YES, HE'S RUNNING for reelection. And by "he," I mean Mayor Sam Adams—even if the mayor has yet to actually cop to it when asked. (And with the midpoint of his tumultuous first term finally having arrived, it's a question he's been asked A LOT.)
The latest piece of the puzzle dropped into place Friday, January 7, when Adams called a (two-reporter) press conference to talk about a seismic shakeup among his senior aides. Out as chief of staff was the controversial Tom Miller, a guy whose roughhousing political style helped entangle Adams in distracting snits last year with City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, and the Oregonian.
Replacing Miller is his deputy, the well-liked Warren Jimenez, Adams' quietly effective point person on public safety and the budget—two issues key to the mayor's chances in 2012. But most significant was who got Jimenez's old job: arts policy guru Jennifer Yocom, Adams' campaign manager in 2008 and another bright star in the firmament of city hall.
And as a reward for his five-plus years of service, dating back to Adams' days as a commissioner, Miller will take over the Bureau of Transportation, an outfit close to Adams' heart. Miller, a bike advocate, gets a giant raise and a chance to ride herd on another of the mayor's policy priorities.
Observers around town see the moves as a sure sign Adams is getting serious about reelection. Adams practically admitted as much Friday, stressing Yocom's "keen" and "helpful" political instincts as he explained how she would be divvying duties with Jimenez.
The timing is about right. Adams has 16 months or so before the 2012 primary election—just enough time for Yocom and Jimenez to buff up a political reputation still tainted by the Breedlove scandal (which people should just get over already). And the shakeup comes amid persistent rumors that Cogen, ex-commissioner Charlie Hales, and others are seriously weighing a challenge, even making sub rosa inquiries in search of campaign cash.
Adams, in his presser, was mum about his future. But, tellingly, he compared himself to another struggling politician, also shaking up his staff and girding for a bruising reelection fight: President Barack Obama.
"When I look at what President Obama is facing," Adams said, "by comparison I feel incredibly fortunate."