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Posts tagged as “mayor”

Adams: Staying, for now

Word this afternoon that Portland Mayor Sam Adams is hanging in there, scandal notwithstanding, brings to mind a structural comparison with a politician from another state, former Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

Yes, there's the common element of disputes related to gay sex, but there are numerous differences besides that - and the point is a different one. The point has to do with the supposed inevitability of scandal>resign, or be thrown from office. The point is that the inevitability is not always there.

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It happens that way, of course, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being maybe the most spectacular example. But what first looks inevitable sometimes looks less so with time. A decade ago, the resignation of Bill Clinton as president after the Monica Lewinsky affair was widely thought to be inevitable, and ouster by impeachment was considered a very serious prospect. But he finished out his term.

The Craig comparison may be more pertinent. Think back to August 2007, to the explosion that greeted news of Craig's "disorderly conduct" arrest in the Minneapolis airport. Within a day or so, the common wisdom was that Craig would quit. This blog bought into that, briefly: "Our initial thought (on hearing the news reports 24 hours ago) was that, since his arrest in a Minneapolis airport mens room had little to do with his work as a senator, he might be able to ride it out, at least through this term (though re-election seems a lot cause). We no longer think so: While Craig is very unlikely to be forced out, conditions are deteriorating so quickly that his staying may soon become impractical."

But we also wrote not long after that Craig could stay if he chose. After all, there are no recall provision for U.S. senators; the only way he could be thrown out was to be expelled by the Senate, and since he broke no major laws (just a misdemeanor), that was highly unlikely. And while his clout in the Senate would be diminished if he stayed, he retained his vote, his grasp of how to work in the Senate, his staff and his public platform. That apparently is how Craig read it, when days later he announced that he would finish out his term. Which, earlier this month, he did.

Mayors, those in Portland included, can be recalled - the only way an elected official in Oregon can be made to leave. But not until six months have passed following a swearing-in, and weeks would pass after that before an election actually would be held.

Will the current Adams fury last that long? If Adams turns out to be a pretty good mayor in the months from here to there, will the anger be hot enough for the voters to fire him?

Maybe. But in the meantime, while circumscribed and while suffering some diminished clout and reputation, Adams would retain the prerogatives of office, his highly sophisticated grasp of how things work in Portland, and some (albeit not all) of his useful political relationships. (Of course, as Steve Duin's Thursday Oregonian column suggested, Adams would be wise to not stand in the way of any attempt to recall him, and should - at least publicly - welcome the verdict of the voters later this year.)

Taken as a whole, Adams' call on this sounds not so drastically different from Craig's, and from Clinton's. How well will it work? Check back in six months . . .

Adams’ survivability

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

Our first take on the scandal storm surrounding Portland Mayor Sam Adams (now a national story) was that it was significant but probably survivable, on grounds that his actions has no involvement with the handling of his current office. There also seemed to be a limit to the water torture effect: What else could come out to keep the story alive, to justify ongoing headlines?

As we get into Day 3, though, the question of Adams' survivability is moving rapidly in new directions, and becoming a lot less clear. There's an accumulative piling on effect, and it could make Adams' position untenable in short order. There are four factors here: The fact that he lied; that he lied about the whole case in response to charges from a fellow candidate for mayor, developer Bob Ball, which led to Ball's statements being dismissed as untrue; acknowledgment that another part of his story (relating to mentoring) was untrue as well; and the appearance at least that as a city council member he hired away a reporter at the Portland Mercury who was working on the story, essentially to quash it. The line between private activity and abuse of office has gotten a little blurrier.

There's a recall effort underway; the grounds: "1. Alleged illegal sexual misconduct with a minor under the age of 18; 2. Alleged ethical misconduct during his mayoral campaign of 2008 by making false statements; 3. Alleged ethical misconduct by encouraging others to lie about his own misconduct; 4. Alleged ethical misconduct by awarding city jobs to members of the media that were reporting, or were professing to report, this issue." That effort is somewhat stymied, though, because under state law elected officials cannot be recalled until they have served at least six months in office.

Although there's been no specific allegation of an illegal act, a state attorney general's inquiry is under way. Multnomah County is doing likewise.

And the news media is all over the story. The print Oregonian this morning had six news stories about Adams' scandal this morning - probably more space devoted to it in the local section than to everything else there put together - along with an editorial concluding: "He's already said he doesn't plan to quit, but we submit that it is not in the city's interest to have a mayor who cannot vouch for his own character under fire. He should resign." The Portland Tribune called for resignation too. And so have piles of letters to the editor around the area.

Can Adams ride this out, or is he being swamped by the storm? Today, even though a resignation may be the only way he would depart, his odds of survival in office much longer look a little less than even.

Seattle: About to rumble?

Greg Nickels

Greg Nickels

When Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was first elected to that job in 2001, the campaigning was tough. First there was the matter of outpolling a sitting mayor, Paul Schell (and dispatching of a bunch of sliver candidates), but that turned out to be the easier part. In the runoff with City Attorney Mark Sidran (just recently cycled off the state utilities commission), it's easy to forget now that Sidran raised and spent far more money, probably had a broader range of support, and got most of the media endorsements. In the runoff, Nickels won with 50.1% of the vote, likely the closest major race in Washington until the governor's contest three years later.

It's a sign of how readily office holders can establish themselves - and Nickels did, forcefully - that re-election in 2005 was an easy walk, not a run, prevailing with a 29% lead over his nearest opponent. And there's some thought that this year - and Nickels evidently will seek a third term - may be more of the same, as demonstrated in the decision by City Council President Richard Conlin not to run for the job.

And yet it's not that simple. Over at Crosscut, editor David Brewster makes a persuasive argument that this election still may turn into a snorter. Odds favor his case.

The key point is Nickels' favorability ratings in the polls, which long had held to a generally sound level but in recent months have taken a serious hit. The recent no-road-salt dispute in the city - the decision not to salt snowy Seattle roads, a decision later apparently reversed - may have been a contributing factor in Nickels' 28% favorables in one recent poll. Such a low number likely will rebound, at least somewhat. Even so, some core vulnerability is evident. (more…)