SHOULD HE STAY or should he go?
The question—about the viability of embattled Portland Mayor Sam Adams—has been tearing at the very fabric of the Portland queer community ever since Beaugate broke in January. The headlines started blaring mere days after Adams' admission: "Adams Sex Scandal Leaves Portland Gay Community Hurt, Divided" (Oregonian), or "The Great Gay Hope" (New York Times).
Now, more than four months later, as gays across the city gear up for splashy, rainbow-bedecked "Pride Month" parties, the mayor's supporters and detractors alike are arming for a potentially ugly summer. Adams has just passed his 100th work day in office, and media "report cards" are coming in. Results of Attorney General John Kroger's investigation into Adams' conduct are looming. And it's T-minus 26 days until a campaign to recall Adams from office is officially launched.
For a month that seeks to celebrate the unified spirit of the LGBT community, Portland's queers—on this issue, anyway—seem anything but.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's failed in his responsibilities to make a good example of a gay leader," says David Beard, an openly gay real estate agent in Portland who voted for Adams in last year's election. Beard, 48, is now a volunteer for the recall campaign, and says he'll gladly help gather signatures to get the recall initiative to a citywide vote. "We shouldn't just be protecting him because he's a member of the gay community," he adds.
"The divisiveness over Sam was tough," admits Human Rights Campaign co-founder and Portland-based philanthropist Terry Bean, who stood with other Adams boosters at a January 27 press conference in support of Adams' return to office. "Has it been repaired? I don't know." But Bean does know this: "I still strongly believe that he's a great mayor."
Bean is not alone in wanting to put the nasty divisiveness of the past few months behind him. Those members of the queer community who do stand with Sam—like Kalberer Company Chief Financial Officer Brian R. Wilson—worry the campaign to recall him might devolve into a mud-slinging gay witch-hunt, or worse.
"If you wanna support a recall effort against Sam—all right," Wilson says. "But make sure you're focusing on something that's going to build a better and stronger community. In my opinion, the best person to build the community is Sam Adams."
If the recall campaign is looking to win over gay power players like Wilson, it has an uphill battle, something campaign spokesperson Jasun Wurster openly acknowledges. But even if Wurster isn't looking to convert gay Adams fans to his brand of religion, he's certainly hyper-sensitive to his campaign being branded as homophobic.
"I've always viewed this as an educational opportunity," he says, "where if people make homophobic remarks, to actually educate them." Wurster adds that while he doesn't necessarily need additional support from queer Portland for the recall campaign to succeed, he does welcome any help. He also knows that queers who become involved do so at a risk. "Especially [in] a community that's divided, you're gonna instantly make enemies of half of your community," for joining the recall effort, he says. "It takes a lot of courage to step forward."
Thirty-eight-year-old Andy Poe, a full-time PSU student, is one of those who recently stepped out in support of the recall. A self-described "gay lefty," Poe says he "felt proud" when Adams won last year's mayoral election in the primary, but became disenchanted after the events of the last few months.
Yet Poe is hesitant to become an active volunteer for the recall, partly for fear of retaliation from both straight and gay Adams supporters. Poe says he was "thinking about" canvassing at last weekend's Starlight Parade, adding, "but I don't want anybody to hit me."
Amid the many parades and protests to come this month, it seems Portland's LGBT population has come to at least one sort of consensus: On the issue of whether Adams should stay in office or get the boot, they've agreed to disagree.
"The lines of opinion have already been drawn in this community," Poe says, noting that most of his gay friends want Adams to stay in office. "And I don't think they'll change."