If you have been following the stream of election news Ñ or if Al Sharpton's one-liners and punch lines engage you or enrage you Ñ I suggest you tune in to the city's upcoming races for mayor and City Council. You'll find even more brewing locally.
Forget that the candidate with the biggest war chest almost always washes away opponents and dissenters in a vast, pounding surf of money. Just follow the debates.
In addition to the partisan and patronizing angling for minority votes by white candidates, this spring will see an expression of black anger, propounded by black candidates James Posey and Woodrow Broadnax.
Posey does not mince words about why he is running for mayor: to demand a better share of the city's largesse for blacks.
Spinning separatist rhetoric before a predominately black audience during a candidate forum in Northeast Portland last week, Posey stated, 'Black people could do a lot on their own if the city could be fair.'
To Posey, garden-variety political platitudes and double--speak are an abomination.
'I think we have to demand our participation in this city,' he told a crowd packed with members of the African American Alliance. 'They are not going to give it to us. We have to demand it, and if necessary, take it.'
Posey, a longtime activist and minority contractor, says that if he is elected, his first challenge will be to slay the sacred cow of white developers grazing in the pasture of easy contracts and fattened by openhanded government spending.
If you are one who expects candidates for public office to feign the idealism of college sophomores, this might be a race to follow. Posey and Broadnax, who is running for a City Council seat, are stripping political correctness from the process. Somehow, I think that is good.
Posey has been critical of his primary opponent in this race, city Commissioner Jim Francesconi, as well as Mayor Vera Katz. Both, he contends, merely pay lip service to issues that affect blacks in the city. (To be fair, Francesconi has been a champion for a number of activities aimed at helping at-risk youths, many of whom are black. As an example, he was one of the founding members of the House of Umoja.)
Posey's uncompromising approach to leveling the playing field for minority contractors fuels a certain malicious speculation by his critics, inasmuch as he himself is a contractor. But his discipline and persistence have won him acceptance from conservatives and an endorsement last week from the Green Party.
Let's get back to what's at stake here. Even though Oregon has a small minority population, the numbers can mount up quickly for the candidate who persuades minorities to vote as a bloc.
Here are the 2000 Census Bureau survey numbers: There are a total of 37,434 blacks aged 18 and over in the Portland metropolitan area. Out of that total, 20,246 are registered to vote. A field survey by the Democratic National Committee estimated that 17,000 Portland area blacks voted in the 2000 general election.
The census profile for the metropolitan area places the number of Latinos at 49,607. Statistics were unavailable on Latino voting or voter registration.