Piper Crowell is late to the Portland mayor's race. But the onetime soccer goalkeeper has a wide-open field in front of her.
Of the 13 challengers to Mayor Ted Wheeler, only Sarah Iannarone has qualified for public campaign financing. Among the others, anti-gun violence activist Teressa Raiford and architect Ozzie González are the only ones actively campaigning.
So Crowell, 34, Nike's director of global digital and innovation policy, entered the race this week.
Crowell has worked as an environmental activist, a congressional staffer, and lobbyist for the music-streaming company Pandora before moving to Oregon to join Nike in 2017. She has hired veteran campaign manager Paige Richardson, who helped orchestrate a big win in 2018 for the Portland Clean Energy Fund.
That campaign won 65 to 35 percent and activated young and marginalized voters who could be an effective bloc for a Wheeler challenger. We sat down with Crowell to ask her why she's running and why voters should consider her as an alternative.
In an interview, we found Crowell optimistic and passionate, but difficult to pin down on policy specifics. Her responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
WW: What do you bring to this race other candidates don't?
Piper Crowell: I'm younger. I'm going to come in with a more open mind. I think that's just because of how my peers and I view the world. I will be the only candidate I know of who is part of the LGBTQ community.
Was there a single issue that compelled you to run?
Yeah, people affected by homelessness. It's hard to walk around Portland for more than an hour and not see it.
Why would you be more effective on that issue than Mayor Wheeler?
I believe my work experience and my leadership style and my approach would produce a different result. My plan would be to bring City Council together to work as a team and to make this a crosscutting priority in which every City Council member through their bureau and through their departments would have clear deliverables and a common objective.
What about Metro's $300 million-a-year homeless services measure?
We need more resources. What's tough as a voter is that every time I open up my ballot, I feel like I'm being asked to pay more money on issues I believe in, but with no trust or guarantee money is going to the right places and that we're seeing results.
Portland city government is a multibillion-dollar enterprise. What in your background suggests you can take on that kind of responsibility?
I've taken on a lot of jobs and a lot of issues in a lot of areas that I didn't have the exact qualifications. Or I hadn't done before. The way I've been effective in every position I've held and exceeded expectations was working with others and working with a team and being humble about what I didn't know and finding ways to bring other people into the mix.
How do you disagree with the mayor?
I have not agreed with his handling, especially this weekend, of protests. I think there's more oversight he can do to make sure our police department is treating people with respect.
Should the Portland police be allowed to use facial recognition tools?
I believe so, as long as they are not biased. So when we're talking about good facial recognition tools, yes.
Does the mayor have a role on traffic?
Yes. The mayor can't sit this one out. On the I-5 Rose Quarter project, I think there was a more proactive role the mayor could've played. A lot of politics is in the soft politics and relationship-building.
There was an employee protest at Nike recently around the Alberto Salazar issue. What was your position?
I did not participate in the protest. I had a lot of work to do that day.
How are women treated at Nike?
My experience has been incredibly positive. I work with some amazing women who are incredible mentors to me. And my running for mayor is very separate from my job at Nike, but I view Nike in terms of the incredible work it's done for the city.
Will you limit contributions?
I have spent a lot of time working on campaigns and truly believe we do need campaign finance reform. But the only way it works is if you have that set for everyone.
So if Phil Knight writes you a $100,000 check?
I would be honored to take it.