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The Rise of the Outsider Candidate

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Bernie Sanders

It’s been a rough few months for the political elite, as both in Portland and nationally, upstart and outsider candidates have dominated political coverage an have some established powers feeling the pressure. Experts told GoLocal that more upheaval and change could be on the way in 2016.

Locally, Portland is looking at a changing of the guard in the coming months. A new Mayor will be elected in 2016, after incumbent Charlie Hales ended his bid for another term. His plans for four more years in office were stymied in part by an insurgency from Ted Wheeler, who is now feeling pressure from his own challenger in Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey.

That’s not all on the local front, however. Stuart Emmons, a Portland designer, is challenging Portland Commissioner and stale Steve Novick. That combination could mean a changing of the guard in the Rose City, according to Rebecca Tweed, Political and Communications Director for State Street Communications.

“Portland is facing many big challenges right now, and I think the number of competitive campaigns we’ll see in 2016 in Portland is reflective of uncertainty about the future of the city,” Tweed told GoLocal. “This unrest usually manifests itself by more individuals running for office, and possibly with a slight advantage.” 

Meanwhile, coverage surrounding the races for both the Democratic and Republican Presidential nomination has been dominated by two unlikely outsiders: Bernie Sanders, the Independent, Socialist Senator from Vermont, and Donald Trump, the outspoken businessman-turned-celebrity-turned-politician from New York. 

The pair seem to be almost polar opposites, but a closer look reveals more similarities than first meet the eye.

“They are both certainly doing something right,” said John Horvick, Vice President and Political Director of DHM Research, a Portland-based political research and polling firm told GoLocal. “They both represent frustrations with the status quo, that outsider label of someone that’s very critical of the establishment applies to both of them.”

Stuart Emmons

A Changing of the Guard in Portland?

Wheeler’s initial status as a challenger against the incumbent Hales gave him a boost, according to Jim Moore, Director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation. 

Now, however, Wheeler has assumed the position as the established candidate. As a result, he’ll have a difficult position to defend as the campaigns begin in earnest.

“Wheeler is acting like the incumbent, so he has most to lose,” Moore said. ‘Bailey is acting like the challenger, so he as most to gain. “Until we see credible poll numbers, that dynamic will probably hold.”

Tweed said that she believes the upheaval can be credited, or blamed, in part on a dissatisfaction with government.

“If incumbents don’t appear to be getting the job done and Portlanders are dissatisfied, that brings momentum to the challengers,” Tweed said. “I think it’s too early to tell how voters are approaching these types of campaigns – do they want “out with old, in with the new” or is it the time, now more than ever, to stick with experienced, rooted leadership to navigate through tough times?”

Donald Trump

Trump and Sanders Ruffle Feathers

The race for the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominations have not been victory parades for established movers and shakers like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Instead, Sanders and Trump have force what seem to be drawn out battles for each party’s nomination.

Both declared their candidacies earlier than many of their more established primary opponents, giving them a chance to grab the front page early. Since the campaigns have kicked off in earnest, both have stayed in the mainstream consciousness with radical ideas and harsh criticism of the Obama administration and the rest of the political establishment.

Both candidates’ supporters have been many and outspoken. Last year, Sanders packed the Moda Center, and treated the record setting crowd to a fiery and impassioned speech. He has so far been the only true opponent to Hilary Clinton, and has seized on weaknesses shown by the former Secretary of State.

Trump had butted heads with nearly every other Republican in the field at one time or another. He’s also brought on controversy by advocating for harsh immigration regulations including the building of a protective wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.

“They both have been making people feel good about being on the outside,” Horvick said. “I think Sanders has actually made Democrats feel good about being democrats…and Trump has made people feel good about being frustrated with government.”


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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