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Where is Wheeler’s Challenger?

Monday, November 09, 2015


Td Wheeler

It’s now been two weeks since Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced he would be ending his campaign for re-election against State Treasurer Ted Wheeler (D) and, despite calls from across Portland for someone to challenge Wheeler, no one has yet stepped forward.

As GoLocal has reported, leaders have looked for Wheeler’s challenger without prevail. In his announcement, Hales said hoped “that several qualified candidates will seek the office of Mayor.  There are some dynamic new leaders in our community, and I’m excited to see who steps up.”

Calls have also come from groups around Portland, such as Black Lives Matter and Don’t Shoot PDX, who told GoLocal they wanted to see a challenger who would truly deal with the issue of discrimination and police brutality.

Even Wheeler said he hoped to have a new opponent in the race. He said after Hales’ departure he said he was still looking forward to a “competitive race” and indicated he expected a challenge in his statement.

"I believe that by tapping into the talents and ideas of our residents, Portland can overcome these challenges and craft the innovative, progressive solutions that will be examples to the entire nation," Wheeler said. “This race is still about the issues, and I will work hard between now and Election Day to unite the city.”

Time Is Running Out

Phil Keisling, Director of the Center for Public Service at the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University, told GoLocal that if a candidate does intend to jump in the race, he or she should do so soon. 

“It’s certainly late in the game, and that decision needs to be made in a matter of weeks, not a matter of months,” Keisling said. “The election is winnable in May, so there isn’t much time left to really start a campaign.”

Keisling said that because Wheeler has already established momentum in the campaign, whoever does enter will need to come prepared.

“You need a lot of things in order to run a credible campaign,” Keisling said. “You need time, money, visibility and organization. Someone in office already has many of those things going for them.”

Jim Moore, Director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, agreed. 

“It is Wheeler’s race to lose at this point,” Moore told GoLocal. “He’s built a very strong campaign and did enough to force Charlie Hales out of the race.”

Marissa Madrigal

Who Will It Be?

So far, potential opponents to Wheeler have only ruled themselves out of the race. Deborah Kafoury, Jennifer Willamson, and others have all confirmed that they will not run for the office. 

Marissa Madrigal, Multnomah County COO, has also been a rumored candidate for the city’s top office, and was mentioned by Hales as one of his top picks. But, while supporters have said she is actively considering taking a run at the office, there has been no declaration of whether she will, in fact, run.

Others, such as John Horvick, Vice President and Political Directer of DHM Research, speculated that Wheeler could be vulnerable to a challenge from the left.

“We’ve already seen evidence of it. Bernie Sanders had an incredible turnout at the Moda Center,” Horvick said. “If someone could challenge Wheeler in that same way that Sanders has challenged a more establishment Democrat like Hillary Clinton, I think they would have a lot of successes.”

Len Bergstein, a political analyst and President of Northwest Strategies, Inc., agreed with Horvick, saying that Portland would respond to a candidate that bucked the status quo of politicians in the area.

“Both Ted Wheeler and Charlie Hales are just middle-aged white guys, and I think there’s a lot of people that want to see something different in the city,” Bergstein told GoLocal. “I think there is a big hunger in Portland for someone who would fill a different lane.”


Related Slideshow: SLIDESHOW: Ted Wheeler Announces Portland Mayoral Candidacy on Rooftop of Revolution Hall

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler was joined by the press and many close friends, family members, and supporters on the rooftop of Revolution Hall off of SE Stark so that he could officially make his candidacy announcement for Portland mayor in the 2016 mayoral race.

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Wheeler's podium before his arrival.

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A string of Wheeler supporters stood behind him during his announcement. 

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Wheeler supporters wait for his arrival.

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Representative Lew Frederick (D) from District 43 is a Wheeler supporter.

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A Wheeler staffer readies reporters for Wheeler's entrance.

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Media and Wheeler staffers at the announcement speech.

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A reporter at the announcement speech. 

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Ted Wheeler arrived on the rooftop to heavy applause. 

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Representative Lew Frederick (D) from District 43 gave the opening speech at the Wheeler mayoral announcement.

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The Portland business community turned out to speak on Wheelers' behalf. 

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The owner of Mother's Bistro, Lisa Schroeder, gave a speech in honor of Ted Wheeler's candidacy announcement.

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Lisa Schroeder and Ted Wheeler shake hands. 

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Ted Wheeler gave his speech with supporters surrounding him. 

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Mayoral Candidate Ted Wheeler spoke of repaving roads, helping the homeless, issues of racial equity, and resurrecting the "Portland weird" of former Portland mayor Sam Adams. 

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Supporters and media watched as Wheeler spoke. 

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Wheeler greeted supporters after his speech. 

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Wheeler shook hands with supporters after his speech. 

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Ted Wheeler's wife, Katrinka Wheeler, whispers something into her husband's ear as he thanks friends and supporters after his announcement speech.

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Ted Wheeler hugged one of his supporters. 

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Ted Wheeler's mother pets a visiting dog after her son's announcement. 

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"He's an ally to the LGBT community, he cares about making the situation better for the homeless -- and he has a long history of showing that he cares," said owner of Mother's Bistro Lisa Schroeder. 

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Katrina Wheeler speaks with her husband's mother as well as friends after her husband's announcement speech. 

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Media and Wheeler supporters stuck around after Wheeler's speech. 


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