By Gordon R. Friedman

After 40 years as a Republican, Lori Stegmann has had a change of heart -- and political party.

Stegmann, elected a Multnomah County commissioner in 2016, has changed her affiliation to Democrat, she said in an interview Tuesday.

Stegmann, 58, said she can sum up the reason for the change with one word: Trump. She added that she "cannot condone the misogyny, the racism, and the unethical and immoral behavior of the current administration."

Stegmann represents District 4 on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. That district includes Gresham, Troutdale, Corbett and other small east county communities.

She said she is a political moderate, owing in part to her experience growing up in her district, as a businesswoman working in insurance and as a Republican who admired party greats like Sen. Mark Hatfield and Gov. Tom McCall.

"I have not changed but the Republican Party most certainly has," she said.

Stegmann cited the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children after border crossings caused as another reason she decided to change her political affiliation. Stegmann was born in South Korea and orphaned there, adopted by an American family and later became a naturalized citizen.

"I serve on an all-woman board," she said in reference to the county commission. "I'm a minority. I'm an immigrant."

She said some Republicans' rhetoric casting immigrants as a threat is a "false narrative," adding, "I think people need to see we're all immigrants."

Stegmann said that the Democratic Party better fits her politics, calling it "a big tent party."

The party change won't affect county business. Seats on the board of commissioners are nonpartisan. But Stegmann said the change is still symbolic and personal for her.

"This decision is about who I am, what I believe in and my core values. And if you don't stand for something, then you stand for nothing," Stegmann said.

"I prefer to stand," she said. "And now I stand with the Democrats."

(c)2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)