Sam Adams says he's not surprised by Potter's endorsement
The gloves came off in the Portland mayor's race Thursday morning with dueling news conferences between the two leading candidates, assumed front-runner Commissioner Sam Adams and his strongest apparent challenger, businessman Sho Dozono.
The fireworks erupted the day after Dozono became the first-ever mayoral candidate to qualify for public campaign financing - $161,171 toward a maximum of $200,000 combined public-private funds in the primary election.
Dozono struck first when Mayor Tom Potter endorsed him during a morning news conference in the South Park Blocks. Although Potter declined to criticize Adams directly, he called Dozono a 'problem solver, a successful businessman and a guy who loves Portland.'
The endorsement had been expected within local political circles. Potter has made his displeasure with Adams known within City Hall, and the two recently had sparred over whether and how to refer Adam's proposed street maintenance fee to the ballot. Potter's wife, Karin Hansen, also was an early and visible Dozono volunteer.
Adams countered later in the morning by dismissing the endorsement as 'possibly the least surprising development' in the mayor's race. Speaking to reporters at his Southeast Portland campaign office, Adams said that Potter and Dozono have been friends for years.
Adams also said he has been endorsed by a number of politicians, including commissioners Erik Sten and Randy Leonard, as well as former Mayor Vera Katz, his boss before his successful 2004 council race.
Despite the endorsement of Potter, Dozono said he disagreed with the decision by the mayor and the rest of the City Council to spend around $33 million for one-time and new programs next year.
They include $250,000 in community vision project grants, a Potter priority, and an equal amount for 24-hour restrooms in Old Town, which Leonard is requesting.
Instead, Dozono said the council should keep the money in reserve because the economy is slowing down.
'This money should be saved,' Dozono said.
Mayor's popularity plays in
Well-respected Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts said Potter's endorsement of Dozono is a 'big deal' on one level.
'Mayor Potter has served with Commissioner Adams, and the fact that he has chosen to endorse someone else in not helpful to Adams,' Hibbitts said. 'It's essentially the same situation that happened when Commissioner Sten served with Jim Francesconi and endorsed someone else for mayor four years ago - in that case, Potter.'
Hibbitts thinks Potter's endorsement may be blunted by his declining popularity, however - a decline Hibbitts said is the result of the complex challenges facing all big-city mayors these days.
'Potter's popularity is not where it was two years ago,' Hibbitts said. 'At that time, his popularity was in the 60 percent range. Today it's in the 40 percent range, a drop of around 20 percent.'
Hibbitts' company - Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall Inc. - conducted a poll in the mayor's race for the Portland Tribune and KPTV (12) last month. At that time, Adams led Dozono 41 percent to 20 percent, with 36 percent undecided. The eight other candidates in the race drew a total of only 2 percent.
City Auditor Gary Blackmer certified Dozono to receive the public campaign funds at the last possible moment, only minutes before 5 p.m. on March 5, the final day for qualifying candidates under the city program.
Dozono qualified by collecting 3,766 individual $5 contributions from registered Portland voters, more than twice the requirement of 1,500. He also collected nearly the maximum $20,000 in legally allowable 'seed money' contributions.
The decison was in doubt until the end because of a poll commissioned by lobbyist Len Bergstein and shared with Dozono before he formally announced for mayor.
The poll cost $27,295, more than twice the $12,000 maximum that publicly funded candidates are allowed to receive as in-kind contributions. After receiving an eight-page sworn statement from Dozono outlining when and how he decided to run for mayor, Blackmer ruled Dozono qualified for the funds because he was not a candidate under the terms of the program when the poll was conducted.
Adams passed on public funds
Any candidate running for mayor has until March 12 to challenge Blackmer's decision. Dozono is confident Blackmer's decision will be upheld, however, and he is going forward with his campaign.
Adams declined to apply for public campaign funds, saying it would be a conflict of interest because he voted for the program. Adams is voluntarily limiting contributions to $500 and has said he will spend no more than $200,000.
So far, Adams has raised more than $78,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.
The first mayoral debate between Adams and Dozono is set for 11 a.m. March 20 in Portland State University's Smith Ballroom, 1825 S.W. Broadway. Admission is free.
It is sponsored by the Portland Tribune, the Portland Business Alliance and Portland State University.
Jennifer Anderson contributed to this story.
The last day for municipal candidates to file for the May primary election is Tuesday, March 11. Stories in the Portland Tribune included the wrong date.