Both Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Sam Adams may be staying quiet about their plans for 2008, but the race for city council has officially begun—with or without them.
Portland entrepreneur/nonprofit director Charles Lewis—who runs the Portland Duck Tours on the Willamette, as well as the Ethos Music Center—was set to officially announce his candidacy on Wednesday morning, June 6, in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on NE MLK and Holladay, followed by an amphibious ride to city hall in his business' trademark duck bus/boat.
Lewis is running for the seat currently occupied by Adams, but he's not challenging Adams—not exactly. It's commonly accepted in political circles that if Potter doesn't run for reelection, Adams will run for mayor, leaving his seat open. But Potter has said he won't make up his mind until September.
So, despite being an Adams supporter—he worked on his 2004 campaign for city council, and Adams was the second person he told about his plans to run, after his wife—Lewis isn't waiting around, and has filed for the seat.
"Everything I've read says [Potter and Adams are] undecided, so until someone puts their hat in the ring, I consider it an open seat," Lewis says. "Right now, we're possibly six months away from either of them announcing. That doesn't leave a lot of time before the May primary to put together a campaign."
It's a big gamble—unseating Adams would be next to impossible if he chose to run for reelection instead of the mayor's job, and Lewis says, "I don't think either of us wants to go head to head if we can help it."
If it is an open seat, the field will be full, with people like Amanda Fritz, transportation activist Chris Smith, small-business owner Dave Lister, and numerous others considering campaigns for city council.
But if there's an advantage to being first in the race, Lewis will have it. It'll also give him a jump on collecting signatures and donations in order to qualify for the city's public campaign fund, which gives $145,000 to candidates who can raise 1,000 $5 contributions.
In some ways, Lewis' run for city council could resemble Erik Sten's early campaigns. He's got an update of the Stenmobile bus in the form of the amphibious Duck Tour vehicle, and he says his campaign will be "young, energetic, and idealistic."
Lewis says his campaign will focus on keeping Portland affordable. "For the first time, we have a migration of families out of Portland. We need to be looking harder at homeownership opportunities and affordable housing," he says.
And like Adams, Lewis wants to reach out to the small-business community. "Large corporations can take care of themselves, and we should let them take care of themselves," he adds. "I think the city should do more to empower small businesses" like through city-backed loans for business owners.
Even if Adams runs for his council seat again, Lewis doesn't plan on dropping out of the race.
"I definitely didn't get into this race to drop out or come in second."