The November 2020 elections are over a year away and, at the national level, most candidates are months into intense campaigning. But in Portland, candidates vying for one of the three City Commission seats that will be up for grabs have only just begun to poke their heads up.
The city won’t accept official candidate filings for the May 2020 primary election until September 12, but that hasn’t kept several Portlanders from announcing their plans to run. So who are these eager candidates? And, more importantly, do they have the chops to hold a public office?
The positions currently held by Mayor Ted Wheeler (who also serves as police commissioner), Commissioner Amanda Fritz, and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly will all be in contention in 2020. Out of the three, Fritz is the only one who’s announced she won’t be running for reelection. Mayor Wheeler has yet to definitively say whether or not he’ll run for reelection (but odds are he will) and Eudaly is vying for a second term.
Thus far, only one candidate has stepped up with intentions to fill Fritz’s vacancy: Carmen Rubio, the director of the Latino Network, a nonprofit that advocates Portland’s Latinx community. If elected, Rubio would be the first Latinx on Portland City Council. As of the Mercury’s press deadline, Rubio’s political action fund has yet to report any campaign contributions.
Banker Kevin McKay intends on challenging Eudaly with a pitch to develop more housing in Portland—a subtle rebuttal to Eudaly’s focus on improving housing affordability with zoning changes and strengthened renters’ rights. McKay has reported $140 in campaign contributions.
Wheeler has already attracted three challengers: police accountability advocate Teressa Raiford, progressive urban policy activist Sarah Iannarone, and environmental scientist Ozzie González.
Iannarone is one of Wheeler’s most pervasive critics, and previously ran against him in the 2016 mayoral race, collecting 12 percent of the vote. She’s reported $5,000 in campaign donations.
Raiford, who founded Don’t Shoot Portland and led an unsuccessful run for City Council in 2012, has collected around $4,400, while González, a political newcomer, has raked in nearly $10,000, mostly from construction and engineering representatives. Wheeler’s political action fund, meanwhile, has accumulated nearly $140,000 in contributions.
And then, of course, there’s the speculation: Are the recent donations to Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson’s campaign war chest meant for her mayoral run? Does Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez want to bring his state-level progressive policies to City Hall? Will Wheeler nemesis Daryl Turner, head of Portland’s police union, make his long-anticipated sprint for the mayor’s office?
Portland’s last two city council elections were marked with unique victories, with Eudaly, an activist representing displaced renters, and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, a staunch police critic, disrupting City Hall’s politically moderate tenor.
It’s too early to tell if 2020’s election cycle will keep this trend going. But with a national eye geared on Portland politics and divisive city council votes on the horizon, we’re not counting it out.