November 3rd, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, City Hall

Proponents of Publicly Funded Campaigns Admit Defeat in Portland

The poster child for public campaign financing
Heather Stuart, spokeswoman for the "Yes" on Measure 26-108 campaign to continue publicly funded political campaigns in Portland, issued the following statement around noon acknowledging defeat in yesterday's election:
The Friends of Voter-Owned Elections—representing more than 60 organizations and thousands of Portlanders— is obviously disappointed by the loss of Measure 26-108 to retain Voter-Owned Elections. We are disheartened but remain more convinced than ever that the corrosive influence of money in politics must be addressed at all levels of government.

Historical data shows that it is always more difficult to get a “yes” vote, especially in the face of organized opposition. Achieving a “yes” vote on 26-108 also faced an uphill climb in the current economic climate. This challenge was increased by inaccurate advertising by opponents about reform program costs, even after being repeatedly told that there was a firm cap on spending.

That leaves a couple questions going forward:

1) Will Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the self-declared poster child for publicly funded political campaigns, run again for a second City Council term in 2012 without voter-owned elections? Fritz, who won in 2008 with the unique financing system in place, has said she wouldn't have run without it. But she's also said multiple times this year (and again last night) that she hasn't decided whether to run again at all.

Our verdict: Yesterday's defeat of 26-108 will no doubt make that decision more difficult.

2) Will proponents of public campaign financing try again in 2012? The "Yes" campaign spent $350,000 on this election, more than five times what opponents raised. Even then, the race was exceedingly close, with preliminary results showing the "No" side edging out proponents with a little over 51 percent of the vote.

Our verdict: If voters are to be convinced it needs publicly funded political campaigns again, it may have to experience a full election cycle without it. That means 2012 seems unlikely timing for a do-over.
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