City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who earlier this year endorsed her colleague Mayor Ted Wheeler in the May primary, today threw her support behind his challenger Sarah Iannarone.
"You deserve to hear from me where I stand on who our next mayor is to serve in these extraordinary times," Hardesty wrote in a statement, "and after much reflection I believe that person to be Sarah Iannarone for Portland mayor."
The move comes after a contentious six-hour hearing on Wednesday in which Wheeler declined to support Hardesty's call for $18 million in new cuts to the Portland Police Bureau, which Wheeler oversees. Hardesty expressed frustration when Wheeler and Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Ryan all said they needed more information before voting on Hardesty's proposal, a position she termed "cowardly."
Then today, Hardesty announced her support for Iannarone.
"This is not a decision based on an isolated disagreement," Hardesty said in her statement. "Since the national uprising demanding police accountability and a new system of community safety began in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others killed by police, I have been constantly disappointed at the lack of vision and leadership from the mayor."
Hardesty has repeatedly asked Wheeler to turn over the Police Bureau to her. He has declined to do so, although he has said if he's reelected, all bureau assignments will be on the table in January.
Iannarone, meanwhile, has said that if elected, she would immediately hand the Police Bureau to Hardesty.
Normally, individuals and institutions endorse well in advance of ballots being mailed to voters. Multnomah County Elections has already received ballots from 62% of the registered voters in the county, an extraordinarily high percentage with five days to go before Election Day. (In 2016, when final turnout was 80%, turnout didn't exceed 62% until the final day.)
Former Mayor Sam Adams also announced a late endorsement today, supporting Wheeler. "Ted complements the smart and fresh outlook of what will be many first-time city commissioners along with the great work of Commissioner Hardesty," Adams said in a statement. "He provides the City Council a leader with a significant public service background, and hands-on experience with one of Oregon's best and toughest jobs: Portland mayor."
Given that later voters typically skew younger and to the left, both Adams' and Hardesty's endorsements could be seen as efforts to influence that group. (WW has endorsed Wheeler in the mayor's race.)
While Adams is on the sidelines, having placed third after incumbent Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Mingus Mapps in the City Council Position 4 primary in May, Hardesty is taking a significant risk in placing a bet on Iannarone.
Most politicians do not endorse in contested races involving those with whom they will serve, but Hardesty has now endorsed Eudaly over Mapps and Iannarone over Wheeler. If her picks win, she will have amassed an enormous amount of goodwill with both; if they do not, she could be lonely in the new year.
"This is a pivotal moment in Portland history, and we need to plot a new, truly progressive path forward," Hardesty said. "Sarah has committed to making me police commissioner when elected mayor, where I would utilize my 30 years of subject matter expertise to hold our rogue police force accountable and start instituting some real change."