Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner says he started his phone call to Jefferson Smith yesterday saying, “I know this is the last thing you want to hear today.”
Turner then delivered the news that his union would be pulling its endorsement of Smith in the wake of stories about his 1993 misdemeanor assault charge for punching a woman at a college party. The fire union did the same thing yesterday.
“I think he kind of knew,” Turner tells WW. “He paused, and he was a champ. He was understanding and he thanked us for endorsing him up to that point.”
While Turner says the union doesn’t condone what happened nearly 20 years ago, he says members also understand that people make mistakes in their youth. But Smith erred when he took a campaign staffer to the woman’s Portland home on Oct. 1, when WW was preparing to report the incident. And then returned a second time.
A 1994 criminal diversion agreement between Smith and his victim included a no contact order, one that Smith asserts was only supposed to last for six months. Still, Turner says he wishes that Smith had come to the union and other endorsers and laid the issue out for them, and sought advice.
“His error was the fact that he didn’t listen or take the advice of those around him,” Turner says. “I would be hard pressed to believe that his campaign staff supported that decision to go to her house. I understand that he wanted to make things right, but I can only imagine how she felt when this whole issue was at her front door.”
“I’m sure Jefferson Smith had the best of intentions, however sometimes making things right is leaving them alone,” he adds.
Still, Turner says the union wishes Smith nothing but the best in his campaign, and that it was “disappointing” to have to pull the police association’s endorsement.
“I’m not here to question his integrity or his ethics,” Turner says. “Jefferson Smith’s message is still a message that’s important to Portland.”
The police union, like the fire union, isn’t endorsing Smith’s opponent, former City Commissioner Charlie Hales.
“Whichever candidate wins the election, we will come to the table equally and work on issues that affect the community, the city and the police bureau,” Turner says.