THE SURPRISE isn't that Jefferson Smith is running for mayor. The surprise is that OH MY GOD Jefferson Smith ripped his eyeballs off the night before he announced he's running for mayor!
As soon as Mayor Sam Adams revealed he'll be vacating his job in 2012, Jefferson Smith—the frenetic East Portland state representative who founded the Bus Project, opened for Obama last year, and gained YouTube fame by rickrolling the state legislature—was a rumored frontrunner ["So Long, Sam," News, Aug 4].
On Tuesday, September 13, his mayoral campaign website officially launched and I immediately called Smith. Unfortunately, the details of our conversation were foggy because he was temporarily blinded and high as a kite.
"What happened to you?!" I asked.
"Well," said Smith, in a groggy voice. "All weekend I was working pretty darn hard at my computer and writing stuff and I kept my contacts in. When I took them out yesterday, they ripped my corneas."
That's right—he internetted so hard, his eyes fell out. Way to put the "pain" in "campaign," Jefferson. Anyway, the doctor prescribed Percocet, but Smith said his eyes should heal themselves over a few days.
"I'm in pain," he said. "My head is bloodied and I'm bowed."
"Why did you go ahead and announce your campaign now?" I asked.
"We made a commitment and we're sticking to it. It's got to be a good omen. I think it reminds us that vision comes from within. Some shit like that," replied Smith. Percocet. Lots of it.
Through the haze, Smith said his campaign would focus on equity—an issue he championed for East Portland—and building a "homegrown economy."
But the real issue in this race will likely be dollars and cents. Smith is entering a three-way race with Charlie Hales and Eileen Brady, who have both raised over $150,000. With the death of Portland's public campaign financing program last fall and the primary still eight months away, this is going to be a long, expensive race.
That's a tricky position for Smith. During his years at the helm of progressive political nonprofit the Bus Project, Smith argued vociferously for getting big money out of politics. To surpass business-friendly Hales and Brady, he'll need some mighty big checks.
But unlike the streetcar backer and New Seasons founder, Smith says he won't accept money from out-of-state groups or corporations (though individual friends living elsewhere are still invited to send cash). The first thing he should spend money on? Sam Adams-style black-rimmed glasses.