A group called Rise Up PDX is challenging the participation of the Portland NAACP in the independent expenditure committee formed this week to support incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler and oppose challenger Sarah Iannarone.
Rise Up PDX includes five NAACP members unhappy with the leadership of the Portland branch's executive director, pastor E.D. Mondainé. They are seeking to turn him out of his position in a branch election later this month.
"Current members of the Portland NAACP Branch 1120-B formed the Accountability Group with a commitment to returning our branch to being accountable to its members and the larger community," the groups says on its website. "We are dedicated to ensuring financial and program integrity and building transparency in decision making by leadership and members of the Portland NAACP Branch 1120-B."
As WW first reported, the independent expenditure campaign, called United for Portland, includes a large and diverse group of organizations, including some who don't often agree: 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.
Wheeler trails Iannarone in the polls and in fundraising. Given new city campaign finance rules and the financial deficit he faced before infusing his campaign with a $150,000 personal loan, Wheeler's sputtering reelection bid has little time to raise money before ballots are mailed to voters next week. That's why United for Portland came together: Independent expenditure campaigns are not subject to the city's contribution limits.
The NAACP featured prominently in United for Portland's kickoff.
"We need leaders like Mayor Wheeler who will take strong actions in support of racial and economic justice, support peaceful protests, while rejecting the politics of hate and all forms of political violence," Mondainé said in a statement included in the group's first written communication.
But Rise Up says Mondainé should not have lent the NAACP's name to that effort.
"Mondainé's action violates several bylaws for NAACP branches, which do not allow endorsement of any candidate for public office," Rise Up PDX said in a statement.
"The Portland NAACP branch membership was neither consulted before Mondainé decided to endorse Mayor Wheeler, nor informed about the intent to endorse him, and so the members have not had the opportunity to object to this inappropriate political activity. These actions have damaged the reputation and standing of the Portland branch of the NAACP in the Portland community and with members."
In a statement late Friday evening, Mondainé tried to claim the original WW story was inaccurate. (It was not.)
And he claimed that neither the quote he provided to United for Portland extolling Wheeler's skills using his title as NAACP president, nor the fact that the NAACP's name and seal appeared on the United for Portland website, actually mean that the NAACP is endorsing Wheeler.
(Here are screenshots from the United for Portland website, taken after Mondainé issued his statement Friday night.)
"The NAACP has not, and will not, take a position in the Portland mayor's race," Mondainé said in his statement.
"Furthermore, neither I in my position as president, nor the NAACP as an organization, have issued any kind of formal endorsement in the mayoral race. To do either of these would be a violation of the NAACP bylaws. As current president of the Portland Branch 1120, I am well aware of this fact and would not tolerate any violation of the organization's bylaws."
WW sought further clarification from Mondainé after that initial statement Friday night. Mondaine said his intention had been to lend his name in a personal capacity, not to use the NAACP's name.
"My conclusion that Portland may serve to benefit from a two-term mayor is a personal position that I am not proffering in my position as NAACP president," Mondainé said. "I gave permission to be called by the media but not to be quoted and not to have our logo used. As we have clarified matters with the coalition, the NAACP logo has been removed from their publications."