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Gresham mayoral candidate talks support of Black Lives Matter, troubled past

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Councilor Eddy Morales held a press conference to address an attack ad sent out about him.A political attack mailer sent out to East Multnomah County voters led to a response from a Gresham mayoral candidate who says he is not afraid to talk about his past.

The mailer blasts Councilor Eddy Morales for having "a lifetime of criminal activity" and for his alleged support from Antifa. It mentions his arrests for theft, driving while suspended and an alleged DUII. It also alleged his taxes were delinquent.

Crafted by Oregonians for Progressive Accountability PAC, the mailer also contains links to a website sharing the same information. According to the Oregon Secretary of State's website, that PAC operates out of Happy Valley and was formed this August.

"This is a smear campaign launched against me by a small group of conservatives," Morales said. "What bothered me was they are trying to attack me for standing up for Black Lives Matter — I will always stand up for Black lives and against hate."

The flyer doesn't directly address Black Lives Matter, but does say "Eddy is the only candidate for Gresham Mayor with support from Gresham Antifa," and includes a photo of Morales with a Black Lives Matter sign.

Paige Richardson, a strategic advisor for Morales, alleged that her counterpart with the Travis Stovall campaign, which is also vying for Gresham mayor, indicated on Sept. 30 that the "charges against Morales were going to come out" and that Morales should consider "dropping out of the race."

But the Stovall campaign "categorically disputes this claim and any suggestion that Councilor Morales should drop out of the race," according to a statement from the campaign.

"As a Black man, Travis has the lived experience of dealing with racial injustices on a regular basis," the statement said. "This is the same lived experience that makes Travis uniquely qualified to take on racial injustice and police reform issues in a way that brings the whole community together."

"We encourage Mr. Morales to focus on (the issues) and not making continued baseless campaign claims," Stovall's team wrote. "The Portland-influenced politics must stop now, and we must focus our efforts on making the case of how we will make Gresham better."

Morales met with his supporters Thursday morning, Oct. 22, at Nadaka Nature Park to address the attack ad. Standing behind the candidate was a mix of elected officials, nonprofit leaders, neighbors and activists.

"This is a gathering against hate and racism," Morales said.

Those who spoke and endorsed Morales were Shemar Lenox and Jaylen Welch, founders of Gresham Stand Up; Laurie Palmer, CEO of Go Get Your Child; Carol Rulla, president of the Coalitions of Gresham Neighborhood Associations; Lee Dayfield, founder of Friends of Nadaka Nature Park; and Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham.

"I don't know who would be a better fit for Gresham than Eddy," Welch said. "He came out to our first (Black Lives Matter) protest. It's bad right now. The Black community doesn't have the support right now."

The charges highlighted in the mailer against Morales have already been covered by The Outlook last year after a background check into the elected leader. Morales has also spoken about his past to members of the Oregon State Legislature and when he endorsed Mike Schmidt for Multnomah County District Attorney.

Morales has convictions for misdemeanor theft and driving with a suspended license, though several other charges were later dismissed in court. One incident included an alleged assault, later dropped by a judge's order, while he attended the University of Oregon.

The most recent brush with the law occurred in February 2017, when Morales was pulled over by a Multnomah County Sheriff's deputy for what court documents described as "speeding, tailgating, weaving, wildly varying speeds and odd braking patterns." The deputy who made the citation noted signs of intoxication.

Morales refused both the field sobriety test and breathalyzer. The charges were dropped after the deputy failed to appear in court.

During the Thursday gathering in Nadaka park, Morales said he has never shied away from his past, and that those lived experiences have informed his policies around policing and justice while serving as a councilor.

With the unearthing of charges against Morales, The Outlook conducted background checks on two other Gresham mayoral candidates. Both Travis Stovall and Joe Demers only had a handful of traffic and parking infractions.

"Gresham voters want to get back to the issues," Piluso said during the Morales gathering. "Negativity and personal attacks don't fly in my town."

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