This story first ran in the May 21, 1984, edition of Willamette Week. We’re republishing it on the eve of a celebration of Bud Clark, to be held Sunday in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Last Tuesday, a grinning but weary man bicycled through Portland’s rainsoaked streets as pedestrians filed into the primary election voting booths. He appeared preoccupied, but occasionally waved to residents and greeted their puzzled stares with a humorous cry of “Whoop! Whoop!”
Pedaling steadily on as rain pelted his corduroy shorts and his unruly beard, from afar he looked like a gnome on wheels.
By now, most people here know that the mystery bicyclist was none other than Bud Clark, the 52-year-old tavern owner who made history on Tuesday night with his stunning 13 per cent win over incumbent Mayor Frank Ivancie. While the city’s business, industry, political, and press establishments looked on in shock, the populist tavern owner clearly toppled the 27-year veteran in one fell swoop.
But how did Clark win? A number of pundits point to several factors that have little to do with Clark himself or with the character of his campaign. They speculate, for example, that Sen. Gary Hart’s and the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Oregon campaigns turned out an unusually high number of progressive voters who were more likely to support Clark than Ivancie.
And they point to the voters who went to their polling booths to show support for Commissioner Mike Lindberg in his tough race against Carl Piacentini. They mention Ivancie’s lackluster race, and the tasteless radio ads and flyer that the Ivancie team released a week before the election, only to have them backfire against the incumbent.
But to suggest that these things alone explain Clark’s victory misses the point. For ultimately, Clark won because of what he stands for and what people perceive him to be.
A community and neighborhood activist who threw Budweiser out the door of his Goose Hollow Inn when that company’s local distributor supported anti-Bottle Bill efforts in California, Clark proved that he was independent. A supporter of the arts and of Meals on Wheels and numerous other civic programs, he appealed to the young, upwardly mobile people (“yuppies”) in town. A beer drinker who stressed his concern with crime in the neighborhoods, he appealed to the blue-collar workers and the elderly. A small-business man who could relate to the trials and tribulations of the entrepreneur in all of us, he appealed to those who opposed Ivancie’s connections to entrenched money interests. A Portlander through and through, he was perceived as one of our own.
Clark won because he had a seriousness of purpose. Unlike Tom Higgins, Pauline Anderson or State Rep. Rick Bauman, all of whom considered running against Ivancie before they backed out, he was not concerned with what a loss would do to his political career. He carried with him the self-confidence of one who not only had nothing to lose, but who remained undaunted by what once must have seemed near-universal skepticism.
From the time he announced his intention to run for mayor five months ago, Clark simply knew he would prevail, and campaigned accordingly. In the final analysis, that conviction — more than anything else — was his greatest strength and his campaign’s most appealing characteristic.
To hell with political pundits who scoffed at Clark’s unorthodox campaign: voters liked him. While he was campaigning, he toted his canoe through the streets of the city, and often bicycled between political coffees. He stressed individualism over incumbency and never seemed embarrassed that he owned a tavern or failed to finish college at Reed.
Clark won soundly, because he appealed to an unusually large base of voters. And to reach them he perfected the art of grassroots politicking. Rather than conducting his campaign in back rooms and executive suites, he stumped in pool halls and bakeries, in barrooms and on boulevards. He surfaced everywhere. He proved contagious. He prevailed. As Commissioner Margaret Strachan, who conducted a similar campaign in 1980, said on election night. “Folks keep misunderstanding grassroots politics. It works!”
How well it works is amazing. Though few of this city’s so-called political experts believed that Clark could consolidate such a strong neighborhood network with so little publicity, he is now mayor-elect. He’s no longer just that friendly bartender at the Goose Hollow Inn, or the bearded man in
bifocals who delivered Meals on Wheels for 11 years. And although few people have any real sense of what kind of leader he will be, those who know him well are sending out encouraging signals.
“Within six months after taking office. Bud will be a folk hero,” claims Ben Padrow, the Portland State University professor and former Multnomah County commissioner who managed Clark’s campaign. “He is the first man elected to the position with business experience. [His fiscal conservatism] is going to surprise people. He’s going to make [Commissioner] Mildred [Schwab] look like a spendthrift.”
