The announcement late last week by Oregon Public Broadcasting newscaster Spencer Raymond that he's running for an open Portland City Council seat inspired more than one online wag to ask if the bid was satire.
But it is real—and a lightning rod for Portland's tender racial politics.
Raymond, 30, resigned his job Oct. 20 to run for Portland City Council.
Raymond is white, with no political experience. And he entered a race that already includes three women of color with significant resumes.
Jo Ann Hardesty, head of the NAACP of Portland and a former state representative, was first to enter the race, even before City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced his retirement. Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith has all but officially joined, and mayoral staffer Andrea Valderrama, a member of the David Douglas School Board, has entered.
(Felicia Williams, a neighborhood association president, is also in the race. Stuart Emmons, who is white, says he's considering a run. Sam Chase, a Metro Councilor backed out of a possible run, citing the fact that women of color were in contention.)
Commenters on Raymond's own Facebook page greeted his candidacy with criticism and mockery.
The reaction to his announcement on his campaign Facebook post as of Thursday:
Many of the comments questioned his choice to run.
"Spencer, do yourself a huge political favor and don't run," commented Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), who also posting a link to his preferred candidate, Valderrama.
Activists Gregory McKelvey and Cameron Whitten traded twitter one-liners on the same subject.
If I were a white dude running for office which would look worse to run against? — Gregory McKelvey (@GregoryMcKelvey) October 23, 2017
The choices in his poll: "guy with stomach cancer" or "3 women of color." (City Commissioner Nick Fish was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August and is running for reelection.)
Whitten replied with a hashtag:
#SkiCoaches4President—a reference to the fact that Raymond is Lake Oswego High School’s head coach.
That's in Raymond's campaign bio, along with the fact that he owns the Civic Taproom and Bottle Shop.
Raymond is in the early stages of a campaign. He has issued a press release. He hasn't yet reported any fundraising and isn't yet officially on the ballot.
The social-media reaction represents a small number of Portlanders, but it may be significant in this era of political campaigning. Last year, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly unseated an incumbent in part thanks to a dedicated group of social media followers.
And Raymond isn't yet taking a more traditional approach to getting the word out about his campaign.
He has a rose-adorned logo—one that's more than vaguely reminiscent of a sitting county commissioner, Loretta Smith.
When asked about the similarities, the emailed response from the Raymond campaign:
"Loretta's and Spencer's logo both have a rose but the campaigns are not working together. A rose, like a tree, bridges or a mountain, is a symbol of our city and area, so it makes sense somebody would want to use it in graphics as part of representing the area."
The email is signed the "Spencer For Portland Campaign."
The campaign did not initially provide a name (or a telephone number) to answer further questions — an unusual tactic for a Portland candidate, particularly from the world of journalism.
"The campaign is staffing up and finalizing the upcoming schedule," emailed the Spencer For Portland Campaign.
When asked for a second time to answer the questions related to the online backlash, Nathan Barber, acting campaign manager, responded with his name.
"The statement we provided is the extent to which the campaign is commenting," he wrote.