Portland Fire Union Votes to Endorse Rene Gonzalez Over Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty

The endorsement is a significant political snub to Hardesty, who oversees the fire bureau.

Firefighters respond to damage at the Roseway Theater. (Brian Brose)

The Portland Firefighters Association, the union representing Portland firefighters, has voted to endorse Rene Gonzalez over incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. That’s a remarkable decision because Hardesty is the commissioner in charge of Portland Fire & Rescue.

The vote, which has not been publicly announced yet, is a significant political setback for Hardesty, who has long been a vocal labor supporter and has been the commissioner in charge of the fire bureau for close to two years.

Gonzalez, a lawyer and small-business owner, faces Hardesty in the November general election. The two candidates have near-opposite stances on the most pressing issues in Portland currently: policing, homelessness and gun violence.

Hardesty added: “I respect the decision of the 14-member executive board, and I still have the back of the over 750 firefighters in Portland.”

Isaac McLennan, president of the fire union, tells WW its 14-member executive board voted to endorse Gonzalez because of his stances on public safety.

“We were not able to successfully schedule, while we tried diligently, to get Hardesty into an endorsement interview,” McLennan says. “Her schedule didn’t allow that.”

Hardesty’s campaign manager, the Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, said in a statement: “It’s disappointing to see labor organizations endorse a candidate who has publicly disparaged unions. We are proud of Commissioner Hardesty’s track record of championing workers’ rights.”

He added that the endorsement interview conflicted with a vote Hardesty is taking that will affect the union.

“Commissioner Hardesty has offered to meet since topping the May primary,” Santos-Lyons wrote. “However, at this time, she is currently in negotiations with council on a complex fire union request that impacts Portland’s public safety readiness and has communicated with union leadership that she would be happy to meet for a political endorsement once this is resolved.”

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.