Back to business as usual!
  • Back to business as usual!
Trailing by a steady 5,000 votes, the city of Portland voter owned elections campaign has conceded. This means we're back to where we were in 2005, before then-City Commissioner Eric Sten pushed through campaign finance reform that allows candidates for city council and mayor to gather 1,000-1,500 $5 contributions to receive $150,000 in public funding from the city.

Personally, I'm really surprised by this outcome. These are the most liberal voters in the state we're talking about! Portland! The program was a solid investment in a more accessible democracy. And now it's dead. Quick factoid: When Randy Leonard ran as a privately-financed candidate for city council in 2008, 80 percent of his donations came in checks over $500. Amanda Fritz ran as a publicly-financed candidate and you know what percent of her donations were checks over $500? Zero.

For now, Fritz isn't giving up on her pet cause. Caught outside this morning's city council meeting, Fritz said, "I'm going to wait, I'm not conceding yet."

But it seems that voter owned elections were another casualty of the strong conservative voter turnout during this election.

Campaign director Heather Stuart blamed the loss on two things: the economy and misinformation. The cost of voter owned elections since it began in 2006 totals $1.8 million, and anything biting from a local budget during this recession hasn't gone over well with voters.

Stuart says the opposition to the system (under the moniker "Portlanders Against Taxpayer Funded Political Campaigns") effectively spread the idea that there was no cap on the cost of the program. They brought this up in our endorsement interview and were shot down—voter owned elections can't spend more than .2 percent of the city budget on campaigns and has never spent near the amount. "The opposition repeated time and time on the radio, at neighborhood meetings, again that there is no cap on how much city money could be spent on this," says Stuart. She thinks that misinformation cost the election.