THE TAILSPIN for Jefferson Smith—buffeted by reports he punched a woman at a party in 1993—intensified in recent days after a handful of prominent endorsers found themselves very publicly pulling their support for a candidate they once championed.
First to go were the city's rank-and-file police and firefighter unions—groups that Smith was name-dropping in a TV ad that started airing literally at the same time the group decided to give Smith the stiff-arm. Then came elected officials and the women's-issues-focused Mother PAC.
"It was hard for the police union to have someone with so many incidents," explained Alan Ferschweiler, vice president of the Portland Firefighters Association. "We all had to confer and make sure it was the right decision for everybody."
If Smith already faced a fight refocusing his campaign around actual issues—while also apologizing and reminding people that many of those who witnessed the scuffle said he wasn't to blame—the drumbeat of defections may have made it impossible.
And where does that leave the once-promising candidate? Apparently looking for someplace to crash and burn. On a must-listen cortandfatboy podcast posted on Monday, October 15, Smith gave a heartbreaking exit interview (conflict alert: Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts is also a Mercury employee). Making some humbling admissions, Smith admitted the likelihood that he may get his "tail kicked" by Charlie Hales and confessed he and his wife have discussed leaving when the election is over.
"Do we stay in Portland?" he said. "There's a lot to think about."
Smith was remarkably open during the interview—not unsurprising, since the podcast has traditionally been something of a safe harbor. He didn't resist when the phrase "October surprise" came up. He had his own choice words—"tabloid shit"—for some the stories written about him, like the reports on his rough play during sports games.
He also argued that the papers chasing the scuffle story, the Oregonian and Willamette Week, have spent months, if not years, looking into his "sexual history." And that they still are.
"Did he ever look at you funny? Did he ever touch you in a way you didn't like?" he said. "I've known 1,000 people... Can they find 10 who will say 'I hate that asshole'?"
Smith said he didn't want to out the woman, but he also spent months bracing for the inevitable call. Twice he thought about revealing it himself, including in a speech to domestic violence agency Raphael House. But then he fretted over what would've happened if his memory differed from public records, which it ultimately did. He'd be accused of hiding something.
"Why didn't you bring it up?" he's been asked. "I'm chicken. I'm scared."
That's not exactly true, since Smith still ran for office in the first place, knowing he'd inevitably have to answer questions. But if he really packs up and leaves a place that still needs him—even if it's not as mayor? Then, yes, he really will be.