Hardesty and Smith heading into runoff for council seat
Civil rights activist Jo Ann Hardesty is headed for a runoff with Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith in the race for the Portland City Council Position 3.
Hardesty had a commanding lead over Smith Tuesday night as results came pouring in, but was still falling below the 50 percent-plus-one vote needed to win the seat outright in the primary election.
A cry of joy erupted at Hardesty's party at Solae's Lounge in Northeast Portland shortly after the first numbers rolled in.
By 8:35 p.m., Hardesty appeared to address the boisterous crowd, wearing high heels and flashing her distinctive big smile. "There were a whole lot of naysayers in the beginning," she said. "They said, 'But Jo Ann, you ask too many direct questions. That's not Portland polite.' "
Hardesty said her first move was to tell longtime Commissioner Dan Saltzman she would challenge him for his re-election, and he soon dropped out of the race.
"We had a vision of what Portland could be," Hardesty told the diverse crowd of supporters. "We have a logo that talks about one Portland, all of us in it together," regardless of income, where people live, and their color.
"That was our vision: one Portland."
Smith raised and spent more money in the race, but Hardesty waged an effective grassroots campaign, featuring more than 90 house meetings, said Thalia Zapatos, a veteran political consultant who volunteered on the campaign. "She leveraged her connections in many different communities."
Jonathan Little, an African-American supporter from North Portland at her campaign party, said he didn't volunteer but has followed her career over the years. "I like her passion and her commitment to the community," Little said.
He supports her work on police accountability and is especially hopeful that she'll support rent control. Hardesty should provide "great access" to City Council for the community, Little said.
Despite trailing Hardesty, Smith gave a fiery, upbeat speech to supporters gathered at a downtown Portland hotel, predicting she would win in the November general election run-off.
"We knew we had a hard race to run and we ran that race. Now we've got to show them what it's all about," said Smith, reminding the crowd that she came back from 18 points down to be elected to the county commission.
Smith also talked about her background, including working for 21 years for Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, and her accomplishments on the commission, including creating a summer jobs program for unemployed young people.
As of 10 p.m., Hardesty was leading with 40.8 percent of the vote to 23 percent for Smith.
Bio-firm manager and northwest neighborhood activist Felicia Williams had received 12.7 percent. Architect Stuart Emmons and mayoral policy assistant Andrea Valderrama each received about 11 percent.
Perennial candidate Lew Humble was also in the race but did not actively campaign and received less than 2 percent.
Smith easily raised more money than her opponents. As of election day, she reported over $342,000 in cash and in-kind contributions in 2018 and 2017. That compares to more than $187,000 reported by Hardesty, more than $172,000 reported by Emmons, more than $133,000 reported by Valderrama, and more than $93,000 reported by Williams. Humble did not file a campaign committee.
Electing a woman of color
The seat became open when Commissioner Dan Saltzman decided not to run for reelection. Hardesty claimed credit for the decision, saying she personally told Saltzman she would run a tough race against him. Smith was also known to be interested in running for the council by then, however.
The race began to attract a lot of interest when Hardesty, Smith and Valderrama entered it. Some activists began to argue that no whites should file so that a woman of color would be elected to the council. Spencer Raymond, a white man, dropped out in the face of such criticism. Felicia Williams, a white woman, was not heavily criticized when she entered the race. Stuart Emmons, another white guy, eventially filed and stayed in the race.
During the campaign, the Oregon secretary of state's office fined Emmons and Smith $250 each after elections officials determined they were running for the office without updating their political action committees. Smith was also sued by a campaign reform activists because she did not resign her commission seat to run for the office, which they argued was required by the county charter. The lawsuit was dismissed before the election, however.