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Adams plans meet ironic end

Big changes in store as mayor, Leonard plan to leave council
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Mayor Sam Adams, shown at the March groundbreaking for the Southwest Moody Street reconstruction project, says job creation is a top priority for his remaining 17 months in office.

It is ironic that Mayor Sam Adams decided not to seek re-election last week after reviewing results of an undisclosed, privately funded poll on the 2012 race.

Three years ago, Adams successfully accused his strongest challenger, businessman Sho Dozono, of violating city campaign spending rules when he reviewed a similar poll. Dozono failed to report the $27,295 cost of the poll as an in-kind contribution before he qualified for $161,171 in public campaign financing. Lobbyist Len Bergstein paid for the poll.

In 2008, during his first run for the mayor's office, Adams hired a lawyer and filed an elections complaint about the poll. Two months before the primary election, a state administrative law judge ruled that its value exceeded the maximum amount of in-kind contributions Dozono was allowed to accept. The judge stripped Dozono of his city campaign funds, forcing him to scramble for last-minute private contributions.

Adams won the mayor's race in the primary election with about 59 percent of the vote.

Now, Adams has made a decision about his political future after reportedly reviewing a 2012 mayor's race poll financed by two public employee unions, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Adams says the poll showed him tied with two major candidates in the race, New Seasons co-founder Eileen Brady and former City Commissioner Charlie Hales. All were in the low 20s.

'It would have been a tough race, but I've won tough races before,' Adams says. 'But now I have mayoral responsibilities I didn't have before, and a full-time campaign would detract from those at a time when Portland is more vulnerable than it has ever been.'

What does Adams want to accomplish during his remaining 17 months in office? Adams did not name specific projects, but spoke in broad terms about retaining and creating jobs, diversifying the economy and improving educational achievement.

Adams also says he will announce a new public safety initiative in the fall and bring the city's comprehensive land-use plan update, called the Portland Plan, to the City Council by the end of the year.

In a final, ironic twist on the 2008 fight surrounding Dozono's poll, state elections officials say Adams has to report the cost of the poll as an in-kind contribution, even though it helped persuade him not to run for re-election.

Candidates line up

Adams' July 29 announcement was the most recent development in the early stages of a campaign that will likely change the face of the City Council - perhaps more than any election since 1952. That's the last time a majority of the council was replaced at the same time, which is again a possibility.

One month before Adams announced that he would not seek re-election, Commissioner Randy Leonard made the same decision. Leonard has served on the council since 2002. He has been in charge of some of the city's most controversial issues, including large Water Bureau projects required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that could cause rates to increase 85 percent during the next five years.

Only one candidate, political activist Steve Novick, has filed for Leonard's council position. Novick won a majority of the votes in Portland during his unsuccessful 2008 primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

The third commissioner up for re-election, Amanda Fritz, is already running again. But she faces two major obstacles. One is voters' rejection of the city campaign finance system she successfully used to win election in 2008. The other is a challenge by state Rep. Mary Nolan, a Southwest Portland Democrat.

Nolan is a six-term legislator with far more campaign experience that Fritz's strongest opponent three years ago, nonprofit director Charles Lewis.

With the filing deadline still more than seven months away, there is plenty of time for additional candidates to file for any of the three seats. State Rep. Jefferson Smith, an East Portland Democrat, has already said he is seriously considering entering the mayor's race. Like Nolan, he has a lot of campaign experience. In addition to being elected twice to his eastside House seat, Smith is the founder of the Oregon Bus Project.

Smith and other potential candidates might want to make up their minds soon, though. The race for campaign contributions is well under way. As of Wednesday, Brady reported raising slightly more than $113,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Hales has raised a little more than $100,000. Novick has raised more than $94,000, including more than $6,000 left from his U.S. Senate race.

Nolan has reported more than $38,000 in campaign contributions, including more than $13,000 from her legislative political action committee. And Fritz has loaned herself $25,000.