Heavyweight City Union Gets Behind Smith, Nolan, and Novick in Portland Races

Portland Mercury:

Less than a week after Eileen Brady drew the first official union endorsement in this year's race for mayor—a nod from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Local 48—another influential union has picked sides ahead of the May primary. AFSCME's Local 189, which counts nearly 1,000 city employees among its ranks, officially voted tonight to endorse State Representative Jefferson Smith. The Smith pick is probably just a glancing blow for Brady, who fought hard for AFSCME's approval but can still fall back on her fundraising lead and her endorsement from the Portland Business Alliance. But it's a big deal for Smith, who’s been dogged by concerns he’s “unelectable” and has had to play catch-up with campaign cash after his late entrance in the race—something that won't get easier once he takes time off for a special legislative session in Salem starting February 1. It also wasn't all that unexpected. (Look for more analysis in this week's Hall Monitor, due on some newsstands and online as early as tomorrow.) From AFSCME's statement (PDF): "Eileen is an interesting candidate, she reached out to our members and our many of our members liked her. In the end we felt she was untested and were looking for a candidate with a history of standing up for working people," commented Local President, Deb Hussey. Members also appreciated that Charlie Hales was willing to reach out and participate in the endorsement process have conversations with them. However, many of the members were seeking a change in leadership that would take the City in a new direction. With the City's weak Mayor structure, a Mayor needs to be able to build consensus with four other strong personalities. As a State Representative Jefferson Smith has a proven track record of consensus building, without compromising on important issues such as protecting voting rights, and creating transparency in government. He has shown through his work to limit middle management and focus budgets on front line services that he is willing to challenge the status quo. "Jefferson has been working with us in the legislature to move a progressive agenda protecting voting rights and creating transparency in government. Additionally, he carried the bill that directed state agencies to cut middle management and direct the budget to go to front line services. With potential cuts on the horizon at the City, this resonates with our members. We are confident that he will bring that forward thinking to the City of Portland too and look forward to working with him," said Political Action Committee Chair and Local Vice President, Mark Gipson. The union also picked Steve Novick to replace Randy Leonard (with a polite nod to the activists mounting longshot bids against him) and State Representative Mary Nolan over incumbent Commissioner Amanda Fritz—acknowledging the decision was close, thanks to some passionate advocacy on Fritz's behalf courtesy of members who work for Fritz in the Bureau of Emergency Communications and Office of Neighborhood Involvement. Nolan, a former House majority leader in Salem and union friend, was still the odds-on favorite. [ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

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