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City Council candidates spar over blame for crime, in-office work during City Club of Portland debate.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY CLUB OF PORTLAND - Commisioner Jo Ann Hardesty and challenger Rene Gonzalez at the City Club of Portland debate.Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and businessman Rene Gonzalez clashed before the City Club of Portland as a new poll reportedly shows the challenger with a large lead over the incumbent.

The Oregonian/ reported the poll shows Gonzalez leading Hardesty by a margin of 50% to 26%. It was reportedly conducted by DHM Research for the Portland Business Alliance. Although not released, it is the first poll in the race to be publicly reported.

Gonzalez repeatedly accused Hardesty of contributing to crime and homelessness by undermining the police and resisting campsite sweeps during the online Sept. 30 debate. Hardesty defended herself as a longtime advocate for police accountability who believes everyone deserves a safe place to sleep.

Hardesty and and Gonzalez also disagreed on whether Portland employees should return to their offices now that the CIVID-19 pandemic is easing. Hardesty said the city has discovered that many employees can be productive working from home, adding she and her staff are only in their City Hall offices two days a week.

"If you had told me before the pandemic that I could run the city from my couch, I wouldn't have believed it," Hardesty said.

Gonzalez disagreed that Hardesty is effectively running the city from her couch, saying he and his staff will be in their offices full time if elected, except for meeting with constituents.

"The City Council needs to be in their offices every day," Gonzalez said.

Hardesty was first elected to the council in the November 2018 election when she defeated former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith with 61.8% of the vote. The two finished first and second in the May primary election but neither received more than 50% of the vote to win it outright. The seat had previously been held by former Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who did not run for reelection.

Hardesty was forced into a runoff election in the 2022 primary when she received 43.7% of the vote. Gonzalez qualified for the Nov. 8 election in second place and Vadim Mozyrsky, an administrative law judge, fished third with 22.2%.

Both Hardesty and Gonzalez are participating in the city's Small Donor Elections Program that matches contributions of $250 or less with public funds. Gonzalez recently was fined a record $77,000 by the program for accepting steeply discounted downtown office space in excess of the limit of in-kind contributions. He defended the $250 a month rent as reasonable given the first-floor vacancies downtown, adding that he will appeal the fine but pay it if found liable.

Asked where they stand on the Nov. 8 ballot measure that would reorganize city government, Gonzalez said he opposed it as too complicated, expensive and experimental. Although he believes Portlanders are "clamoring" for charter reform, he said the council should be laser-focused on solving livability issues if it fails.

Hardesty would not say how she will vote on the measure, but later said she supports it. She criticized Commissioner Mingus Mapps as "arrogant" for preparing to unveil an alternative concept on Monday, Oct. 3.

The debate was moderated by KGW-TV reporter David Moiko. He asked tougher questions than usual for a City Club debate. Their story with more details can be found here.


Candidate: Jo Ann Hardesty (incumbent)

Occupation: City commissioner

Prior public experience: Policy analyst for Multnomah County chair; executive director, Oregon Action; president, Hardesty Consulting; legislator, Oregon House of Representatives


Candidate: Rene Gonzalez

Occupation: Attorney and technology company owner

Public experience: NA


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