At the beginning of this election cycle, two-term incumbent Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith looked like the front runner in the race to succeed retiring Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
Smith, who worked for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for 23 years before winning election to the county board, enjoyed name recognition, the support of the Wyden machine and an experienced campaign team.
Smith has raised more money than any of her opponents: former state Rep. Jo Ann Hardesty (D-Portland), mayoral aide and David Douglas school board member Andrea Valderrama, architect Stuart Emmons, and neighborhood association leader Felicia Williams. She's gotten endorsements from the Portland Business Alliance and some trade unions.
But the city's largest public employee union, the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees, gave their endorsement to Valderrama and Service Employees International Union chose not to endorse, depriving Smith of support many observers suspected she had secured.
Smith's campaign took an additional blow this week when newspapers began issuing endorsements. Late Friday, The Oregonian issued its endorsement online—the paper chose Hardesty—and then ran it in the Sunday edition.
The endorsement was stunning for what it omitted—not only did the paper fail to endorse Smith, its explanation did not even mention her name. That's extremely unusual.
"What an insult!" said one local elected official, speaking on background.
The Oregonian's editorial page editor, Laura Gunderson, explained the decision in an email to WW, saying the paper picked Hardesty because "her platform aligned best with the editorial board's past stances and values.
"We have limited space and chose to highlight the candidate we endorsed and two others we felt were compelling [Valderrama and Williams]," Gunderson adds. "While Commissioner Loretta Smith has taken several stances with which we agree, we had grave concerns about her ability to lead following reports she violated election laws, misspent county dollars and bullied and made derogatory remarks to her staff."
Smith is not alone in failing to make it into the state's largest paper—Emmons, who also ran for city council in 2016 and got the O's endorsement in the primary before finishing third in the primary election for the Commissioner Steve Novick's seat, also landed on the cutting room floor this time.