There’s a new candidate in the race for Portland mayor — and she is one of the first people to opt into Portland’s new public campaign finance system.
Sarah Iannarone — a teacher, activist and self-described urban policy wonk — announced her campaign Tuesday with a video and website launch.
Iannarone ran against Mayor Ted Wheeler in 2016 and placed third, with just under 12% of votes.
“I ran in 2016 because I had serious concerns about whether or not at that time the heir apparent, Ted Wheeler, whether he would be the right person to lead our city,” she said. “I think a lot of the criticism that he’s gotten over the past few years reflect that I was right.”
Iannarone said she’s been particularly disappointed with Wheeler’s support of the Oregon Department of Transportation-led freeway expansion in the Rose Quarter, which she vehemently opposes, and on his continued program of sweeping or removing homeless camps.
“I think he’s a very good person, but I think he lacks courage sometimes, and he tries to please everybody,” she said.
Wheeler has said he plans to run again, but has not launched a campaign or started fundraising in earnest.
Iannarone does not have previous experience in elected office. She teaches at Wayfinding Academy, an alternative community college. Previously, she helped start the Alberta Library Cafe and First Stop Portland, a Portland State University program that offers study tours of the city for visiting delegations. Iannarone said she left her PSU position in February.
To qualify for matching dollars under the nascent system, candidates for mayor first have to raise at least $5,000 from 500 individuals. Qualified candidates can then receive $6 from Portland’s taxpayer supported Open and Accountable Elections Fund for every $1 they raise, on donations of $50 or less.
The public campaign finance system is being run by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is not seeking re-election. Some members of the City Council have expressed concerns about whether the program has the staff, technology and funding it needs to be ready for the upcoming campaign cycle.
Iannarone said she and her treasurer have met with city staff and studied how to follow program rules. Starting Tuesday, her campaign is qualified to receive donations that could be eligible for matching funds.
“I feel a lot of responsibility, but a lot of opportunity and privilege, to be able to participate in it,” Iannarone said.
Wheeler, who raised $850,000 in private donations when he was elected mayor in 2016, is also facing a potential challenge from Ozzie Gonzalez, a political newcomer.
Gonzales, who trained as an architect, is Diversity and Sustainability Director at Balfour Beatty, a major contractor and construction firm. He serves on the boards of TriMet and the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Like Iannarone, he has not previously held elected office.
He’s currently overseeing equity and workforce development for the renovation of the Portland Building.
Gonzalez announced what he calls “an exploratory campaign” at a small business meeting last month.
“I’ve opened up a PAC, and I’ve put it out into the universe to see if my support network is willing to help me build a foundation for launching a campaign this fall,” he said.
Gonzales said that in his 15 years as an architect, he’s collaborated on projects at the international, federal and regional levels, and he has worked closely with urban planners and local governments.
He believes he can help Portland better manage its growing pains, from increased congestion to lack of housing.
“Having a history of helping city and regional governments solve problems of growth, being at the front lines of implementation when governments are looking to address issues of mobility and affordability and economic development — I think the time is now to really dive in and start solving some of these issues,” he said.
Gonzalez said he has not yet decided whether to opt into the public campaign finance system and said he doesn’t want to constrain his likelihood of being successful. “If others are opting in, I have no reservation about dong that myself,” he said.
Gonzalez has reported $2,650 in contributions to his political action committee so far.
Teressa Raiford, a self-employed activist and the founder of Don’t Shoot Portland, has also announced a campaign and created a candidate PAC. She’s reported $2,220 in contributions so far in 2019.