WW’s May 2024 Endorsements

Voters would be wise to practice skepticism—both of anybody who claims they have a cure-all, and those defenders of the status quo who say nothing is wrong.

The Right Stuff cover web image (Whitney McPhie)

Every election is a chance at a fresh start. And every two years, like clockwork, candidates cast themselves as change agents, even when all they’re doing is painting new slogans on threadbare ideas and a track record of failure.

That’s especially true when a place has floundered as conspicuously as Portland has over the past four years. Suddenly, all sorts of newcomers say they have the elixir to cure what ails us. Voters would be wise to practice skepticism—both of anybody who claims they have a cure-all, and those defenders of the status quo who say nothing is wrong.

To be sure, the May 21 primary is about change, both because local government is falling short in easily apparent ways—we’re looking at you, Multnomah County—and because of generational shifts, best embodied by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) 52 years after he first won election to the Oregon Legislature. Blumenauer’s departure after 14 terms in Congress set off a game of musical chairs, as candidates leave their seats to seek his, and other aspirants seek the lower seats in turn.

Ambition is good—if the ambition is to deliver government services as effectively as possible.

Determining the candidates (and a few tax measures) most capable of doing that is the task that has occupied our newsroom for the past month. As we do each election, we invited candidates from both parties in all meaningfully contested races—which we define as two people who submitted statements to the Voters’ Pamphlet—for group interviews at our office. (You can find video of the full interviews after each endorsement.) We asked them questions, got them to engage with each other to see where they differ, and tried to get a better sense of their personalities by asking them which actor they’d like to see play them in a movie.

Then we made our picks. Some were easy. Others we debated for weeks.

A newspaper endorsement is not necessarily a seal of approval. That’s something we need to repeat more loudly each year, in part because the media environment is so enfeebled that readers may not realize what we’re offering is an appraisal of what you’ll encounter on the ballot along with our best advice rather than “none of the above.” Often, it is an educated guess at who will be the lesser of two evils. (Some of the contests, for state and federal offices, are party primaries, and the winners of each will meet in November. Local races are nonpartisan—and can be won outright in May.) But we endorse in every contest—even ones in which we see no palatable options—because we believe when voters are faced with difficult choices, they deserve sound guidance.

As has been the case for several election cycles, that choice often pits the progressive flank of the Democratic Party, animated by organized labor, against its centrist flank, bankrolled by the business community. In Portland, the moderates have gained momentum. In some ways, 2024 represents a retreat from the idealism that fueled elections four years ago, when voters backed drug-decriminalizing Measure 110 and a reform-minded district attorney candidate named Mike Schmidt. Now, Schmidt’s policies are out of favor, and a bevy of tough-love candidates pledge to scare Multnomah County straight.

You won’t find us on either bandwagon. What we’ve looked for, in every contest, is the person who demonstrates a track record of getting things done. This city and state need better outcomes—and the best way to gauge future success is to ask what they’ve done for you lately.

In the following pages, you’ll find our selections. We hope they help you as you decide our future.

Willamette Week’s May 2024 Endorsements



Oregon Legislature

Multnomah County


Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.