You’d be well within reason saying that this is awfully early to start handicapping the Portland mayoral race, especially since no one seems to have announced candidacy yet.
Maybe not too early, though, to take an initial run at it – one suggesting that City Council member Sam Adams is strongly positioned to take over when a new mayor is installed at the beginning of 2009. Thing is, opponents are falling by the wayside before the announcing even begins.
Not that Adams has announced, or even been notably visible since Tom Potter said he won’t run again, opening the office for next year and presumably firing up interest. (After all, candidates last time totaled 23.) Adams is only presumed intending to run, though the presumption looks solid.
This is a little remarkable, because Adams’ actual electoral record isn’t spectacular. He’s run for and won office (on the Portland city council) once, in 2004; there, Nick Fish (now a TV talk show host) beat him 47.7% to 37.1% in the primary, opening a lead that at first looked like too much ground for Adams to make up; running very strong that fall and helped by a string of endorsement, Adams bounced back in November, winning 51.4% to 48.6% – a win, sure enough, but hardly the makings of a political titan. He had been a mayoral chief of staff – centrally involved in city hall but not the front guy – for 11 years (after a decade in other jobs in the building); his issues expertise was unquestioned, but his role as a political personal leader of people was.
No longer. He’s developed into maybe the most charismatic of Portland political figures, a powerful speaker (we watched that at his speech Monday endorsing Democrat Jeff Merkley for the Senate), even an entertainer. You get the sense that today, he could out-campaign just about any other candidate for Portland office. From an excellent recent Oregonian profile: “As a city commissioner, Adams has become the leading voice for transparent government and an enthusiastic publicity hound. He invited a TV crew to film his surgery, brought cameras along as he manned a Burgerville drive-through and strutted the stage in a local charity version of ‘Dancing With the Stars.'”
There may be quite a few next year, but this week the number of prospects seemed to drop.
One of the best prospects was a businessman, Roy Jay, a leader in the city’s black business community and in other ways; he’s an untested candidate, but the prospect of a Jay candidacy drew praise from both left and right. He will remain untested for a little longer, though. Not long ago he had moved to a new house and only recently discovered it was just outside of Portland city limits, barring him from a mayoral run (this time, at least).
Then there’s Bob Ball, a major-league developer in the high-end Pearl District, also interested in running for mayor.
Some weeks ago, Ball started conversing, quietly, with other political figures in the city, about what he suggested might be a case of child abuse – by Adams, who is gay, and openly, as is Ball. Adams acknowledged that he has had a mentoring relationship with a 17-year-old boy who was dealing with coming out of the closet; they and others of their acquaintance, however, have sharply denied anything improper was going on, said that none of it was secret, and Adams has said that he’d do nothing different in hindsight.
The quick and open response seems to have turned the issue around, and soon turned into the “smear campaign” against him – by Ball. The Oregonian wrote, “Gay on gay political smearing?” – and the story began going national. By which point the backfire began roaring in on Ball, including an editorial (which included a cautionary note or two as well for Adams) in Thursday’s Oregonian.
Two down, looks like. Next?Share on Facebook