Clark is a conservative bookkeeper. And although Padrow concedes that, “Clark’s not buggy on detail — he’s not a county clerk at heart,” the mayor-elect is serious about his pledge to audit all major bureaus. Yet he is also a progressive on social issues and could well polarize the city on some issues. Not only will he study the possibility of legalizing prostitution, but his staff people say that he will revamp the entire Portland Police Bureau. In order to combat burglary, he will introduce more neighborhood patrols, and he may create more residential precincts. To do all this, he may bring in a new police chief, although decisions about replacing Ron Still have not yet been made.
Bureaus such as Planning are likely to be strengthened. Clark says he believes in longterm planning and favors Strachan’s efforts to create a comprehensive plan for the central city, much like the 1972 Downtown
Plan that outlined development of the Transit Mall, Pioneer Courthouse Square and Waterfront Park, among other landmarks. The plan is expected to proceed at a much quicker pace than it would have under Ivancie, who openly disdains longterm planning. As Portland historian E. Kimbark MacColl points out, “The first department that needs to be cleaned out is the Planning Department. If done, you’ll see much better work from the planning staff and you will see efforts like Central City taken out of the realm of politics.” To do so, however, may mean the replacement of Ivancie’s hand-picked planning director, Terry Sandblast. Many observers also believe that development along the Willamette Greenway, particularly in Johns Landing, will be slowed dramatically. With Ivancie’s departure, a key Greenway developer who is a strong supporter of the former mayor, Pat Prendergast, will lose his influence at City Hall.
Most importantly. City Hall will cut the umbilical cord to some of Portland’s most influential businessmen and industrialists who have supported Ivancie for years. “The Art Riedels, the Leo Grahams and Blake Herings who are basically development oriented and were trying to create a foundation for their own futures in town,” says MacColl, “will no longer be in the driver’s seat.” Consequently, “You may see zoning along the light-rail route affected, in terms of who now gets to locate there, and much better work from the planning staff.”
Ivancie’s friends have been in the “driver’s seat” for decades. They include the powerful owners of the Red Lion Inn chain; the influential law firm of Kell Alterman & Runstein; Harry Merlo of Louisiana-Pacific; and, most notably, Arthur Riedel of Riedel International Inc. All have been heavy supporters of Ivancie. and all have benefited from the association. But in many ways their obvious influence at City Hall may have diminished Ivancie’s political strength. According to pollster Tim Hibbitts of T.H. Research, a telephone poll taken for Clark during the primary campaign revealed that 10 per cent of the registered voters contacted not only felt that Ivancie was the captive of special interests but mentioned Riedel by name.
In contrast, Clark has virtually no ties to the city’s big business and industrial communities, as reflected in his campaign expenditures of $190,000. More than $75,000 of that figure represents loans; the rest is made up of small contributions that rarely exceed $1,000. Conversely, Ivancie’s contribution list is overwhelming with its numbers of large supporters. Though not all reports are filed yet, the incumbent received at least $12,000 from the Earl Chiles family’s Walnut Park Co.; $8,000 from Robert Pamplin, former chairman of Louisiana-Pacific and now owner of Ross Isiand Sand & Gravel; $5,000 from the Lloyd Corporation; $5,000 from Louisiana-Pacific; $2,500 from Red Lion Inn; and $5,000 from Plaid Pantry, to name only a few. The contributions flooded in for a year — even when it was widely believed that Ivancie had no serious challenger. It was “business as usual,” notes Padrow.
Not that Clark didn’t seek support from the traditional bases of power. But this city’s more prominent political contributors, even the progressive bloc that has long sought to oust Ivancie, refused to lend him their support. For example, Tom Walsh, a respected liberal candidate who was defeated by Ivancie’s negative, mud-slinging campaign of 1970, chose not to support Clark, instead giving $500 to Ivancie. “A number of individuals who disliked Ivancie figured there was no way he would lose and just contributed to his campaign to make amends,” explains one campaign watcher.
None of the big names so often associated with local politics surfaced at Clark’s rowdy celebration party on Tuesday night, Instead, the Yamhill Marketplace was filled with a sea of casually dressed people boisterously congratulating one another. “Can you believe it?” one man yelled in delight. “Son of a bitch!” When Clark finally showed up to greet his supporters, he was nearly mobbed. He finally took the mike and, after several attempts to thank his friends, he gave up, merely raising his arms in victory. “Whoop! Whoop!” he cried, and the crowd went crazy.
