FOR A MAYORAL candidate who's made big splashes with an endorsement from the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), ludicrously flush campaign coffers, and some law-and-order talk about Occupy Portland, Eileen Brady has been remarkably successful at wrapping herself with the progressive flag.
After wowing a group of Portland Green Party members on environmental issues, Brady managed to emerge as the party's top-ranked major candidate, ranking second on their list, just ahead of State Representative Jefferson Smith, when the group announced its endorsements this spring. (It may not have hurt that the Greens' local director, Jorden Leonard, is a Brady backer.)
And then, at forum after forum, she's managed to cozy up, to a surprising degree, to the one mayoral hopeful who did win first place in the Greens' hearts: Cameron Whitten, the young activist and Occupy Portland organizer. Even though Whitten has excoriated Brady for her comments praising the police bureau's handling of last fall's Occupy eviction, Brady's staff invites Whitten to events he otherwise wouldn't be able to attend, gives him rides, and takes pains to at least mention his name publicly (if not his actual platform at cameronwhittenforunity.com). She's been the only candidate to reliably do that.
And, meanwhile, another occupier, Devon Pack, has gone to work for Brady, helping with social media.
Brady's supporters see all of that—the Green and PBA endorsements, the closeness with Whitten—as proof the businesswoman is open-minded and would lead the city as a pragmatic, issues-focused mayor. They also see it as a natural extension of her expertise in helping run hippie-inflected grocery chains that actually care about sustainability. But her detractors chalk it up to something else: proof she's trying to please too many people. Their word is "co-opt," which is what they worry Brady's managed to do both with the Green Party and Whitten.
In a particularly tart line, one Brady skeptic and Occupy participant likened her to the popular kid in high school "who's just using you."
The whole issue has especially been a burr in the side of a lot of Smith's supporters—who have been railing about Brady and her seeming embrace of Occupy on Facebook. Smith is arguably the more natural fit for the Greens and other non-mainstream political groups—drawing a clear distinction between himself and Brady, for example, by not mentioning how free-speech protesting has "consequences" that include arrests. And he's been working hard to consolidate and engage that bloc as much as possible.
Now, some rumblings are afoot that could alter at least part of the equation. A few Smith-supporting Greens are pushing for a revote that would see their candidate flop places with Brady. They say she was slow to submit a questionnaire detailing her enviro policies (a request they made after their consensus-based endorsement).
It's a canny gambit. But with ballots due in days, not weeks, it probably won't work. And Brady, it seems, will get to keep her green, progressive street cred.