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Hales drops out of mayor's race

UPDATE: Wheeler says he respects decision, will continue working on Portland issues

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said Monday that he will not seek a second term.Mayor Charlie Hales dropped a campaign bombshell Monday afternoon by announcing he would not seek reelection.

Hales told the Portland Tribune in March that he would run for a second term, but on Oct. 26 revealed that he had changed his mind.

"The filing deadline is still over four months away, and I hope and expect that several qualified candidates will seek the office of mayor. There are some dynamic new leaders in our community, and I’m excited to see who steps up," said Hales, explaining he had decided he could not continue to fulfill his day-to-day duties as mayor and run for reelection at the same time.

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is the only major candidate to announce so far.

Hales said it is a very challenging time to be mayor, with the upsurge in gang violence, a growing housing affordability crisis and the city about to pass a 20-year plan for future growth, via the comprehensive land use plan. "I want to wonk out on the details of that plan," he said.

The comp plan will determine the shape of Portland for decades to come, he said, such as whether 82nd Avenue "is going to be a bunch of car lots."

Adding fundraising and other campaign duties to his schedule proved to be too much, Hales said. "It's just not humanly possible to do both at the same time."

Hales said he was not bowing out because of poor polling numbers in his re-election campaign, noting that when he ran against an incumbent in his first race for City Council he was in fourth place in a poll in January, much later in the race.

"Early polls don't mean anything," he said.

And recent statements by Wheeler "make him look pretty vulnerable," Hales said, though he wouldn't elaborate.

Hales said he doesn't know what he'll do after his mayoral term ends in 14 months, but he knows he won't seek another elective office.

Wheeler issued a statement Monday afternoon in response to Hales' announcement.

"Mayor Hales said today that he wants to continue to focus on the issues that matter to the people of Portland. That’s what I’m going to do, too." Wheeler stated.

"This race is not about the personalities involved. It is about finding solutions for the real issues facing our city — like homelessness, fixing our roads, finding long-term affordable housing solutions and creating good, family-sustaining jobs."

Commissioner Nick Fish said Monday afternoon that he was as surprised as everyone else about Hales' decision, but agreed with Hales' assessment that it is very challenging to run the city and conduct a demanding re-election campaign.

Fish doesn't think Hales' new "lame-duck" status will cripple the mayor's ability to get things done during the next 14 months, citing Hales' predecessor Sam Adams.

"We had a very productive last year under Sam Adams," Fish said.

Fish is known as an ambitious politician and has been viewed as a potential candidate for mayor some day. "I have no current plans to run for rmayor," he said, though he stopped short of saying he wouldn't reconsider now that it's an open seat.

Fish, like Hales, predicted that other serious candidates will emerge, "particularly," he said, "someone who might run to the left of Ted Wheeler."

Here is Hales' announcement released today:

Dear Friends:

Last spring, I let it be known that I was planning to seek another term as Portland’s Mayor. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished in less than three years. There is now tremendous momentum in this work:

• We and our partners are taking historic action on homelessness and affordable housing – and backing it up with funding and the declaration of a housing emergency.

• We have seen strong results on police reform, significantly reducing the use of force, improving the ability to de-escalate a crisis, and repairing the relationship between police and the community.

• We have become national and international leaders on local action for climate change.

• We are making Portland more equitable, including raising the minimum wage for city workers and contractors, and more prosperous, creating new jobs and investment.

• At the same time, we righted city government’s severely listing financial ship, erasing a record budget gap and making important new investments in transportation and our kids.

Making this kind of progress for Portland is why I ran for mayor.

While I have been doing the work you elected me to do, I have also begun preparing to formally launch a re-election campaign. In the process, one thing has become crystal clear to me. I cannot do both of these tasks faithfully and well.

I ran for office to do something, not to be something. For me, serving the city we love has never been a political stepping stone. Our city and the work are the motivation, and now, in addition to the initiatives I mentioned, there are other big challenges that need my full attention:

• The pressures of growth are upon us, and more is ahead. Over the next twelve months, we will draw the map for Portland’s next twenty years…and our next 200,000 neighbors.

• I am heartsick about the nightly toll of gang violence in our city. It doesn’t necessarily show up in political polls or even get full media attention, but it keeps me up at night. Over 850 shots have been fired in over 158 gang violence incidents this year, resulting in ten deaths and 45 people injured. This community crisis deserves everything I have.

So when confronted with a choice between giving my full effort to the job of being mayor and spending that energy on a long and consuming re-election campaign, it’s an easy choice. Therefore, I have decided not to file for re-election.

The filing deadline is still over four months away, and I hope and expect that several qualified candidates will seek the office of Mayor. There are some dynamic new leaders in our community, and I’m excited to see who steps up.

I thank you for your support and encouragement. Together, we have made great progress, and over the next 14 months, we will make more. I pledge to you that I will focus all of my time and energy on that responsibility.



Reporter Steve Law also contributed to this story.