For all his visible support, many will argue that Clark’s win was fueled by the fierce anti-Ivancie vote. According to Hibbitts and other pollsters, Ivancie has never drawn support from roughly 40 per cent of the voters who represent Portland’s younger, better educated citizens. Their opposition, coupled with the 20 per cent swing vote, proved to be more than enough to turn back Ivancie’s traditional, solid base of elderly and east-side voters, who also represent about 40 per cent of the electorate. They nearly always support Ivancie, but, with Tuesday’s light turnout of 52 per cent, they could not command the win.
Their disappointment showed. At Ivancie’s election-night gathering, gloom prevailed. Not surprisingly, his party was at the downtown Red Lion Inn. Inside, the once-confident crowd of his supporters recoiled from television cameras as reporters waited for the defeated mayor to appear. Members of his large family were saddened.
Thomas Ivancie, a student at Grant High who happened to be running for student body president the next day, tried to grasp the fall of his father, a man he viewed as “virtually the only leader of the state. Politics have been his life,” he added; “my dad will be crushed.”
Ivancie appeared shaken. His brow was creased in a frown, his mouth tight. After 27 years in office at City Hall, this was his biggest surprise, his worst moment. It was an awful way to end a career that began in 1966, revealing over the years a man of folksy sayings and frequent humour, but one who had a bully’s temperament.
Lulled by a false sense of superiority, his advisers had argued for a campaign in which he remained in the background, although, according to Thomas Ivancie, his family urged him to engage in the race. When he finally did so, his last-minute radio campaign resorted to slurs against Clark’s religious beliefs, and his frantic, wide-scale distribution of accusatory flyers couldn’t salvage a lead that was rapidly eroding. Many people believe that those acts probably spoiled any remaining chances that he might have won.
“There’s no question that the last-minute stuff had an air of desperation to it,” says Higgins, a man who considered entering the race before he became publisher of The Business Journal. “But that’s the wrong theme for Portland. There’s no question in my mind that whoever made the decision to do the last-minute smear stuff bears a great responsibility for the outcome.”
Higgins contends that, more than anyone else, Clark had the best chance of beating Ivancie. Had a politically experienced challenger challenged the mayor, he says, Ivancie would undoubtedly have campaigned more strenuously and raised much more money. Furthermore, says Higgins, Clark brought a freshness to the race that a political insider, like either Commissioner Charles Jordan or Lindberg, would have lacked. As John Kosydar, Ivancie’s advertising consultant, conceded, “It was Bud Clark himself. He captured the public’s imagination.”
Of course, Clark had some help: a diverse group of men and women whose occupations ranged from architects and lumber executives to clerks and students. Even people unassociated with the actual campaign got involved. One tavern owner, at Southeast Sandy and Stark, draped an enormous “Bud Clark for Mayor” banner across the second story of his establishment, The Slammer Tavern. Hundreds of homeowners planted Clark lawn signs in their yards. Nearly 400 volunteers canvassed precincts. It was one of the greatest sneak attacks in Portland’s history. And it was widely ignored by the power brokers.
Padrow is dismayed by the near blackout in coverage by the city’s major newspaper and television stations before Tuesday’s momentous upset. The Oregonian ran only one story about Clark’s candidacy, although April contribution reports revealed that he was beginning to receive considerable attention. “The Oregonian abdicated its role in this race,” says Padrow.
What happens next? Whether you believe that Clark won because of his charisma or merely because of a strong anti-Ivancie sentiment, the fact remains that he will become mayor in January. To many, the question of what he will do once in office remains the election’s biggest mystery. His stances on many issues remain unclear, but a few changes are certain: City Hall will be more accessible to Portland residents. As Strachan puts it, “City Hall is going to be run like one big neighborhood office.” She should know. More than any other commissioner on the council, Strachan views the neighborhood associations as her support base. She also views Clark as a close ally on neighborhood issues; consequently, many expect her to play a key role at City Hall.
On Wednesday, Strachan’s office was reportedly besieged by calls from various government employees seeking access to the new mayor. They included mayoral appointee Mark Gardiner, the city’s top fiscal officer, who has served under three mayors and presumably wants to serve under a fourth. Members of the Portland Development Commission also checked in, in attempts to familiarize themselves with Clark, since most of the top positions on the PDC and the city’s other commissions are approved by the mayor’s office. They include the Portland Planning Commission, the Exposition-Recreation Commission and even the Boxing Commission, ail bastions of the “old-boy” network that Ivancie helped entrench; all vulnerable under the Clark administration.
Officials at City Hall report that members of Ivancie’s staff have researched the possibility of launching a write-in campaign in November. According to Sandra Laubenthal, the city’s principal deputy auditor, the city charter does provide space on the general election ballot for a write-in candidate. Although the charter does not specify how the outcome would be determined, Laubenthal says she assumed that whoever received a majority vote would win.
