In a packed ballroom at downtown's Governor Hotel, amid the sound of courteous clinking of silverware against overpriced lunch plates, the four candidates for City Commissioner Seat 2 attempted to sell themselves to Portland's business and political elite and, of course, the media.
The City Club of Portland's weekly Friday luncheon played host to the first candidate forum to feature all frontrunners for the seat: three-term incumbent Erik Sten, State Senator Ginny Burdick, small business owner Dave Lister, and nonprofit consultant Emilie Boyles.
The forum was a major boost for both Boyles and Lister—political newcomers with little name recognition. Boyles, a Voter-Owned Elections candidate who received most of her early support from the eastside Slavic community, spent most of her time talking about the need for the city to capitalize more on available federal and state funds.
Lister's primary theme was that the city council should return to its core services, like taking care of roads, instead of larger, seemingly less necessary projects like the OHSU tram.
The real showdown, though, was between the seasoned politicians: Sten and Burdick.
Burdick charged that Sten wasted too much money on things like the attempted purchase of PGE by the city; Sten vigorously pointed out Burdick's professional involvement (through her employer, Gard & Gerber) with PGE and others in the business community.
The forum was ultimately about the direction the city is taking. Sten sought to convince the crowd that Portland is "a great place" that is "taking up problems that other cities have given up on." His challengers, not surprisingly, argued otherwise—that the city and Sten spent too much money on "pet projects" that should have gone to other services.