On Feb. 22, a Grant High School urban studies class attended a candidate debate for the Portland City Council seat currently held by Commissioner Steve Novick.

Near the end of the two-hour debate, two Grant students, both editors of the school's magazine, rose from their seats in Portland State University's Smith Memorial Student Union and strode from the room.

Their abrupt departure caused a stir.

One of the students, Eliza Kamerling-Brown, told WW the students left in response to a comment made by candidate Fred Stewart.

The comment? When asked what he hoped to accomplish if elected, Stewart, 51, who's running on a public safety platform, said, "I just want to make the city of Portland a place where my daughter, Hunter, would be proud to live."

That remark troubled Kamerling-Brown.

"In the time I've know Hunter, I've watched her work to overcome her relationship with her father," Kamerling-Brown says. "When I heard him invoke her name to promote his candidacy, I couldn't stand to be in the room any longer."

Fred Stewart
Fred Stewart

Fred Stewart is a familiar face in city politics. A graduate of Cleveland High School, he has worked in the real estate and mortgage business for three decades in North and Northeast Portland.

He was an early investor in real estate along North Mississippi Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street—although he lost those properties to foreclosure.

Stewart ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature in 1992, was president of the King Neighborhood Association for 10 years, and served on a variety of volunteer commissions. In 2008, he ran for a vacant City Council seat, finishing third in a race won by Commissioner Nick Fish.

Stewart jumped into the race against Novick in July 2015, and was later joined by architect Stuart Emmons and bookseller Chloe Eudaly.

Stewart is running an aggressive social-media campaign, regularly posting on Facebook about fiscal accountability and law-and-order topics. He's been outspoken at candidate forums and in interviews about the need to make Portland's streets safer. Perhaps alone among candidates, he has exulted in the changes in North and Northeast Portland.

"I love gentrification," Stewart tells WW. "It means fewer thugs in the neighborhood."

When the Grant students walked out of the debate, they did so because of an incident that took place Sept. 21, 2013. That day police were summoned to Stewart's Northeast Portland home.

He'd gotten into a dispute with his daughter, Hunter, then 16.

When the disagreement escalated, a friend of Hunter Stewart's, who was with her at the house, called the police.

Amelia Morrison, the teenager who called police, told responding Officer Mike Chapin what she'd seen. Chapin wrote in his police report: "[Fred Stewart] became upset and was making a poking type motion with his finger around Hunter's eye.…[T]hey began arguing with each other…and [Morrison] could see him pushing her up against the wall."

Fred Stewart, who, according to the police report, is 6 feet tall and 250 pounds—nearly a foot and 100 pounds larger than his daughter—acknowledged to police that he'd put his hands on his daughter, although he told the officer she pushed him first.

"Fred stated that he pinned [Hunter] up against the wall (upper chest area) and she was just standing there screaming," Chapin wrote.

Chapin did not arrest Fred Stewart but took Hunter Stewart to her mother's house elsewhere in Northeast Portland. (Stewart and his wife, Robin Raymond, divorced in 2002.)

The next day, Hunter Stewart and her mother went to Central Precinct to get photos taken.

"Stewart had some light bruising under the right side of her jaw line and a small red mark on her chin," wrote the criminalist who took the photos, in a Sept. 22, 2013, police report.

Hunter Stewart says her experience followed an already frayed relationship with her father, and it terrified her.

"I felt trapped and helpless," she says. "I could feel his temper escalating, and all I could think of was, how can I get out of there?"

After that day, she continued her studies at Grant High. She says she struggled to put the incident behind her, often skipping classes.

Fred Stewart's recollection of the incident largely mirrors his daughter's.

"I was loud that day," he says. "I'm sure her ears were ringing for a week. She was flat-out disrespectful."

His account of the incident differs from his daughter's in one important way: "She hit me," Fred Stewart says. "I didn't tell the cop because I didn't want her to get arrested, but if there's anybody who should have been arrested, it was her." (Fred Stewart's girlfriend, Margaret Ibanez, who witnessed the incident, agrees with his version of events.)

About a week after the incident, on Oct. 1, 2013, he filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court, accusing his ex-wife, Raymond, of slander, claiming she had falsely convinced Hunter Stewart he'd been physically abusive during their marriage, an allegation Hunter Stewart shared with police.

Fred Stewart sought $4 million in damages, and soon added Hunter Stewart as a co-defendant.

Raymond says she was stunned.

"I was in shock at the audacity of the whole thing," Raymond says.

Fred Stewart then revised his claim, reducing the damages he was seeking to $7,500. He subsequently sought to dismiss the case altogether.

Raymond's attorney, Linda K. Williams, refused to allow that. On April 22, 2014, Judge Karin Immergut ruled that Fred Stewart's lawsuit lacked merit and ruled in favor of Raymond and Hunter Stewart. Immergut ordered Fred Stewart to pay court costs, pay Raymond a prevailing-party fee of $550, and pay her attorney's fees.

He has not made those payments. In fact, records show he has filed for bankruptcy five times since 1991 and has not paid his property taxes since 2011. He has also consistently failed to make child support payments and has a warrant issued for his arrest in October 2013 because he was $9,000 in arrears.

Fred Stewart attributes the bankruptcies to the messy divorce from Raymond, and blames the recession, which crippled his real estate business, for his inability to meet other obligations.

Meanwhile, Fred Stewart says he doesn't regret filing the lawsuit against his ex-wife.

"A man's reputation is all he's got," Stewart says. "I never wanted to sue Hunter, but it was the only way we could depose her under oath. I'm tired of being humiliated."

To escape the stress of her family life, Hunter Stewart immersed herself in journalism. During the summer between her junior and senior years, she interned at ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism organization in New York. In her senior year, she served as co-editor of Grant Magazine, which won a Gold Crown Award for excellence from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

"In my five years of teaching journalism at Grant, Hunter is absolutely at the top the list," says David Austin, a longtime Oregonian reporter who is now Multnomah County's communications director.

Hunter Stewart, 19, is now in college on the East Coast majoring in journalism and urban planning. She has earned a 4.0 GPA.

"I want people to know who my father really is," she says. "And I would hope that he looks in the mirror and gets the help he needs."

Hunter Stewart told her successors as editor of Grant Magazine about the issues with her father, which is why two of them walked out of the February debate.

Raymond, Fred Stewart's ex-wife, recently heard him on Oregon Public Broadcasting, talking about his strong interest in public safety.

"It's pretty ironic that he's talking about making Portland's streets safe," Raymond says. "He couldn't even make his daughter feel safe in his own house."

Fred Stewart says he's done nothing wrong. "I don't regret pinning my daughter against the wall," he says. "If our only relationship is for you to disrespect me, I'd rather not have any relationship at all."

Correction: This story incorrectly stated that Fred Stewart was arrested because he was $9,000 in arrears on paying child support. A warrant was issued for Fred Stewart's arrest in 2013 for non-payment of child support, but Stewart was not arrested. WW regrets the error.