I WISH I COULD TELL YOU that the race to qualify for public financing to oppose Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman was heating up, but for the time being it seems to be getting diluted.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against any of the six (count 'em, six) candidates now racing to gather 1,000 $5 contributions by January 29, so that they can qualify for $150,000 in taxpayer dollars to run a publicly financed campaign against Saltzman. But when you split the electorate six ways, the old white incumbent with the name recognition and the business backing (Saltzman) is gonna win—no matter what you may think of the way he's handled the police bureau. 

Rudy Soto, 24, announced his candidacy on Monday, January 11, and is hoping to gather the 1,000 contributions in just 10 days. He'll make a great candidate for something, someday, but isn't it a little ambitious to be planning to run for office before he even graduates from Portland State?

In announcing, Soto joins ornery family therapist Ed Garren, who called the other four a "bunch of clowns" last week, after they decided to "organize" a cold rainy group event on Friday night, January 8, at a new outdoor pizza place on Alberta. I had a nice slice of pizza and enjoyed talking to the crusty old hippie running the joint while I froze my butt off, but the turnout was lousy and I didn't see many $5 bills changing hands. Garren seems to have all but given up on getting the magic 1,000 contributions in time, so I suppose it's his prerogative to call the whole process out for being a circus. But did the other four candidates mind being so derided?  

"I've been called worse by people from whom it mattered to me more," said Jesse Cornett, another candidate. 

Right now with Mary Volm, Jason Renaud, and Spencer Burton also in the race, we're looking at almost a million dollars in potential public financing for a race that could simply be handed to Saltzman in the May primary, thanks to spreading the opposition too thin. 

Fortunately 1,000 is a lot of contributions, and I expect this field to whittle down to one or two serious candidates who really want to tackle Saltzman come the January 29 deadline. A few resumes will have been polished, a little free publicity will have been garnered, and no harm will have been done.

God forbid they all qualify for our money, only to waste it.