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Competitions good for race

Portland businessman Sho Dozono is acting like a mayoral candidate. That's good news for Portlanders who want the 2008 mayor's race to be a robust campaign and not merely a coronation of city Commissioner Sam Adams - currently the leading candidate for mayor.

If Dozono enters the race, he will be the first of announced challengers to Adams who, in our view, is capable of mounting a competitive campaign. An Adams-Dozono race would feature two main contenders with substantial experience and considerable, proven leadership skills.

Such a matchup would be nothing but positive for Portland. It would prompt a thorough discussion of key issues such as transportation, sustainability, the local business climate, diversity, affordable housing and the role of assertive executive leadership in Portland government.

We recognize that Dozono, who is president of Azumano Travel and has a long record of civic leadership, has yet to announce his official candidacy. But as the Portland Tribune reported this week, a campaign Web site has been launched urging people to show their support for Dozono.

Opposition improves candidates

The initial responses - both to our article on the subject and to Dozono's Web site - indicate there is a reservoir of good will for the popular businessman.

Dozono is well-known for organizing the 2001 Flight for Freedom to New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And he has earned respect for his many other civic involvements, including a 1996 March for Our Schools that raised $11 million for Portland Public Schools during a financial crisis.

After four years of a more subdued leadership style under Mayor Tom Potter, either Adams or Dozono could represent a dynamic change. We believe Portlanders would welcome a more activist mayor. But the pertinent question is this: What direction should that advocacy take us?

That's what campaigns are supposed to sort out, and this is why a contested race for mayor would be helpful to voters. If faced with a formidable opponent, Adams will be pushed to better define his vision of Portland's future and to contrast his plans for achieving that future with those advanced by another.

Business often loses with voters

While Dozono may be getting encouragement from many quarters to enter the race, he also must keep in mind that voters typically haven't been kind to businesspeople who try to carry their private-sector skills into elected office.

The Portland City Council is dominated by commissioners and a mayor who've spent much of their careers in government.

And in recent elections when Portland voters have been asked to choose between candidates backed by the business community and those who come from the public sector, they've tended to opt for policy wonks and social activists - not business leaders.

Dozono could be different: He has a work ethic that will make him a more vigorous campaigner than other businesspeople might have been, and he has walked the walk of social activism for causes that are of widespread interest.

We believe both Adams and Dozono have much to offer and have the potential to be good mayors. A competitive campaign, however, would be healthy for Portland and would present voters with at least two competing visions and road maps for achieving the city's future.