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Portland Mayor Sam Adams Won't Seek Re-Election

Next year’s mayoral race in Portland will go forward without the incumbent.


July, 2011: Announces he will not run again for mayor.

June, 2009: Attorney General John Kroger says there is insufficient evidence to make a case.

July 2009: Recall effort is launched.

Jan. 2009: Admits to a relationship (despite earlier denials) with 18-year-old Beau Breedlove in 2005.

May 20, 2008: Elected as Mayor in Portland.

2002: Begins a four-year term as Commissioner on the City Council.

1991: Goes to work as Vera Katz’s chief of staff, where he served for 11 years. He was the youngest in the city’s history to hold that post.

1987: Ends internship for Congressman Peter DeFasio and goes to work for the Oregon House Democratic Campaign Committee and then Democratic Majority Leader Carl Hosticka.

Sources include the Mayor’s official biography as well as news archives from the Willamette Week and OPB.

Sam Adams, who’s spent most of the last two decades in public life, says he’ll step down at the end of his term.

Adams says he recently looked at polling data provided by some local union groups. He says the results showed his chances were a bit better than he imagined, but he still felt the race would be close.

He says he prefers to concentrate on trying to be effective for the rest of his term.

Adams weathered a scandal shortly after he took office, concerning his relationship with a young man who was 17 at the time they met.

When asked if he was concerned about revisiting his personal life during the campaign, Adams recalled his time working for former Mayor Ver Katz. He was with her during several tough campaigns.

Adams says he was not afraid of going into the race as an underdog.

He didn’t comment on what his future plans might be.

Announcement ‘Spices Up’ Race

Adams’ announcement has spiced up next year’s mayoral race.

Several candidates have already announced they will run, including Eileen Brady. She co-founded New Seasons markets, and has served with the Oregon Health Fund Board. Brady thanked Adams for his years of service.

“I think the same thing will hold true for this race as it was yesterday, as it will be tomorrow. People want some new ideas, they want leadership, they want to jump-start this economy,” Brady said.

Another announced candidate, former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, said Adams’ announcement was the right decision. He alluded to the sex scandal that marred Adams’ first term in office.

“I hope that now we get to talk about substance, instead of about people’s histories, other than the fact that you have to put your qualifications on the table. I’m proud of mine. Now we won’t have to talk about things that have been hashed over again and again about Sam, we can talk about the real stuff,” Hales said.

In addition to his time at City Hall, Hales has worked at a civil engineering firm. He says he hopes to discuss the city’s economic issues, crime, and education during the campaign.

Read Sam Adams’ complete statement below:


Portland’s future—and mine.

By Sam Adams

Fri, July 29, 2011 2:37pm

Dear Portlander,

I am finishing a long-scheduled, and much appreciated, week-long “staycation.” I hope you, too, are enjoying our long-awaited return of the sunshine. I have used my time off to reflect on the needs of our city, and how I can best serve Portlanders. I am writing to let you know my future plans.

Each day I have worked in Portland City Hall—starting as Mayor Vera Katz’s Chief of Staff, then as a City Commissioner and now as your Mayor—I have been challenged, exhilarated, and most of all honored by the opportunity to serve my fellow Portlanders and help shape the future of our city. We have done great things together.

Since I took office as Mayor, we’ve put nearly 2,000 people back to work under the city’s first Economic Development Strategy in 15 years. We reined in City spending early, and have used the budget savings to help those—like the jobless and small business owners—hit hardest by the recession. We’ve made smart investments to expand summer education programs and offer college scholarships to help thousands of students graduate high school. We’ve laid the groundwork to ensure that every Portlander has access to arts and arts education. We’ve implemented a 360-degree anti-gang violence strategy, and approved tougher laws on illegal guns and drugs. With our Climate Action Plan and initiatives like Clean Energy Works Oregon, we have reduced our green house gas emissions.

We have made these changes by creating or invigorating community partnerships, like the new Cradle to Career education partnership, the emerging Portland Plan Partners Council, and the reorganized Planning and Sustainability Commission. These community- and business-based partnerships for change will endure, regardless of who holds positions of leadership in the public and private sector.

Making progress in this manner—progress that is accountable, resilient, and ever-improving—is the reason that I entered public service. We have a lot more work to do, which brings me squarely to my future plans.

I am under no illusion of how challenging the race for re-election would be. I’ve been in tough elections before; nobody thought I could win my city council race in 2004. But I believe for me to win re-election as mayor, I would need to fundraise and campaign full-time, starting now.

As I have considered the reality of a possible re-election effort, I have come to the conclusion that I have a choice: Move this agenda forward, or campaign full-time for re-election.

With the state of our nation in such flux, and so many local issues needing focused and hands-on mayoral leadership, for me, the choice is clear.

My best service to Portland will be to complete the platform of change and improvement you elected me to deliver: Creating jobs, increasing the high school graduation rate, and making Portland the most sustainable city, with the most equal of opportunities. This work is well underway, and I’m committed to making every day of the next 17 months count. Thus, I will not seek re-election. 

Each day—supported by my partner, Peter, and my family—I wake up feeling blessed to have the opportunity to serve as your mayor. It is, without a doubt, the best job in the world.

It’s also a job I cannot do alone. I want to thank my staff, who bring an unparalleled passion for this city to their work each and every day. I’d also like to thank my council colleagues, who have shared in this vision for a better Portland, and have helped us realize it. And I want to thank our community, business, non-profit, education, and faith community partners, without whom we could not have accomplished this much.

Mostly, I want to thank you. 


Sam Adams