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Blumenauer keeps his options open

Congressman won't say yet if he'll run for mayor in 2004

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer sounds more and more like he wants to run for mayor next year, although he won't make his decision until summer.

In a discussion this week with the Portland Tribune news staff, the Oregon Democrat said next year he will either run for mayor or seek a fifth term representing Oregon's 3rd Congressional District.

But during a meeting that touched on a wide range of issues, he sounded increasingly wistful at the prospect of a job based in Portland and not Washington, D.C.

'Being on the Portland City Council is the best local government job in America,' said Blumenauer, 54, who served on the council from 1986 to 1996. 'Even in tough times. There are opportunities to do more here than you can do anyplace else.'

How the mayoral field shapes up next year depends on whether Mayor Vera Katz runs for a fourth term.

So far, Blumenauer hasn't said how her decision Ñ she'll also announce her plans this summer Ñ will affect his. City Commissioner Jim Francesconi is running no matter what Katz does, and Commissioner Erik Sten is thinking about it.

Blumenauer, a congressman since 1996, will be among the leading contenders if he runs. He could use his congressional campaign fund, last reported at more than $300,000, for a city race.

He said he's concentrating on his job in Congress and doesn't want his actions second-guessed for political motives.

'I feel very strongly that everybody in elected office has a day job, and these next couple of months are the toughest we've faced in this community since the Depression,' Blumenauer said.

'To start speculating on who's going to run for mayor in two years takes away energy that should be spent on how we work together. I wouldn't want anybody to think what I'm doing was politically motivated.'

But clearly he likes the idea of working in his native Portland instead of Washington, D.C.

'Portland is my home,' he said, 'and I don't think I'm going to be a 35- to 40-year member of Congress. My eardrums won't take the flights.'

Despite his aversion to the cross-country flights, Blumenauer can find clear advantages to remaining in Congress.

His district is safely Democratic, and he could gain seniority. He's close to the Democratic House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and could wind up with an important committee assignment or a leadership post, which would bring more influence should Democrats regain the majority.

Before being elected to the City Council, Blumenauer served in the state Legislature and on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. He has lost two races: in 1981 for the council and in 1992 when Katz won her first term by beating him 57 percent to 42 percent.

'It's something I've thought about before,' he said. 'My closest advisers think it would be good to come back here. You can do a lot of the things I do here. I'll be happy to talk to you about it this summer.'

Contact Don Hamilton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..