Last night, at a City Council forum on the arts, the two candidates were asked to present a piece of art.
Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith read a poem by Maya Angelou. Former legislator Jo Ann Hardesty performed a dance to the song "Electric Slide."
Smith's campaign says that Hardesty's choice of a dance partner was offensive.
At Hardesty's side was Baruti Artharee, a onetime senior aide to former Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. In 2013, Artharee got in trouble for commenting on Smith's appearance at a public event.
"I said, 'Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith, €"mmm, mmm, mmm€ she looks good tonight,'" Artharee recalled his comments to WW at the time, adding that he intended the comments to be lighthearted.
"I meant to give her a compliment and do so in a comical way," Artharee told WW.
Hales took the comments seriously and suspended Artharee for a week without pay for the remarks.
Smith had this to say about his participation in the dance last night.
"I had just read a poem by Maya Angelou and gave remarks about why she stopped speaking for six years — the poet had been raped by her mother's boyfriend," she said in a statement. "Immediately after sharing this story and reading a poem by Ms. Angelou, my opponent called the perpetrator who had harassed me in public to get up and dance with her. They got up and began to swing their hips, and he swung his hips the same way he had when he had made the suggestive and offensive remarks that led to his being fired from the Mayor's office.
"He was happy to move his hips in front of me again. Tears have been rolling down my face — I feel violated all over. And my opponent laughed gleefully all the while."
Artharee wasn't actually fired from the mayor's office for comments—he returned from suspension and worked for three months before resigning.
But the last night's events again lay bare a schism within the black community over the election, which marks the first time two black women have competed for a city council seat.
Hardesty wasn't immediately available for comment.
Smith's campaign manager Elizabeth Mazzara Myers drew the comparison to the national political moment we're in.
"At [the] Arts & Culture forum our opponent went well beyond the limits of decency. In the era of #MeToo and on the heels of Dr. Ford's testimony, our opponent chose to have Baruti Artharee, a man who lost his job after publicly sexually harassing and humiliating Loretta Smith, get up and do an inappropriate and suggestive dance with her just feet away from Loretta."
Update, 1:15 pm: