The TV ads are finished, the candidate parties are over, and the lawn signs are coming down in the 2010 election.
But for die-hard politicos, handicapping and jockeying for position in the next big local political campaign starts now. And with Mayor Sam Adams still weakened by the Beau Breedlove scandal, the 2012 mayoral race is expected to be highly competitive.
Adams hasn’t yet indicated whether he plans to run for a second term as Portland’s chief executive—although it’s hard to imagine he won’t. Either way, here are the names most often mentioned by political insiders as having designs on the mayor’s office. We give our WW house odds on the chance each will run.
Odds of running: Even
The charismatic Multnomah County chairman enjoys enormous goodwill among Portlanders as well as hands-on experience in City Hall as Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s former chief of staff from 2002 to 2005. And his recent public sparring with Adams over funding for the Sellwood Bridge has certainly set Cogen up as a foil to the mayor. But despite being the name most often mentioned as likely to take on Adams, Cogen publicly says only to ask him in 2012 if he’ll run. The usually reticent Saltzman has said he’s considering running against Adams himself (see “Cop Out,” WW, May 19, 2010)—but only, Saltzman has said, if Cogen doesn’t jump in the race first.
Odds of running: 5-2
A former federal lawyer and longtime progressive activist, Novick mounted a failed bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate that brought him statewide name recognition. But the fact that he won 52 percent of the Multnomah County vote in that primary to opponent Jeff Merkley’s 40 percent shows the special cachet Novick enjoys in this city. With a hook for a left hand and an acerbic wit, he plays well with the “Keep Portland Weird” crowd that helped elect Adams. But Novick—who briefly considered running against Cogen for county chair this year—is mum on mayoral plans. He tells WW only that he’s happy with his current gig as an analyst for the Oregon Health Authority. The trouble—and opportunity—for Novick is that the grant for his position might not be renewed after June 2011, leaving Novick jobless.
Odds of running: 1-2
Hales is the most certain candidate for mayor, and in many ways he presents a more stable and mature version of Adams himself—who has been painted as careless (for a fender bender and his missed mortgage payments) and vindictive (for taking the Police Bureau away from Saltzman and firing Chief Rosie Sizer). Like Adams, Hales has long experience in City Hall as a city commissioner from 1992 to 2002. And like the mayor, Hales was a major advocate for the streetcar and light rail—both at City Hall and in his current gig pushing rail projects nationwide for HDR Engineering. Hales does suffer from Adams’ penchant for travel, famously saying in 2002 it was “a sin” to be indoors in August. He tells WW he might run because people on the street keep asking him to: “They’re unhappy with the lack of progress,” Hales says.
Odds of running: 10-1
When this former two-term city commissioner penned an op-ed piece in the Oct. 26 Oregonian supporting voter-owned elections, hands went to heads, scratching over Francesconi’s intentions. After raising over $1 million for a 2004 mayoral bid, Francesconi got shellacked in the general election that year by Tom Potter. Despite rumors he’s formed an exploratory committee for a 2012 mayoral run, Francesconi told WW last summer he’s happy with his job as a private attorney. “I’m not ruling it out,” said the Scone, “but it’s unlikely.”
Odds of running: 12-1
Nolan may be the least likely of these potential candidates to take on Adams, but she’s also in many ways the most intriguing. The former owner of an avionics design company, Nolan exhibits an intelligence that is unquestioned. And after five terms in the state House as a Democrat representing Southwest Portland—including her most recent term as majority leader—Nolan has also shown sharp political chops. As a woman, she may hold a significant advantage in a primary race crowded with male candidates, as recent history shows. Will potential challenges from State Reps. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Betty Komp (D-Woodburn) for Nolan’s leadership position raise her interest in becoming the first woman mayor since Vera Katz left office in 2005? “I’m truly not paying attention to 2012,” Nolan says.