Sarah Iannarone Hits Back at Independent Expenditure Committee Formed to Support Wheeler

The publicly funded challenger decries big money stepping in to bolster the incumbent’s faltering campaign.

Sarah Iannarone, whom polls show leading incumbent Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, blasted the formation of an expansive independent expenditure committee formed to bolster Wheeler's reelection campaign.

"It is unfortunate that large contributions will flood the political sphere through this super PAC to combat the thousands of Portlanders who support my campaign," Iannarone said in a statement.

"This is a last-ditch effort by some accustomed to buying elections feeling their grasp on power slipping away. The current mayor needing this super PACs money to save his reelection bid indicates how little support he has from everyday people."

Iannarone is participating in the city's Open and Accountable Elections program, which limits individual contributions to $250 but provides up to a 6-to-1 match for donations of up to $50. Wheeler has traditionally raised money in previous campaigns by relying on a relatively small number of large donors. But a change in city elections rules in May following a court ruling scotched that approach, and the mayor's wobbly campaign failed to raise money.

Related: Portland Voters Are Fed Up With Ted Wheeler. But Are They Ready for Sarah Iannarone?

Last week, Wheeler loaned his campaign $150,000, without which it would be in a deficit position. Iannarone, who has recorded nearly 6,500 contributions from almost 3,500 individual donors, has about $250,000 on hand.

Iannarone said voters should consider the difference in ways she and Wheeler have funded their campaigns.

"Portlanders have been clear that they do not want big money in our politics," Iannarone said. "While Ted Wheeler and his few remaining allies continue to flout the will of the voters by writing $150,000 checks in one stroke or using Citizens United as an excuse for their massive spending, Portlanders will not allow a few actors with a lot of money to steal this election from thousands of small donors powering my campaign."

As WW first reported earlier today, supporters of Wheeler's have put together an independent expenditure committee called United for Portland. Under city election rules, such committees can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, but they cannot coordinate with the campaign they are supporting.

United for Portland includes an unusual coalition of labor, business, environmental and other groups that do not often work together, including the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council; the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland; NAACP Portland; NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association; the Oregon League of Conservation Voters; the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association; Oregon Smart Growth; the Pacific Northwest Council of Carpenters; the Portland Business Alliance, Greater Portland's chamber of commerce; the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors; and Service Employees International Union Local 49.

The group has not yet said how much money it will spend on Wheeler's behalf, and it doesn't have to begin filing disclosure reports until seven days after it begins raising or spending money.

"Under Mayor Wheeler's watch, Portland has adopted nationally recognized plans for solving our housing crises and made Portland a global leader on climate change," the new group said in a statement. "He has made the largest commitments in history to reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness and led one of the strongest and most effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the nation.

"The coalition is united in finding that the alternative, Sarah Iannarone is not the right choice. Iannarone, who has never led a large organization of any kind, has exaggerated her credentials, regularly vilifies those who disagree with her, and has refused to reject political violence."

Iannarone said she's not surprised to see opposition coming at her.

"Our campaign always knew we were taking on an incumbent mayor with an inheritance, powerful allies, and a network of monied special interests," she said. "I don't have any of those things. I am a working-class mom, small business founder, and policy expert who is equipped to lead Portland through this moment. My victory will be fueled by people power, not corporate money."

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.