Political candidates and the media shower attention on news of a big endorsement.
Less often do reporters peel back the layers and show why a candidate earned a nod from this group or that one.
Last week, the Portland Business Alliance endorsed Ted Wheeler, Oregon's treasurer, for Portland mayor. In its press release, the alliance said its decision came down to one thing: experience. The chamber of commerce also said that Wheeler had more of it.
But even a cursory reading of the questionnaire the group put to candidates—then posted online— shows the group's top priority is not experience. It's money.
The first question on the form asks candidates for their position on a ballot measure proposal that would increase corporate taxes on businesses whose Oregon sales exceed $25 million a year.
Jules Bailey, a former state legislator, unequivocally said he supported the measure, which could raise as much as $2.5 billion a year for schools and services.
Wheeler, though, offered a coy response. "[A] divisive, costly ballot fight will come at a great political cost to this state," Wheeler told the PBA. "I am hopeful that the work of Senator Mark Hass and others to find compromise will still achieve the needed revenues without an initiative campaign, and I'll do what I can to move that conversation forward."
Wheeler isn't the only candidate for Portland mayor giving convoluted answers on questions that matter to special interest groups that have endorsed them.
Last week, Wheeler and Bailey distinguished themselves by taking different positions on the so-called 48-hour rule in the Portland police union contract.
The rule gives officers 48 hours before they have to answer questions following a fatal shooting, and activists have demanded for years that Portland's mayor get rid of it. (Mayor Charlie Hales said, when he was running in 2012, that he would but then failed to deliver.)
Wheeler told WW he would make good on activists' longstanding demand to strip the rule from the police union contract. But Bailey, now a Multnomah County commissioner, declined to give a yes or no answer to the question of whether he supported ending the rule.
At a social justice forum last week, he gave an answer that moderators and audience members described as evasive.
Faced with criticism, Bailey took to Twitter to suggest he supported changing the rule, if not eliminating it. Several activists on social media rejected Bailey's rebuttal, saying the mayor not the Department of Justice is responsible for negotiating the city's contract with the police union.
Bailey is endorsed by the Portland Police Association.