City Commissioner Randy Leonard today became the first current member of the city council to weigh in on the mayor's race. Leonard, the former fire union boss who joined the council in 2002 is endorsing State Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland). Although Smith attended Harvard Law School after college and Leonard joined the Marines before enrolling at Portland State University, the two actually have a lot in common: they both graduated from Grant High School, both served in the Oregon Legislature and both live east of 82nd Avenue.
Although Leonard, who is retiring from politics when his term ends next January, has come under fire for his management of the Water Bureau, his endorsement will help Smith cement his position to the left of his two principal opponents, businesswoman Eileen Brady and former City Commissioner Charlie Hales (whose mid-term resignation in 2002 opened a vacancy for Leonard).
Leonard's endorsement of Smith can be seen as something of a rejoinder to former Mayor Vera Katz, who earlier endorsed her former colleague, Hales, and pointedly said Smith was not ready for the position.
Here's what Leonard said in a statement this morning about Smith.
"As the first Mayor to live east of 82nd Avenue, Jefferson knows firsthand that the city has to work for the whole city - or it wonât work at all. Jefferson has brought together diverse stakeholders, listening, and crafting agreements where others would have given up. Heâs the only candidate who has a track record of identifying, recruiting, and empowering great people. He was a successful chief executive and civic entrepreneur whose leadership I donât have to guess about - I can see it. Jefferson is effective at meeting with people that may even have opposing viewpoints, listening and crafting agreements where others would have given up. He has the ability to communicate his vision for the city that I believe will earn the support of the other members of the city council not to mention the public. One must have both of those capabilities to be an effective leader....public support and at least 3 votes. That is much harder than it sounds. However, I believe that only Jefferson Smith among the current candidates for Mayor has a proven ability to do that. We donât always agree - sometimes we even disagree on major issues. But I believe Jefferson - alone among the candidates - can earn the support of the other members of the public, not to mention the city council. And that is the essence of the job. I urge you to join me in supporting Jefferson Smith for Mayor."