Such an effort on Ivancie’s part could well be a disaster, polarizing the city and making his last seven months in office too political. It would further signal that Ivancie and his supporters remain as removed as ever from the electorate, believing that the people do not know what is best for Portland — that somehow they made a mistake.
Such a scenario is unlikely, but, given the lingering mood that anything can happen politically these days, Ivancie may attempt a runoff. Should he do so, he would probably again encounter an adamantly unwilling public. As revealed on Tuesday, Portlanders have suffered enough demoralization under his reign. They now look with hope to Clark’s leadership.
On Tuesday, Mayor Frank Ivancie’s controversial 27-year stay at City Hall ended. It was over abruptly, just as his style was often abrupt.
Francis J. Ivancie was born on July 19. 1924, in Marble. Minn. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota and held various jobs, including writing speeches for Sen. Hubert Humphrey and serving as an Army intelligence officer during World War II. A few years after moving to Oregon, he received a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon and taught eighth-graders at Rigler School from 1954 to 1957, when he was appointed executive assistant to Mayor Terry Schrunk. Ivancie was first appointed city commissioner and then elected in 1966 and served until he was elected mayor in 1980.
Ivancie’s tenure was marked by memorable actions and utterances, from folksy witticisms to frustrated tirades. We include some of his typical statements below:
July 12, 1968
Ivancie uses his clout as parks commissioner to take a shot at “hippies” living in Lair Park, in Southwest Portland. First he makes it illegal for people to bathe in city fountains. Then, on July 12, he passes an ordinance banning activities in Lair Park after 11 pm (both ordinances are found to be unconstitutional). He warns Portlanders to be aware of the hippies — estimated by the police at 4,000 — in Southwest Portland: “Be sure where your sons and daughters are when they go out at night. For every child lost in the hippie movement you have parents who are calling our bureaus of police with heartaches.”
July 6, 1968
Ivancie says he is “deeply impressed” with Billy Graham: “He’s the only one alive who is talking sense.”
October 21, 1968
Ivancie accepts an invitation by the Portland State University student body president to talk to a group of PSU students. The occasion turns into a confrontation: “What is deplorable,” Ivancie says later, “is that efforts by me and our municipal officers to widen communication between city hall and our youths suffered by the selfish acts of a few radicals.”
March 13, 1972
Rumored to be considering every position from mayor to state treasurer, Ivancie says he will not enter any political race this year, so that he can “maintain a responsible role as city commissioner in city government.”
Amidst rumblings that he may run for governor in 1974. Ivancie says, “The government knows more about the people than the people know about the government and I will articulate that position.”
February 2, 1975
In an editorial in The Oregpnian, Ivancie says the Midwest’s coal could be “salvation for the Northwest’s energy future. There is nothing particularly unsightly about the surface-mining operations in Wyoming. The only portrait I keep seeing is one colored by massive unemployment, economic stagnation, social strife, and financial chaos — all resulting from impoverty, hunger and suffering, a glorified Walden’s Pond.”
December 29, 1975
In response to allegations by Multnomah County Commissioner Ben Padrow that he bullies city workers, Ivancie retorts: “Within the limits of good manners, I think the staff have to withstand crossfire. Good staff people can stand the heat. We’re not spectators, we’re decision-makers. We have to put our names on the line every four years. We can’t retire behind the potted palms.”
January 31, 1976
Quoting the Bonneville Power Administration projections about the need for electrical power, Ivancie repeats his support for coal and nuclear energy. “Politicians should face reality and be honest with the people,” he says.
March 29, 1979
A staunch supporter of the Mt. Hood freeway, Ivancie says mass-transit advocates were wrong to kill it. “Next to one’s home,” he says, “an automobile is the most cherished possession because it is tangible proof of the freedom in a free society.”
In Ivancie’s most recent interview, with Multnomah Magazine: “If you’re running for office and you’ve only done half a job, and you lose, you feel bad the rest of your life. If you run for something or try to achieve something, and you do your best and still lose, you’ve got the satisfaction that you gave it your best. To me that’s the golden rule of life. And a lot of people haven’t learned that. They make half-efforts. You make your luck. Sure, you have to have intuition and timing, but most of these things come from yourself. I don’t think people work hard enough or think hard enough. They get into too many irrelevancies.”
— SCOTT ANSLEY