On the rooftop deck of a trendy Southeast Portland design agency, Mayor Ted Wheeler trumpeted the news that had leaked out three days earlier.
“I am officially announcing my reelection campaign for mayor of the city of roses,” Wheeler, smiling, told the crowd Monday night. They proceeded to burst into a brief chant of “Ted.”
The news that Wheeler is running for a second term came out Friday after campaign staff sent out a press release with a widely ignored — and tricky to spot — embargo.
But Monday’s official kickoff presented Wheeler with a chance to outline his case for another four years.
Before rattling off recent victories Portland had earned in various online rankings — including the eighth most livable city by U.S. News & World Report, fourth healthiest city by CBS News and most foodie city by an uncited source — Wheeler said he believed serious social problems persist in the city he governs.
“Years if not decades of either inaction or misdiagnosing the problems has come to roost here, as elsewhere,” he told the crowd of supporters. “We have a homeless crisis. We have a mental health crisis. We have an addiction crisis.
“Our aging infrastructure is literally crumbling around us,” he added.
It’s more critical than ever, he said, for the city to elect a leader capable of seeking common ground and making tough choices that would bring about much-needed progress – a leader, he said, like him.
“You know what my record was when I served as the Multnomah County Chair and later as the state treasurer and now as your mayor,” he said. “I have always worked tirelessly to build a solid foundation beneath our community.”
Wheeler painted the city’s homelessness crisis as his No. 1 priority — a crisis he said that is rooted in housing, mental health, addiction and poverty “all rolled up into a very complex and challenging problem.”
“There are no other issues so in need of committed leadership as this one,” he said.
His opponents will likely ask why those problems persist four years into his administration.
But Wheeler said commitment requires hanging around, something he pointed out no mayor in Portland has done in this century. The three men that followed three-term Mayor Vera Katz — Charlie Hales, Sam Adams and Tom Potter — all declined to try for a second term.
“There’s a reason we haven’t had a two-terms mayor since Vera Katz,” he said. “We haven’t had someone willing to keep going because this job is hard, and it’s often thankless. But we need people who are willing to keep going.”
The argument was echoed by Commissioner Nick Fish, who said that after serving with four mayors, he was excited to see someone try and stick around.
“This city has not been served well with serial one-term mayors,” he said. “We desperately need continuity in office and I look forward to working with Ted in years to come.”
Other community leaders briefly spoke at the event to make their position — and that of their supporters — clear.
“I’m here to say labor’s here supporting labor champion Ted Wheeler,” said Willy Myers, executive secretary treasurer of the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council, which represents a little over two dozen trades.
“Business is with Ted Wheeler,” said Andrew Hoan, the president of the Portland Business Alliance.
Such endorsements this early in a campaign cycle are unusual. Groups such as labor and the city’s largest chamber usually wait to make formal nods until closer to the filing deadline, which is next year.
Wheeler told reporters his campaign will soon be making an announcement on whether he plans on taking part in the city’s second attempt at public campaign financing, the new Open and Accountable Elections program, which is meant to encourage candidates to focus on grassroots fundraising and caps on donations of more than $250 per person.
Wheeler faces at least three challengers: progressive activist Sarah Iannarone, who has said she will participate in the public financing program; Ozzie González, the director of sustainability and diversity for a construction company; and Don’t Shoot Portland activist Teressa Raiford.