JUST OVER A WEEK AGO, there were 28 people vying for a job at city hall. But the May 20 primary election dashed a lot of dreams, and left three men—Sam Adams, Randy Leonard, and Nick Fish—with secure employment for the next few years.
What's undecided is who will be taking the seat Adams vacates, when he sidles over to take the mayoral post. In a hotly contested race that had a record five publicly financed candidates, two people will keep battling until voters choose a victor in November.
Amanda Fritz, who ran against incumbent Dan Saltzman two years ago, scored nearly 43 percent of the vote, while Charles Lewis came in second, with a comparatively distant 12.65 percent (pulling in at third and fourth respectively, Jeff Bissonnette and John Branam were right behind Lewis, in the low 12-percent range).
What's interesting is that of the six-person field, voters sent through the two candidates with the most similar platforms. Both stressed the basics, with Lewis even shelling out some of his public campaign funds to fill potholes in outer East Portland. Fritz's mantra, meanwhile, was "basic services in all 95 of Portland's neighborhoods." Both have been critical of projects like pricey Portland Development Commission-funded condos, the tram, and a proposal to move the Sauvie Island Bridge to NW Portland to create a bike and pedestrian crossing over I-405.
As the only real contested election in Portland this November (it's a safe bet Portland will vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, after all), the two will face intense scrutiny, and will have to differentiate themselves.
Lewis isn't wasting any time. The day after the election, as Bissonnette was conceding, Lewis was making plans to "knock on a few doors this afternoon." With Fritz widely seen as the frontrunner, he'd hoped to place second, and says his focus for the next few months will be "to get our name out."
Fritz is no slouch, either. In an email to supporters, she asked them to store lawn signs temporarily, and she's taking a short break from hardcore campaigning to re-evaluate and recharge, before jumping back into it mid-June. "I'm going to run very, very hard. Certainly it's great staring with a 44,000 vote lead, but I know I need to work hard," she says, adding that the next six months of interacting with the community are preparation "to be a city commissioner."
In a potential sign of things to come, Lewis has already taken aim at Fritz, claiming that the basic services message was originally his. "[Fritz] definitely tried absorbing some of that messaging—basic services and potholes. It's something we've been doing since the very beginning," Lewis says. (Though her messaging was less precise in her 2006 run, Fritz was seen as the neighborhood advocate, pushing for services citywide. "It's not a new concept for me. It's what I see as what most needs to be done," she says.)
"The big thing is going to be, what has she actually done?" Lewis points to his work at Ethos, where he heads up a staff and a budget. "She hasn't run an organization... I think that will be a really critical difference."
The criticism doesn't ruffle Fritz. "I've been involved in Portland politics for 17 years, and politics is very different from running a business. Politics requires collaboration and negotiation, and that's what I have experience in."
Lewis was one of the only candidates in this race to toss bombs at his competitors in the primary—criticizing one of Fritz's mailers, and dogging Branam on financial details—but he says he's aiming for a positive campaign. Fritz is on board with being positive, saying, "the public campaign financing demands that." But having spent the last few months on the trail with Lewis, she's already got a comeback: "I think it's pretty clear that that's his style, and that's probably what we'll be asking voters to distinguish. Do voters want someone with a more collaborative style, or do they want someone who's more combative?"