Jason Kinney

ED GARREN may be, at most, the current third place candidate in his bid to replace outgoing City Commissioner Erik Sten. Sten's publicly financed Chief of Staff Jim Middaugh and labor attorney Nick Fish, who beat Sam Adams in the 2004 primary, are the frontrunners. But despite the odds, Garren—a newcomer to Portland and a political unknown—is fighting for the seat.

In between meetings of his steering committee, tallying the hits on his edforportland.com site ("I'm up to about 20,000," he reports on Monday), and hitting endorsement interviews, he's also picking apart Middaugh and Fish.

"NW Oregon Labor Council fails to endorse Nick Fish," reads one press release from the Garren campaign on March 24.

Garren has also publicly sniffed at Middaugh's quick collection of over 1,600 $5 contributions toward public financing, questioning "how 'grass roots'" it was.

Beyond taking aim at his opponents, however, the candidate has his own platform. Focusing on issues of tenants' rights and living wage jobs, economic justice is Garren's mainstay.

Garren left West Hollywood in 2005—he ran for city council there, too—and landed in Portland, where he works as a psychotherapist. Once he settled on Hayden Island, Garren "immediately got involved with the neighborhood association," tackling issues like a proposed Wal-Mart (Garren says a development moratorium that halted the proposal was his idea). Garren dovetails issues of classism and affordable housing with a tour of his own mobile home community, and he's proposed rent stabilization as a solution for Portland's tenants (the fact that it's banned by state law hasn't deterred him).

Positioning himself as both a newcomer with a fresh eye, and as a city hall outsider who's built a professional career on listening to people, Garren is doing all he can to be heard in a crowded field of mayoral and council candidates.

"You can't really get innovative solutions out of people who aren't innovative and creative," he says of the current council, which he says is "out of touch" with Portlanders. "'Let's talk about it' is the skill that I'd bring to city council."