Mayor Sam Adams has seen all kinds of opposition emerge since his scandalous admission in January—but who are the people calling for his head? Do some of them have less than honorable motives? And does the recall effort have any real chance of succeeding? To help explore these questions, the Mercury has grouped the mayoral opposition into four categories (which, by the way, are not necessarily mutually exclusive).
Group A: (Possibly Homophobic) Opportunists
"I call him the mayor of Sodom," says PJ Mulcahy, a contractor from Beaverton who rented a room at city hall two weeks ago, where he preached about how Adams is proudly promoting "a gay lifestyle." Behind Mulcahy stood two fake stone tablets, adorned with the 10 Commandments in Hebrew.
When asked about Adams' homosexuality, Mulcahy says, "I don't judge that," then adding, "I just follow the Old Testament."
"He's not a crackpot," says Victoria Taft, KPAM radio talk show host, in defense of Mulcahy. "He loves Jesus, and there's nothing wrong with that—and he thinks Sam's lifestyle sucks."
Taft, who says she "really loves [Adams] on a Christian basis, as a human being," told the mayor at a city council session in mid-February that he'd turned Portland into a punch line, and called on him to resign. For the record, Taft also denies that her concerns about Adams are rooted in homophobia.
"I'm not going to go there," says Taft. "It's not the issue. If I were in the homosexual community—and I have a lot of gay listeners—I'd be so mad at Sam right now."
Taft also denies being an opportunist trying to capitalize on the scandal for ratings.
"Anybody who tries to marginalize [our viewpoint] and says this is about somebody's political agenda or opportunism is just out to lunch," she says.
Conservative talk show host Lars Larson also appeared in council last month to call on Adams to resign, but did not return the Mercury's repeated efforts for comment.
Group B: The Gay Opposition
"Please don't put me into the 'opportunist' category," says Just Out Editor and Publisher Marty Davis, when asked about her position in the anti-Adams camp. "I swear to God I had no idea that we would become the story."
Davis says she called for Adams' resignation the day after the scandal broke, because she "vehemently couldn't tolerate the lie," and to let Adams know he "doesn't have a get-out-of-jail-free gay card."
Since then, "Boycott Just Out" and "New Queer Media" Facebook pages have emerged, and Davis says several of the paper's distribution boxes have been stolen. "There are no winners in this," Davis says, adding that she now plans to "go back to reporting the news."
"He should have known better," says Norm Costa, a lifelong gay activist who introduced Adams to Portland's gay community when the mayor first ran for city commissioner, but now thinks he should resign.
"Sam's not in great physical shape—I think I'm in better physical shape than he is, and I'm 81," says Costa. "So when some young guy of 17 says, 'I really like you,' and he gives you the eye, you've got to have in mind, 'What does he really want?'"
Costa says Adams "would have been one of our best mayors," but without trust, the job will be impossible. "People who've been really active within the social justice movement agree that he should resign," Costa adds.
Group C: The "Frenemies"
Two of the mayor's fellow city commissioners, Nick Fish and Randy Leonard, have stuck to their guns about "focusing on city business" until the attorney general's investigation into the scandal is complete. Leonard even told reporters he "doesn't trust Adams"—but that he doesn't have the luxury of being able to stop working with him, either.
Meanwhile the Portland Business Alliance—many of whose members contributed money to Adams' election campaign—issued a statement on January 24 saying it couldn't decide whether to call for the mayor's resignation or not.
Adams may also have some new enemies from the progressive community after his decision last week to recommend a 12-lane bridge across the Columbia River. Previously the mayor had advocated for a "greener" eight- or 10-lane bridge—before the scandal broke.
Perhaps the starkest example of "frenemy" behavior came from Adams' number one supporter, Hollie Teal, late last week. Teal, a technical support specialist at Reed College, organized the "Support Sam Adams" Facebook group and a 500-plus person rally outside city hall on January 23. While still a firm supporter of Adams, who does not believe he should resign or be recalled, Teal is obviously discouraged by his latest decision.
"A lot of supporters thought Adams was about sustainability, and very progressive," Teal told the Mercury. "But we're sliding down a slippery slope, here. I'm seeing a lot of Sam's supporters turn on this decision [to vote for a 12-lane bridge]. I'm not ready to call him out loudly at this point—but yeah, this is very disappointing."
Regardless, Teal repeats she hasn't turned against Adams, and plans to organize a taskforce to support him.
"Sam's putting me in touch with one of his political allies to get that done," she says.
When pressed, Teal couldn't recall the name of her planned taskforce ally.
"There's a group of people that have volunteered to defend if there's a recall effort, and we talked about how [Teal] could plug in," Mayor Adams confirmed.
Group D: The Serious Opposition
"This is not because he's gay... period," insists Portland Police Association President Scott Westerman, adding that even though homophobes may be calling for Adams' resignation, that doesn't mean serious ethical concerns should be overlooked.
"Too much of the city's time, too much of council's energy is being spent on this," agrees Reverend Chuck Currie, who's been a longtime activist for homelessness and poverty, and is calling for Adams' resignation.
"I think you're right to categorize the opposition, because it's being fuelled in some circles by some real rabid homophobia," Currie continues. "But council is talking about cutting $400,000 from homeless youth services. And I want them to be focusing their energy on that decision."
While others are voicing their disappointment, Jasun Wurster is taking action, by training volunteers to collect 50,000 signatures come July, when the recall effort is legally allowed to start.
"Our target is to get 1,700 volunteers," he says. "Which would mean we only need 30 signatures each."
Wurster, a volunteer spokesman for the website RecallSamAdams.com, only needs 32,000 signatures to force a recall election this summer, but says he wants to be sure of hitting the target. He claims to already have 350 volunteers signed up.
Though the voices behind RecallSamAdams.com have been widely criticized for remaining anonymous, Wurster defends those behind the scenes by insisting they will step forward when the group forms a political action committee to raise money for the recall. For now, they are scared of retaliation from Adams, he says.
Wurster claims to have also faced some heavy criticism for supporting the recall.
"People have this impression of me as a mini Bill Sizemore," Wurster says—referencing Oregon's famous alleged election racketeer. "But I'm a citizen of Portland, and my community is hurting."
It may be a while before we learn if Wurster's efforts have the necessary political punch to make anything happen. When the Mercury asked Mayor Adams whether the citizens of Portland should take the recall effort seriously—his only response was an awkward shrug.
But Wurster's determination, which he put to use as deputy campaign manager for City Commissioner Amanda Fritz in last year's primary, is palpable. In particular, Wurster has devoted considerable energy to parrying criticism of the recall effort from Mercury Blogtown readers—who, according to a recent poll, overwhelmingly say they are sick of the scandal, and think Adams should stay put.
"I have a lot of respect for Blogtown readers," he says. "I know they can be extremely cynical, which they have every right to be, and the reason I spend a lot of time trying to answer their questions and react to them is, I understand where they're coming from.
"I understand the anger, the cynicism, the apathy," Wurster continues. "But more than anything, I understand that those feelings are what Sam Adams is relying on to stay in office."