Mayor's chief of staff eyes seat on the City Council or in Congress

Sam Adams, chief of staff for Mayor Vera Katz since her first election a decade ago, will resign Aug. 15 in order to run either for the Portland City Council or the 3rd Congressional District.

Adams, 39, would make social history if elected to either office. He would become the first openly gay city commissioner or the first man elected to Congress as a gay candidate.

Two gay men have been elected to Congress Ñ Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. Ñ but both made their sexual orientation public only after their first election.

Adams said he soon would choose from two political options. He will either run for the City Council seat being vacated by Jim Francesconi, who's running for mayor, or will form an exploratory committee to look at a race in the 3rd Congressional District.

'I have passion for both,' Adams said. 'I love the work I do at City Hall. I feel like there's a lot more work I can still do there. At the same time, having worked at City Hall and local government, I know the limitations and how the federal government can be a more effective partner.'

A congressional race depends on whether the incumbent, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., runs for mayor. Blumenauer has been exploring a mayoral race this summer and said he will announce his decision after Labor Day.

If the seat opens up, Adams could wind up joining a crowded field of waiting Democrats. Upward of a dozen candidates are debating whether to enter the race for one of the safest Democratic seats in the country. The winner of the May 18, 2004, Democratic primary will most likely win the November election.

Potential candidates for the congressional seat include state Sens. Kate Brown, Margaret Carter, Frank Shields and Rick Metsger; state Reps. Jeff Merkley and Gary Hansen; Multnomah County Commissioners Serena Cruz, Lisa Naito and Maria Rojo de Steffey; Metro Councilor Rod Park; and Portland attorneys Steve Novick and Jefferson Smith.

The 3rd Congressional District includes most of Multnomah County east of the Willamette River and northeast Clackamas County.

The only declared candidate for Francesconi's council seat is Nick Fish, a Portland attorney.

'I would welcome Sam to the race,' Fish said. 'He's been a good chief of staff. I made a commitment to this race awhile ago, and I look forward to debating the issues about Portland's future with Sam and other candidates.'

Katz named deputy chief of staff Judy Tuttle to replace Adams.

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