Veteran tax activist Don McIntire invited Jasun Wurster last week to his self-described meeting of "conservative crazies," because he wanted his cronies to hear a battle plan from the chief petitioner of the group trying to recall Mayor Sam Adams.
As Wurster's Recall Sam Adams Committee filed its paperwork Tuesday to begin gathering the 32,183 valid signatures needed to put a recall on the ballot, most political observers say the group faces long odds. Historically and logistically, no Portland official has been recalled since 1952. And this latest recall bid is short on cash.
But for one night last week at the Shilo Inn at the Portland Airport, McIntire's Executive Club was all ears as Wurster spent about 30 minutes outlining his plan.
"It is all about reclaiming democracy," Wurster told the crowd of about 70 people in the hotel conference room.
McIntire, who made his name starting in the 1990s with tax-limiting Measure 5 and the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, invited Wurster to speak at his club's monthly meeting after he attended the recall's organizational kickoff event May 14 at Nick's Famous Coney Island.
Wurster, a bicycle-riding environmentalist, tried to find common ground with McIntire's conservative pals, who gather each month to gab about politics before retiring to the hotel's cigar room to smoke stogies and sip bourbon.
It's a tricky balance for Wurster, who worked last year on Amanda Fritz's successful City Council campaign. Any close identification with groups like McIntire's could be poison for progressives who may want Adams gone but recoil at the prospect of making common cause with east Multnomah County conservatives and regular Portland-bashers like those in the Executive Club.
The slogan of Wurster's pitch could be reduced to "different groups, one recall."
"[Adams] no longer represents Portland," Wurster said. "He can't bring everyone together."
Since the recall's organizational kickoff eight weeks ago, much has happened in the saga of Adams, his affair with Beau Breedlove in 2005 and the lies Adams told to cover it up.
On June 22, Attorney General John Kroger released his investigative report, concluding after 5 1/2 months there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Adams, though earlier drafts of that report raised doubts about Adams' veracity and cooperation with investigators.
And last week, Breedlove told KGW that Adams and his attorneys swayed him to make a statement omitting he and Adams had kissed in a City Hall restroom before Breedlove turned 18. Breedlove also told the TV station he's angry at the mayor for leaving him to look like the liar by saying he never kissed Breedlove before Breedlove was 18. (Wurster says he won't ask Breedlove to participate in the recall effort.)
Wurster's group aims to gather 50,000 signatures over the 90-day collection period to leave enough cushion to attain the required 32,183 valid signatures of registered Portland voters.
Wurster told last week's gathering that donor anonymity is a priority given the mayor's notoriously long memory. The plan is to keep individual donations under $100 so contributors' identities may remain secret, though ultimately the petition signatures will be public.
Still, the group has raised only about $3,000—well short of the $25,000 Wurster estimates is needed to verify the authenticity of signatures by sending follow-up postcards to petition signers.
Wurster also appears to be short of the number of volunteers he thinks he'll need. He figures 50,000 signatures is doable if 2,000 volunteers get 25 signatures apiece. Problem is, he has a little more than 600 volunteers registered online. Wurster acknowledges a math gap, but is optimistic there will be a surge of volunteers.
According to former city auditor Jewel Lansing's 2003 book, Portland: People, Politics and Power, 1851-2001, no recall effort has been successful in Portland since voters recalled Jake Bennett 57 years ago from the City Council for reasons that included being "discourteous, abusive, uncouth, insulting, with personal scandalous attacks, insults, ridicule and abuse toward respectable citizens."
Wurster remains undaunted by the historical and organizational hurdles.
"People ask if I'm naive or just idealistic," Wurster told WW. "I am idealistic. But, I'm not going to back down."
So, what does a 70-year-old political warhorse like McIntire think of Wurster's chances to collect 358 valid signatures a day over the course of the 90-day signature-gathering window?
"The meeting didn't change my original impression," McIntire says. "I think Wurster is a thoughtful young guy, but I don't know how hard of a worker he is. And this is going to take a lot of work."
Two recall efforts failed in 2003 against then-Mayor Vera Katz, who at the time employed Adams as her chief of staff.