City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s PAC Weighs in on Council Races

Elected officials often stay out of contested primaries. Not Hardesty.

Many elected officials refrain from endorsing candidates in contested primaries if they are going to work closely with the eventual winner.

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who won election in 2018, is less cautious. Last year, Hardesty announced she'd formed a political action committee, and with a slate of community advisers, would put her name behind candidates in the 2020 elections.

Hardesty, a former legislator, NAACP leader and longtime activist against police violence, put together a strong coalition in 2018 to defeat a better-funded opponent, then-Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. Hardesty's campaign worked closely with the campaign that overwhelmingly passed the Portland Clean Energy Fund that year, which means she's got a powerful email and social media following that could be helpful to candidates this year.

Last week, Hardesty's PAC, Rise Together, announced its choices: Mayor Ted Wheeler; Commissioner Chloe Eudaly; Carmen Rubio; and in the 17-strong field to replace the late Commissioner Nick Fish, Julia DeGraw.

The least surprising pick is Rubio, the executive director of the Latino Network and the leading candidate to replace Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is retiring. Two other candidates in that race, Candace Avalos and Timothy DuBois, have qualified for public financing but Rubio is mopping up key endorsements.

In the mayoral race, progressive challenger Sarah Iannarone would have benefited from Hardesty's support, but Hardesty and Wheeler have become strong allies on the implementation of the Clean Energy Fund and attempting to rework public safety budgeting, so it's not a great surprise that Hardesty stuck with the incumbent.

Hardesty's endorsement of Eudaly was less of a sure thing. They are aligned on tenant protections, skepticism of the Police Bureau and a variety of other issues but have clashed at times, and Eudaly faces stiff competition from former Mayor Sam Adams and newcomer Mingus Mapps. (He's the preferred candidate of the neighborhood associations, many of which were aggrieved with Eudaly over her bureau, the Office of Civic and Community Life, to revamp the role of neighborhood associations.)

Julia DeGraw, who ran against Fish in 2018, getting 33 percent of the vote, might be the biggest beneficiary of Hardesty's endorsement. In a crowded field with three current or former elected officials (Metro Councilor Sam Chase; Smith, the former Multnomah County commissioner and Dan Ryan, a former Portland School Board member) and a onetime chief of staff to Mayor Charlie Hales, Tera Hurst, who has racked up key endorsements, DeGraw needed something to distinguish her from the pack.

"I firmly believe these candidates will rise to Portland's biggest challenges and will work together to solve our crises surrounding access to government, housing and houselessness, public safety, transportation, climate, and economic justice, which is why I am very proud to stand with them in their election," Hardesty said in a statement.

Her PAC will introduce her picks to the public on March 11 at 6:30 pm at the Lucky Lab at 915 Southeast Hawthorne Blvd.