After two months of solicitation, City Commissioner Erik Sten's reelection campaign believes they have the necessary 1,000 signatures to qualify for Voter-Owned Elections. Campaign staffers will be going through the signature sheets to verify that they are all from Portland residents, and expect to turn them into the elections office sometime next week.

His filing will bring the number of public candidates to an unofficial three. (Amanda Fritz is still the only candidate who has officially qualified. Emilie Boyles expects to have hers verified by this week.) After receiving 1,000 $5 donations and signatures, the candidates qualify for $150,000 from the city to run a campaign for the primary. The number goes up to $250,000 if they make it to the general election.

Sten was one of the architects of the Voter-Owned Elections system, and one of its biggest champions on the city council.

The news comes just days after polling company Riley Research Associates released their latest survey, which shows mixed results for Sten.

In the race for his seat, 28 percent of the survey respondents said they'd vote for Sten, and one percent each went for Lewis Humble, Boyles, Jory "Moof" Knott, and—surprisingly—corporate-funded Gard & Gerber staffer/State Senator Ginny Burdick. The biggest response (37 percent) was the "unaided" answer: "Not Erik Sten."

On the surface, this news could be taken as bad for Sten, and good for the candidates who will be trying to remind voters about the water bureau billing problems.

But the survey results could be suspect, says political consultant Kari Chisholm, who is building Sten's campaign website. The survey, Chisholm points out, is potentially flawed in a couple of different ways.

First, the size of the sample: Riley built the results of this poll based on only 173 respondents, giving a margin of error of plus or minus 7.45 percent--a wide gap for a political poll. Because of that gap, Chisholm says, "The survey tells me nothing."

Second, it's far too early in the race for these numbers to mean much, Chisholm said. At this stage in the campaigns, the vast majority of Portlanders don't have any idea who the city commissioners are, let alone the lesser-known challengers.

"The numbers will mean more after all the candidates have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars getting their messages out," Chisholm said.

Sten had a similar reaction.

"I would love to believe that Ginny Burdick is only going to get one percent of the vote, but we know that's not going to happen," he said Thursday afternoon.

(Technically, Riley's numbers say it would be much less than even one percent—only one person out of 173 said they would vote for Burdick. Riley rounded percentage numbers up. The only candidate besides Sten to receive more than one vote in the survey was Humble, who received two.)

Burdick has still not filed for candidacy, so she hasn't had to release a contributors report. But she is expected to be on the receiving end of campaign funds from the same people and corporate entities that are funding the First Things First Committee's attempt to put a repeal of the public campaigns on the May primary ballot. Her presence will make the concept of public campaigns a main focus of the race.

Meanwhile, the county elections division is still recounting the petition signatures turned in by the First Things First Committee to get the repeal on the ballot. The group gathered 40,988 signatures—far more than the 26,691 needed to get on the ballot.

"I think it's amazing that despite spending $350,000 on signature gathering and turning in an excess of 15,000 signatures, they're still on the bubble," Sten said. "I can't say I wouldn't like to see [the signatures fail], but in the long run it's better for the system to fight and win at the ballot."

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors just passed a public campaign system for the mayoral seat, although Mayor Gavin Newsom (who raised $5.7 million for his race--five times the amount his opponent raised) wants to put it in front of the voters.