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Politics | local | Election | Portland Mayoral Race

Options For Mayor Disappoint Many Portland Voters

Oregon voters now have election ballots in hand. But many Portland residents say they are dissatisfied with their options for mayor.

Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales prepare to leave the stage after a debate on OPB's Think Out Loud.

Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales prepare to leave the stage after a debate on OPB’s Think Out Loud.

Michael Clapp/OPB

When Portland resident David Baasch filled out his ballot earlier this week, he felt good about his vote in most of the races. But his options for Portland mayor gave him pause.

“For me this is the perfect example of why I wish there was a “none of the above” selection that could be made,” Baash said.

Baasch doesn’t support either Charlie Hales or Jefferson Smith.  And he’s not alone. Some voters are turned off by Hale’s time spent living in Washington, but voting in Oregon. And some voters were turned off after revelations earlier this month that Jefferson Smith hit a woman in a 1993 incident at a college party.

Political analyst Bill Lunch says those factors eroded some voters’ trust in the candidates.

“Either of those problems under normal circumstances would not exactly be disqualifying, but they’d be very big liabilities for each of the candidates involved. But because we’re in the general election where there’s no one else on the ballot, it makes it very easy to understand why lots of voters in Portland are unhappy with the choices in front of them,” Lunch says.

Kathryn Bourn was a Smith supporter up until about a month ago. She voted for him in the May primary. She even threw a fundraiser for Smith earlier this fall. But she changed her mind after learning about Smith’s past.

“After hearing that, and as more details came out, I just felt like I could not in good conscience vote for him.  I just couldn’t do it. So I don’t know who I’m going to vote for now.”

She doesn’t support Hales, so she’s thinking about writing in a candidate. That’s what David Baasch did with his vote.

“I wrote in Nick Fish— just so there was a name there,” Baash said.

Nick Fish is one of Portland’s current city commissioners.

“Obviously he’s not going to win, I just wanted some other names out there. Writing in Mickey Mouse or something like that probably would have worked just as well.”

Although it should not be considered a scientific survey, we’ve heard from many sources in OPB’s Public Insight Network who also told us that they’re considering an alternative to the two major candidates.

Some told us that they won’t vote at all. Some said they’re going for Eileen Brady, who lost to Hales and Smith in the May primary. But Bill Lunch says write-ins don’t stand much of a chance.

“The prospects for a write-in candidate are somewhere between slim to none at this stage of the game. The reason is it’s very difficult to mount a write-in campaign under the best of circumstances, and it normally takes quite a while to do.”

And with the election less than two weeks away, Lunch says that either Hales or Smith will almost certainly still win the ticket. But whoever wins will still face a big challenge when he takes office.

“Since there is a fair level of dissatisfaction with both major candidates, whoever wins will have to prove himself to the voters, in order to have a chance at being effective and perhaps at being re-elected four years afterwards.”

Election day is November 6th.

Sources for this story came to us via OPB’s Public Insight Network. To learn how you can become a source and share what you know, go to opb dot org slash public insight.

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