At the request of a campaign volunteer, mayoral candidate Sho Dozono peeled off his sweater to show off the gray Grant High School shirt underneath, a keepsake from his days teaching and coaching wrestling at the school in the '70s. "I can still wear the T-shirt," Dozono says proudly.
Reinforcing the high school reunion atmosphere in Grant's basement cafeteria on Saturday morning, January 19—where Dozono and his campaign are camped out, collecting contributions toward his bid for public financing—a former student races up to give him a hug.
"We love you!" she tells him, clutching a pink receipt for her $5 campaign contribution—one of the 1,500 Dozono needs by January 31 to qualify for $200,000 in city funds. Likewise, Grant's former football coach, Joe Simpson, and shop teacher Tom Rowe stop in to contribute.
Dozono's campaign staff is hyper organized: There are tables for new contributors to sit down and fill out a form, tables for people to stop in and correct information on a form (there's no room for error in the city's public financing program), and a table for volunteers to pick up forms they can fan out across the city on Dozono's behalf.
Dozono—who just jumped into the race on January 7—was reportedly nearing the 1,500 mark by the end of the Grant event. "We'll get it done," he says on Saturday morning, adding that his team plans to pull in more than the required 1,500 contributions—every $5 contribution they collect is $5 the city doesn't hand over from taxpayer funds.
Dozono's stream of support for his mayoral bid has "poured in the door," says campaign treasurer Vicki Tagliafico—despite the fact that the candidate, who owns Azumano Travel, hasn't outlined a specific platform (he's focused on the January 31 fundraising deadline, he explains, and will get specific on issues after that). Most of his supporters are backing Dozono based on his long record of service in the community, from organizing relief trips to New Orleans and New York City in the wake of disasters, to his advocacy for education, and say Dozono would be a "visionary" mayor whom "people would want to work for."
Dozono's wife, Loen, says his campaign is also about strengthening the voice of minority voters—a block that political consultants had told them didn't really count for much in Portland. That shocked the Dozonos. "If I could just increase the minority vote so they do count," the candidate says, he'll be thrilled. Part of his campaign is about "increasing voter registration in communities of color," he adds.
Others at Grant simply seemed happy that Dozono's candidacy means that the mayor's race won't be "a coronation," as one man explained at the Grant event, for City Commissioner Sam Adams.
Dozono, for his part, doesn't seem concerned about his competition—he's focused on regular Portlanders, especially those who haven't had a voice in the city's future. He hopes his run for mayor "inspires people who have been disenfranchised in the past, to say 'I can do that.'"