RUNNING ON EMPTY: Jeff Taylor, who got 1.6 percent of the vote in the May 2008 mayor's race, looked ready for another run. (left) STAMP OF DISAPPROVAL: Rally volunteer Diane Manser paid to have her shirt made. (top right) QUEEN VICTORIA: KPAM's Victoria Taft broadcast live from the Sam Adams recall rally. (bottom right) IMAGES: Megan Brescini
A lumberjack of a man with a Kenny Rogers beard, sport coat and white tennis shoes sat in a steel patio chair in front of Nick's Coney Island on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, chatting with a friend on a warm Thursday afternoon.
"This thing is never going to get off the ground," he said before lighting a cigarette.
He was sitting outside the first rally on May 14 for the movement to recall Mayor Sam Adams. And the disappointment in his voice about those who turned out for the event sounded like a kid at Christmas who didn't get the G.I. Joe he wanted but ended up with a stuffed Jeff Taylor instead.
Taylor, a self-described "pro-family" mayoral candidate, stood a few feet away from the downcast recaller, picket sign in hand, delivering his mayoral sales "pitch" to an OPB journalist.
If you want Adams recalled, this first rally may have felt like a good start: About 60 recall supporters packed into the small restaurant. And TV news cameras, including CNN, were rolling to hear organizer Jasun Wurster give a speech full of honest intentions.
Wurster told the crowd he would commit to collecting the required 32,000-plus valid signatures without paying anybody to collect them, and stressed that this would be a clean fight.
"If we cannot get the 50 percent-plus-one vote from the citizens of Portland, then the citizens have spoken: They want to keep Sam Adams," Wurster told the crowd. "This is really based on democracy. It is not based on a personal or political grudge."
Of course, the need for a recall may prove moot if Attorney General John Kroger's now-four-month-old investigation produces charges so serious that Adams resigns.
But for this evening, Taylor—an also-ran candidate in the 2008 mayor's race—hustled in his suit and tie. And broadcasting live was KPAM 860 AM's Victoria Taft, who's fond of saying "Adams turned Portland into a punch line." Nowhere in sight was even a B-list pol willing to add some professional polish to aid in collecting signatures on a large scale.
On its website, the Recall Sam Adams Political Action Committee defines its political ideology as "American progressivism."
That's far from the ideology of Taylor or Taft, Portland's small-town version of Rush Limbaugh. And Taft's presence is sign No. 2—behind Taylor's opportunism—that Wurster's recall dream may not get far in left-tilting Portland before getting painted as a right-wing witch hunt.
After Wurster's speech ended and the news vans drove away, the bar had finally cleared out enough so patrons could order happy-hour pints of beer for $2.50 (thanks, Nick's), even though happy hour had ended when the rally started at 6 pm.
And that gave Wurster time to explain to WW some of the reasons he's organizing this campaign.
"I know I can keep it away from the religious right," said Wurster, who volunteered last year for the successful City Council campaign of Amanda Fritz. "And I can keep it focused on what we need to be focused on."
Which is not the man seen earlier at the rally wearing a shirt with the words "Christian Outlaw" splashed across the back, or Taft in her "I'm a celebrity"-sized sunglasses, or even I-kiss-babies Taylor with his premature campaign sign.
Wurster was friendly with "Christian Outlaw," Taft and Taylor. But he said his focus instead is on whether you agree with his message: By lying, Sam Adams "has lost the public's trust and political capital to effectively represent our city."
Recall organizers cannot start gathering the signatures they need to put a recall on the ballot until six months after Adams was sworn in as mayor—July 1.