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First take/Wheeler

Usually, the presumption for re-election goes an incumbent when the incumbent hasn’t done a horrible job or isn’t mired in scandal. Portland’s Charlie Hales, who is up for re-election next year and expected to seek a second term, has neither of those problems, and has been more or less what he was sold as the first time: A stable, workaday mayor. And he could be re-elected against any number of other contenders. His odds for next year don’t look so good against Ted Wheeler, though. If Governor John Kitzhaber hadn’t flamed out earlier this year, giving the 2016 gubernatorial advantage to now-incumbent Kate Brown, State Treasurer Wheeler would likely have been the front-runner for governor in 2018 (even though he would have been termed out of office by then). His work has been praised as both competent and innovative at each of the offices he has held so far, as treasurer and as chair of the Multnomah County Commission (his easy election to which showed the already-existing depth of his local support). He has expertise in financial management and a policy palette that makes him appealing to a range of Democrats, a strong combination for Portland. When he announced, he said this: “I’m running for Mayor because I don’t believe we can be a progressive city unless we’re making real progress for the people who need our help the most. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening today. I know we can do better and when I’m Mayor, we will do better.” That may sound like boilerplate for a campaign announcement, but his background and track record actually put some meat on those bones. A good many Portlanders recognize that already, which is a big reason Charlie Hales has abruptly become the guy in second place scrambling to keep his job. – rs

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