BY THE TIME the paper you're reading finishes its run on the newsstands, Portland may well have a fourth major candidate in next year's mayoral race: Police Chief Mike Reese.
Two weeks is about how long Reese said he'd take before deciding whether he would run or not. And after poll results emerged Monday, November 7, showing him essentially tied for the lead with businesswoman Eileen Brady—it's hard to imagine he'll say no.
In the telephone poll, conducted by SurveyUSA and commissioned by KATU, Reese topped the field at 20 percent, just ahead of Brady's 19 percent. Ex-City Commissioner Charlie Hales and State Representative Jefferson Smith follow at 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
But the chief's decision—despite what some outlets, ahem, initially reported—is hardly a sure thing. In interviews only hours after word of his interest leaked, and in an internal memo sent at the same time to his subordinates, Reese was carefully circumspect.
He told me, for instance, that starting a marathon campaign months after his would-be rivals—and after all of them have raised at least $100,000— is "daunting."
Further, in the memo, obtained by the Mercury, Reese made sure to stress that a campaign was "something I did not anticipate [or] seek out"—indeed, his allies in the business community have been whispering in his ear—and that he still needed to decide whether a campaign (forcing him to step aside from "a job I love") was "right for the bureau and the community."
It's right for Reese—by far Portland's most popular and effective police chief in years—to weigh that question. Ask any rank-and-file cop, and while many agree Reese would make a "great" mayor, they also say they'd hate to lose him as a boss.
That comes even though Reese has made unpopular moves, like firing the officer who shot and killed Aaron Campbell in January 2010, and then firing a former Portland Police Association president after two road-rage incidents against the same woman. (Not that accountability advocates would call him perfect; he's also approved some curious promotions and presided over a surge in police shootings.)
But I really hope Reese is weighing something even more important than polling, or fundraising, or the future of a bureau he'd still lead as police commissioner: What kind of mayor does he want to be?
It's always terribly concerning when a candidate is coaxed into running, especially when powerful interests like the Portland Business Alliance might be doing the coaxing. Can he muster passion for land-use spats? Will he guide Portland away from values like sustainability and "weirdness"? Can he, will he, stand on his own?