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Winning a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives in 1972 and was re-elected in 1974 and 1976. During this time he was also attending law school and working at Portland State University. In 1978 he won a seat on the Multnomah County Commission and during his term sought a seat on the Portland City Council in 1981. He would lose this race to Margaret Strachan.
While on the city council, Blumenauer was able to work on transportation issues and was the Commissioner of Public Works for the city. It was during his time on the city council that Blumenauer went up against Vera Katz in the open mayoral election in 1992. While he would lose this race, he continued to serve on the city council and that allowed him the opportunity to run to replace Ron Wyden after he advanced to the U.S. Senate in 1996.