In what may be the most anti-climactic campaign news ever, City Commissioner Sam Adams was expected to informally kick off his mayoral candidacy Wednesday evening, October 3—inconveniently, just after press time.
Anti-climactic? After months of waiting for Mayor Tom Potter to announce his retirement, and then another month waiting for Adams to announce what everybody already knew, perhaps it's a case of Anticipation Fatigue. And if anybody can lay a valid claim to such a disorder, it's the potential candidates who've been waiting for Adams to make up his mind so they can run for his seat.
Two candidates—transportation activist Chris Smith and nonprofit director Charles Lewis—have already made the gamble and jumped in; Adams' looming announcement must be a massive relief for them. Lewis, though, had already taken potshots this summer at Adams for his plan to raise fees to pay for transportation maintenance and repairs. At the time, it seemed like an unwise strategy—why take on Adams when it wasn't clear if he was an opponent or a potential ally? But now that Smith is in the race, it makes a little more sense—perhaps Lewis' maneuvering was more of an early strike via proxy against Smith, who, like Adams, has a reputation, whether deserved or not, that's more "streetcars and big projects" than "filling potholes."
Back to Adams: Last Friday, he said that he wouldn't be taking part in the Voter-Owned Elections (VOE) program, which gives city candidates campaign money if they can get 1,000 signatures and $5 contributions from Portland voters.
"Even though I'm supportive of the program, because I voted to institute it, it has the appearance of a conflict of interest," he said.
That reasoning could be surprising to Adams' council colleague, Erik Sten, who not only voted for the program, but helped draft it, and then used it in his reelection campaign last year.
Still, Adams appears to have learned a little lesson from the Tom Potter vs. Jim Francesconi show, wherein the more money Francesconi raised, the more unpopular he became. Adams says he's limiting his overall contributions to $200,000 (exactly what mayoral candidates get from public financing), and individual contributions to $500.
That Adams isn't going to actively screw the VOE system by raising millions of dollars is probably music to the ears of campaign finance reformers. The coming year will be the ultimate test for the system, giving voters a chance to see how it works for two open races before the whole idea goes to the ballot in 2010.