Portland voters this fall will decide whether to continue public financing of city campaigns.
The five-year-old program provides $150,000 for primaries and $200,000 for general elections to council candidates who get 1,000 Portland voters to give them $5 and a signature.
Much will be said between now and November about the merits of the unique municipal program. There is the $1.7 million spent so far on candidates who have qualified or the checkered spending history of council wannabes such as Emilie Boyles. And there are other candidates’ decisions to limit their donations to avoid being branded as the big-money politicians, and whether the candidates themselves have become any less beholden to special interests.
We’ll get to all that in the months ahead. But going to last week’s council hearing in which commissioners put the question on the November ballot left us equally fascinated by the two commissioners who represent opposite sides on this fundamental issue.
One is Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the only non-incumbent to win as a publicly financed candidate. The other is Commissioner Randy Leonard, an eight-year council veteran and a vocal critic of spending taxpayer money on campaigns.
This will not be the first dispute between the two. Fritz was one of Leonard’s sharpest critics before her election to the council in 2008, faulting his management of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement for what she called trampling citizen process.
Here’s a closer look at the two commissioners and their history: