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Voters gaining mayoral insight

If the purpose of a political campaign is to show how a candidate might behave once he or she is in office, then the recent public-financing dust-up between Sam Adams and Sho Dozono wasn’t a complete waste of time for Portland voters. Indeed, Portland citizens are gaining new insights each day into the methods and personalities of Adams and Dozono, who are the two leading candidates to replace retiring Mayor Tom Potter. While Dozono and Adams have been debating each other at joint appearances and starting the process of describing their leadership visions to Portland voters, they also have waged a side battle over whether Dozono should qualify for public campaign funding. The end result of this secondary squabble came late last week when an administrative law judge ruled Dozono ineligible for public funds because he had reviewed a $27,295 poll prior to entering the mayor’s race. The value of the poll exceeded the $12,000 limit on in-kind contributions allowed under the city’s voter-owned elections program. The judge’s decision was helped along by a stack of legal arguments prepared by Adams and his lawyers. Although Dozono previously had said he would run for mayor only if he qualified for public financing, he now has changed his mind and announced he will continue his campaign using private donations. Differences becoming apparent We are happy to see Dozono stick with this race. He is the only candidate who can mount a credible campaign against Adams, a current city commissioner and consummate City Hall insider. Even with Dozono in the race, Adams remains the heavy favorite heading into the May primary, but now he will be required to articulate his goals and to describe in greater detail how he will achieve them. Already, his joint appearances with Dozono have helped define stylistic differences that are important to voters. Adams is the admitted policy wonk — someone who knows the details of city government inside and out. Dozono is the big-picture, private-sector person. He pledges to hire whatever policy wonks he needs and concentrate instead on “leadership.” For proof that these differences are real, all someone needs to do is review the candidates’ behavior during the public-financing flap. Dozono’s apparent error regarding the in-kind poll demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the intricacies of city rules and procedures. As a political newcomer, Dozono had the best of intentions, we believe, but he also got tripped up over a detail that perhaps could have been anticipated. Which style is best for Portland? Adams, on the other hand, revealed once again a masterful understanding of how local government processes work and how he can use them to achieve his objectives. He also has demonstrated extraordinary determination, both in this campaign and his previous public life. With a large and perhaps insurmountable lead in the polls Adams could have played nice and allowed other lesser-known candidates to challenge Dozono’s status for public financing. Instead he paid $10,000 for the best legal advice to slow Dozono’s momentum. Whether such killer instincts are a quality desirable in Portland’s next mayor depends on your point of view. It’s not news that Adams is a driven person intent on winning. Nor is it a surprise that businessman Dozono is comfortable with the chief executive officer model for decision-making. In the final analysis, this may come down to the question of which leadership style Portlanders prefer.