Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has decided not to seek reelection.
Fritz, 60, currently in her third term, has opted not to seek a fourth in 2020, she announced Friday afternoon. That sets off the race for an open seat well in advance of the formal election season.
Fritz, who has championed the use of publicly funded elections, said in a statement that was part of why she announced her decision more than a year before the primary election date, rather than delay.
"I am announcing now in the hope that many worthy candidates will use the public campaign finance resources in the Open and Accountable Elections program," she said, "and that there will be as positive and trust-building campaigns for the open seat in 2020 as there were when five of us ran with Voter Owned Elections funding in 2008. I want to open the door for someone else to be the voice of Portlanders in my place."
Fritz, a former psychiatric nurse, who was a neighborhood activist and sat on the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission before running for City Council, is known as a tireless public servant with a personal touch, who answers constituent emails to her office herself. She developed a reputation for rejecting the wheeling-and-dealing typical of City Hall, and instead arriving at a principled position and sticking to it.
She was an iconoclast who frustrated two mayors—Sam Adams and Charlie Hales—and outlasted both of them.
Her announcement cited among her accomplishments the passage of the 2014 parks bond and championing the organized homeless village Right 2 Dream Too.
She had planned to retire in 2016, but sought a third term after her husband, Dr. Steven Fritz, died in car crash on Interstate 5 in 2014. She later championed state legislation to install "median crash barriers" as protection on the highway.
She retires as the last great champion of the neighborhood association system in City Hall. The Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which she led for many years, was renamed the Office of Community Civil Life under City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly last year.
She ran for election the first time with public financing, and after her husband's death self-financed her reelection campaign after that program was disbanded.
Her plans for her remaining time in office include getting the new publicly funded elections program off the ground but also "developing a program to sell development rights from certain City-owned sites to fund maintenance of facilities Portlanders value," similar to what the city did at the office tower Park Avenue West, and creating "permanent protections for the Bull Run watershed in the City's Charter," according to the release.
"I am looking forward to finishing strong with my team—continuing to connect with Portlanders, doing my homework, getting important things done, and dedicating my life to serving the people of Portland for the remainder of my term," she said. "And then, I am looking forward to retiring and sitting in my back yard with my cat watching the wildlife."
Carmen Rubio, the executive director of the nonprofit Latino Network, and a former policy director for Commissioner Nick Fish and former Mayor Tom Potter, is one of several names being mentioned at City Hall.
"I'm honored to be thought of and will be taking some time to seriously consider the best way to continue serving the community," says Rubio. "I will be seeking the advice and counsel of my family, trusted friends and colleagues before making a decision."
At least one person is already openly eying the seat.
Oregon House Representative Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland) may run. "I'm not ruling it out," he says, "but I'd really prefer to support Carmen Rubio for that seat. She's been a long time community leader in Portland, and I would love to see her consider City Council."
Another name mentioned in advocacy circles is former mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone, who challenged Wheeler in 2016. (She retweeted a housing advocate's suggestion that she run.) "I've been talking with friends and family a lot about 2020, she said in a statement. "The People of Portland know I'm committed to leveraging my skills, my knowledge, and my networks to make our city the best place it can be. That's what will drive my decision-making."