The tagline for the 1993 John Candy movie Cool Runnings is: "One Dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty Below Zero." Well, I am hereby adapting it to refer to those "running" for City Commissioner Dan Saltzman's seat in the May primary: "One Seat. Two serious candidates. Twenty percent chance of a runoff."
I know it was way cooler before. But the chances of Jesse Cornett (and six other candidates) keeping Saltzman below 50 percent to force a second election in November are slimmer than those of the Jamaican bobsled team in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Of course, that's not to say it won't make a nice story if something surprising happens.
Speaking of surprises: Cornett won the gold medal at last week's Candidate Olympiad—a Winter Olympics-themed event organized by the Mercury and the Oregon Bus Project to introduce voters to the candidates. Commissioner Saltzman himself won the silver medal, based on audience votes—with 19 and a half votes (the "half" vote was from a supporter's elementary-school-aged daughter) compared to Cornett's 22. Jason Renaud, a mental health advocate, came third with 15 votes.
Saltzman performed well—assuring voters that he, too, had been concerned about the behavior of Officer Christopher Humphreys last November, when Humphreys shot a 12-year-old girl with a beanbag shotgun. The commissioner did draw scorn from the majority of voters, however, for supporting a deal with millionaire Merritt Paulson to use taxpayer dollars for Major League Soccer. Cornett said the league is not proven to be viable, and that economists have said it may not bring any proven benefits.
Cornett was also the only one of six candidates seeking public campaign financing to file the 1,000 signatures required by the deadline last Friday, January 29. Filing 1,253, Cornett expects to comfortably reach the threshold, even with a few rejections, and get $150,000 in taxpayer funds to run a campaign. Meanwhile Renaud filed 1,050—not enough, with those already rejected by the city auditor's office, to qualify for public money.
Spencer Burton, Mary Volm, Ed Garren and Rudy Soto all plan to continue their candidacies in May without the public money. And perennial candidate Martha Perez also filed with just 15 seconds to spare on Friday. But the bottom line on this election is that Cornett is emerging as Saltzman's only serious challenger. And how's this for the perfect slogan?
"Coach, I cyant get mah helmit ahhhhhn!"