Mayor Ted Wheeler said on Thursday he would not seek a third term in the 2024 election.
“Addressing our city’s critical challenges while, at the same, time, fundamentally reshaping city government requires all of my attention over the next 15 months,” Wheeler said in a Wednesday statement. “As such, I will not be seeking another term as your mayor.”
Wheeler added: “I am a firm believer in public service and know that when government is accountable and responsive to the needs of the community, it can be a force for good. Serving as the elected mayor of Portland has been both humbling and the greatest privilege of my life.”
Wheeler’s announcement comes amid a massive overhaul of city government as Portland approaches the 2024 election, and as candidates for the future City Council flood the zone.
It would seem to mark the end of a political career that did not go as smoothly as Wheeler wanted. In the eight years he’s been the mayor of Portland, he’s faced intense criticism over how he’s handled downtown economic recovery after COVID-19, increasing homelessness, and the racial justice protests of 2020.
For months, people close to Wheeler have told WW that the mayor has privately said he won’t run for reelection. (Others said the opposite.) One of the events that was perhaps pivotal to that decision was the April memorial service for Walter Cole, who performed as the legendary drag queen Darcelle XV. At that event, Wheeler spoke—and was viciously heckled by mourners.
On various occasions, WW examined Wheeler’s tenure in City Hall. We found after his first two years in office that the mayor was isolated and frustrated. The 2020 protests of George Floyd’s murder hardly helped matters: He was criticized for his police force’s response by both the right and the left, and his receiving federal tear gas to the face didn’t solve the problem.
But at least Wheeler was able to return the favor, pepper-spraying a West Hills dairy heir who badgered him outside a McMenamins in 2021. The witness to that incident? Former mayor and Wheeler aide Sam Adams, whose presence seemed to energize the mayor until Wheeler dismissed him for browbeating city attorneys. Adams is now weighing a run for City Council.