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Both unions say they're staying neutral in the race

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - State Rep. Jefferson Smith's campaign for Portland mayor has run into problems as supporters have dropped their endorsements of his candidacy. Smith is still dogged by reports of a 1993 incident at a party in Eugene while he was a student at the Univeristy of Oregon.The Portland Police Association and the Portland Fire Fighters Association retracted their endorsements of Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith on Thursday.

The unions did not endorse mayoral candidate Charlie Hales, saying they will instead stay neutral in the race.

The move comes three days after Smith said he was proud to be endorsed by the police union in a televised debate on KOIN, after Hales pointed out the endorsement and implied it would make Smith less likely to be a force for change in the police department.

Loss of the endorsement could cost Smith support in the get-out-the-vote phase of the campaign, one of his perceived advantages over Hales.

Although the joint statement issued by the PPA did not give a reason for the decision, it follows more than two weeks of controversy over a 1993 incident when Smith punched a woman in the face at a party while he was a student at the University of Oregon. Smith signed a diversion agreement, admitted he was wrong and paid the woman's medical bills to escape prosecution in the case.

The joint announcement said, "Today, the Portland Police Association and the Portland Fire Fighters Association withdraw out endorsements of Portland Mayor candidate Jefferson Smith. Our members count on us to make recommendations and, at this point in the campaign, we cannot make a strong recommendation for either candidate."

Hales clashed with the fire fighters union when he was in charge of Portland Fire & Rescue as a member of the City Council.

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