Portland Police Chief Mike Reese is strongly considering running for mayor in 2012, and he's telling associates he could announce his candidacy as soon as this week, WW has learned.
Three sources who have spoken directly with Reese about his plans tell WW that Reese has decided to seek to replace Mayor Sam Adams, the man who elevated him to the top police job last year. Adams has said he won't run for a second term. Reese couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Reese, 54, a Portland native, joined the Multnomah County Sheriff's office in 1989 and transferred to the Police Bureau in 1994. He got some early political experience before joining the Portland police, as a sponsor of an unsuccessful 1993 ballot measure that would have combined the sheriff's office and the police bureau.
Reese rose steadily through the ranks in the police bureau and was named chief on May 12, 2010, after Adams fired then-chief Rosie Sizer.
Reese appears to be responding to a couple of compelling realities. First, polling shows that the mayor's race is wide open.
WW is reporting in its Wednesday edition that a recent poll shows the three principal candidates—Eileen Brady, former City Commissioner Charlie Hales and state Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland)—have not been able to gain a significant foothold in the race.
The poll, obtained by WW, shows Brady was favored by 15 percent of the respondents, Hales got 13 percent and Smith 9 percent. Twenty-two percent of voters said they'd vote any other credible candidate and 42 percent said they had no idea who they'd choose. The poll surveyed 300 Portland voters in October.Second, Reese, who is eligible for retirement, surely knows that new mayors like to name their own police chiefs, so his position is not safe beyond next year.
Reese has a couple of hills to climb. Although none of the three current candidates is invincible, each has a clear constituency and has already broken the $100,000 mark in campaign fundraising.
Reese, who's not run for office before, is also still relatively unknown and works for an agency that is sometimes unpopular with many Portlanders. And many voters may remember the lackluster tenure of the last mayor who was also a former police chief, Tom Potter, who served as mayor from 2005 to 2009.
But Reese brings some significant assets to the race. Older voters and conservatives (yes, they do exist in Portland) are likely to support him. There are many members of the business community who have not yet found a candidate. And he's got a decent shot at the public employee union support that is crucial in Portland city races.
Reese is close to two former fire union presidents, City Commissioner Randy Leonard and statewide AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain. Both men carry considerable clout in labor circles. The police union is a wild-card but has been casting about for a candidate to get behind. Compared to the other candidates in the race, Reese would likely be an easy choice for them. The big question for all candidates will be AFSCME, which has not yet indicated any preference.