoning.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago

I listened to most of the interview and was impressed by Angelita’s intelligence and energy. But wouldn’t it be better to gain some more work experience, etc before running for a top office in the city?

I won’t be able to vote for (or against) Angelita but I would want a more experienced candidate who is good at politics. If she is good at politics in the same way Hardesty was good at politics, I would never vote for her. She might want to explain how she would govern differently from her old boss.

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Agreed, I think most Portlanders are done with identity politics and just want level-headed experience and sane expectations.

Granpa
Granpa
2 months ago

This

Karl Dickman
Karl Dickman
2 months ago

Can you please provide a quote from Morillo that is an example of “identity politics”? I reread to whole article and I’m not finding it. She mostly talks about biking and transit, and a bit about her desire to demystify local government.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Karl Dickman

I haven’t listened to the podcast, although I met Morillo at Bike Happy Hour. I’ve noticed too that a woman running for office, especially if she is Muslim, or has a Spanish name, or fits into any ethnic category, is automatically considered to be running on “identity politics.”

It’s so bald, nobody makes that accusation against Gonzalez.

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago

Probably because everyone has been told that Rene is actually a Republican?

Or perhaps it has to do with their political positions, and not their preferred gender. Just a thought.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Chris I

Was it last week, or two weeks ago, a commenter was adding Carmen Rubio to the list of “identity politic” women. From what I can tell Rubio governs as a centrist Democrat, or a moderate Republican, circa 1981. So my thought is that her being included in that list had more to do with being a woman, with a Spanish name, than anything to do with her political positions, which seem in line with Wheeler’s.

Mapps wasn’t included, nor Gonzalez, nor Ryan, but Rubio was singled out for some reason.

Middle o the Road Guy
Middle o the Road Guy
2 months ago

You have to admit that based on our local population, Hispanic women are vastly over-represented in local political positions. It’s almost like it’s on purpose.

“To increase the number of Democratic women leaders from diverse backgrounds in public office through recruitment, training, and providing a powerful network.”

Regarding Gonzalez, Progressives are describing him as a white guy.

SD
SD
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Looks like she has more experience than Mapps or Gonzalez did when they were elected.

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  SD

Some people believe that non-governmental experience is important.

SD
SD
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Some people equate age and social station with “experience” even when that experience is a failed career, or rallying an illiterate facebook mob, or collaborating with hate groups.

With the problems that we are facing in the coming decades and the scale of societal changes that will be needed to address these problems, it may be that candidates who are younger will take these issues more seriously. They may put societal interests first and their attaboys at the Mac Club lower down on the list. They will have more to lose and be more compelled to inspire and make difficult decisions. Mediocre “reassuring old guy in a sweater” candidates whose elections are won and paid for by dinosaurs tied to their dying businesses are not going to move the ball.

Morillo’s life experience and her perspective strikes me as being very valuable. Her videos are more sincere, communicative and effective than anything I have seen from the current council.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  SD

Mediocre “reassuring old guy in a sweater” candidates…

Not surprisingly the (or closely adjacent) demographic to be guilty of exactly the sort of uneven/biased judgement Lisa’s calling out elsewhere in these comments. “Oh, it’s not that, it’s their politics! They’ve done nothing for us!” …neither have their male colleagues who, as Lisa points out, seem to garner much less criticism from these doth-too-much-protestors. But I’m sure they have women friends, so, you know, it can’t be what it appears to be.

Morillo’s life experience and her perspective strikes me as being very valuable. Her videos are more sincere, communicative and effective than anything I have seen from the current council.

Agreed!

Middle o the Road Guy
Middle o the Road Guy
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

You’re correct. Male political servants are never criticized here.

Can’t even remember the last time I heard someone complain about Wheeler.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Let’s close out the year together, Middle of the Road Guy! I’m glad to see you writing more substantive comments than in the past.

Let’s take Mingus Mapps as an example. No one has received more punishing coverage from BikePortland than he has.

Yet during that entire storm, nobody–not a single commenter–lumped him with Dan Ryan and Rene Gonzalez and said anything like,

“I think most Portlanders are done with identity politics and just want level-headed experience and sane expectations.”

even though all of those men have mentioned their various identities on the campaign trail (gay, black, son of Mexican immigrant), and all of them were political newbies.

That shows how differently many people react to men and women in power.

Cyclekrieg
2 months ago

Jon, suggestion: When talking to candidates, can you please to remember to ask them about their views regarding urban mountain biking? Including the following two items: 1) Removing the RVNA ban, placed by fiat. 2) Allowing trail construction in other parks properties, especially Forest Park, per the Forest Park Master Plan. Ms. Morillo worked for former commissioner Jo Hardesty, who had the view that mountain biking was a sport of ‘privileged white men’.

Ms. Morillo: Cyclists, especially those that commute and advocate for better infrastructure, have been called “privileged” for a while. Believing that is some “millennial critique” is wrong. As a Gen Xer married to Millennial, self-absorption and navel-gazing are very much a Millennial generation characteristic. And yes, that is “millennial critique”. 🙂

Fred
Fred
2 months ago

I agree. Cycling is already such a niche issue for candidates, and urban mountain biking is a niche within that niche.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Fred

It really stuck in my craw that BP asked Terry Preeg Rigsby about mountain bike trails in Portland and not her opponent, Duncan Hwang.

If I remember correctly, one of Hwang’s first votes was to approve the Rose Quarter expansion. Rigsby had said in her interview that she couldn’t think of a reason why any freeway should be expanded.

So yeah, Portland faces big issues and we are shooting ourselves in the foot to derail a good candidate because of her response on what is a minor issue for most people. What’s Hwang’s take on urban mountain biking?

Cyclekrieg
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I would argue it’s a niche within a niche that actually improves the niche it exists in. If you are “riding to your ride” from your house and that mile of two of on street riding is stressful and awful, you are going to get really motivated to those areas better.

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

And we shouldn’t be shocked that it is a niche sport when it has been effectively banned in Portland for decades.

Imagine how “niche” golf would be if there were no legal courses, and people had to build their own holes and play on existing fields with other people in the way.

Middle o the Road Guy
Middle o the Road Guy
2 months ago

At just 27 years old and with no prior experience in elected office”

Because she is being supported by the political machine of Emerge Oregon.

Ingrid Bernardsdottir
Ingrid Bernardsdottir
2 months ago

*** Moderator: deleted first few sentences. Insulting to group of people.***

The 12 apostles comprising our new Council will largely be a theatrical sideshow, for the governmental structure is basically autocratic, in the hands of the City Manager.

Who will be Michael Jordan, formally consolidating the essential powers he now exercises.