2016 Mayoral Candidate Sarah Iannarone Will Run Again Against Mayor Ted Wheeler

In an open letter, Iannarone criticizes the mayor for failing to live up to "rhetoric of progressivism."

Sarah Iannarone. (Wesley Lapointe)

An e-bike-riding, funky-glasses-wearing city planner-turned-community organizer has opened her second campaign for mayor with an open letter (and video) attacking incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler's record.

Sarah Iannarone, who lost to Wheeler in 2016, is trying for a rematch, arguing Wheeler didn't live up to his promises.

"The issues you highlighted in your 2016 mayoral bid still plague this city today—only now with increased urgency," writes Iannarone, 46, who garnered roughly 12 percent of the vote in the 2016 mayoral primary. (She finished third.) "When you ran, you cloaked your campaign in the rhetoric of progressivism but when the time came to lead, those values were nowhere to be seen."

The mayor ran on an agenda of police reform and housing, but has lost favor with many on the left on those issues.

Iannarone copied a strategy of Wheeler's, when he ran against an incumbent mayor. Wheeler delivered a letter to then-Mayor Charlie Hales demanding a series of debates on policy issues. (Hales later opted not to run for reelection.) Iannarone isn't asking for a debate—just starting a public discussion, with a letter outlining his failings, in case he hasn't been following her steady critique on Twitter.

The contrasts between them are substantive. Iannarone has taken issue with Wheeler's handling of policing, particularly protests, and on the response to homelessness.

"Amidst the rise of right-wing populism, you ceded our Sanctuary City to armed gangs powered by hate and bigotry," Iannarone's letter continues. "In the middle of a housing state of emergency, Portland Police continue to sweep the homeless from our streets."

Iannarone organized neighbors to support a shelter going into the Foster-Powell  neighborhood, and she calls herself an "everyday antifascist," who supports a nonviolent but public rejection of far-right groups and has been deeply critical of the mayor's response to groups, including the Proud Boys and Vancouver, Wash.-based Patriot Prayer, which have come to Portland after the 2016 election to brawl with the militant leftists that make up Antifa. (She has spoken at counter-demonstration rallies against Patriot Prayer.)

And Iannarone has also vocally opposed the freeway expansion in the Rose Quarter, a contrast to Wheeler.

Wheeler has said he's running for election, though he has raised next to no money since last year.

Iannarone says a rematch will have different results, pointing not just to Wheeler's record, but her own record over the past three years of supporting community efforts and the city's newly revamped publicly funded elections, among other reasons.

Iannarone says she'll participate in publicly funded elections, which will match 6-to-1 donations up to $50.  The program also limits donations to $250 in the primary and $250 in the general election. (New campaign finance limits barring anyone from contributing more than $500 in a city race were passed by voters and overturned by the Multnomah Circuit Court, though advocates have appealed to the Supreme Court.)

Iannarone says Portland needs more dramatic action against serious threats.

"Portlanders have seen the inability of our establishment politicians to move the needle on our housing crisis, to lead in averting climate catastrophe, or to restore trust between the community and law enforcement," said Iannarone. "I'm looking forward to spending the next ten months speaking with Portlanders across the city about their priorities and how a people-powered campaign to elect a policy wonk turned community organizer will help us stick up for all of the people in our Portland."

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