Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, told WW today that prior to entering the race, he and his wife, MacKensey, “explored relationships, mutual relationships with other couples, for a brief period of time before ultimately deciding that it wasn’t for us.”
Pulliam, 40, agreed to an interview after a 2016 screenshot from a page titled “Swinger Facebook Group PDX,” rocketed around Oregon political circles.
The screenshot shows four pictures of the couple and includes a note from Pulliam.
“Hi Everyone!,” the message says. “MacKensey and I are excited to be added to your little community. Some of you we have already had the pleasure to meet and we look forward to getting to know the rest of you!” (The swingers group then had 536 members.)
Sitting for a Zoom interview Thursday afternoon alongside MacKensey, his wife of 12 years, Pulliam, 40, repeatedly declined to specify when the “mutual relationships” began or ended, except to say that 2016 was an accurate date and their participation ended well before he began running for governor.
“I think people can relate from all different parts of the state who have been involved in marriages,” he says. “There are different stages of marriage and different ebbs and flows. This is something that was for a brief period in our past and is in the past.”
Pulliam adds that an online photo of him at the Portland Erotic Ball in 2011, also being circulated by people apparently seeking to discredit him, preceded their experimentation with other couples.
The “Swinger Facebook PDX” screenshot arrived in reporters’ inboxes this week, but a Reddit thread presented the same information before Pulliam entered the race in September.
Pulliam is philosophical about the dissemination of the information now, although he says an annotation to the screenshot is misleading and contains two allegations that are false. The first allegation is that he is bisexual. He denies that.
“I’m a heterosexual male,” Pulliam says. “And I’ve only personally engaged in heterosexual activity.”
The second is that he’s aligned himself with anti-LGBTQ groups in his campaign. He also denies that.
It is unclear what effect the revelation will have on the Republican primary.
Since Pulliam declared he was seeking the GOP nomination for governor last fall, he’s gained considerable traction.
The second-term Sandy mayor has built upon the attention he gained while vocally opposing Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 policies—he even sued her in federal court over executive orders shutting down businesses—to raise nearly $1 million, more than any other Republican except state Rep. Christine Drazan (R-Canby).
Poll results that another GOP candidate, Salem oncologist Dr. Bud Pierce, released earlier this week showed Pulliam solidly in second place in the Republican primary field, trailing only Pierce, the 2016 nominee.
While former President Donald Trump has not made an endorsement in the Oregon GOP primary, many observers think if he did he would choose Pulliam and that such an endorsement could prove decisive. Pulliam is a strong Trump supporter; among other things, he questions the results of the 2020 presidential election, a point he drove home in a Feb. 1 tweet.
“I am the ONLY candidate who has the courage to say what needs to be said about the integrity of our elections,” Pulliam said. “If you want an ACTUAL conservative as your next governor then we need your help!”
In Trump, the evangelical wing of the Republican Party supported a secular, thrice-married New Yorker for the past two presidential elections, upending conventional wisdom that Republican candidates must adhere to traditional values in their personal lives. But without Trump’s fame and bombast to buoy him, Pulliam might feel more of an impact from his past.
Jim Moore, the Pacific University political science professor who’s been watching Oregon elections for decades and is writing a biography of Oregon’s last Republican governor, the late Vic Atiyeh, says voters are different today.
“Donald Trump can get away with it.” Moore says. “Stan Pulliam—I don’t’ think he can. He’s still introducing himself to people. He’s raised nearly a million dollars—he needs to be spending a lot of it right now on pictures of flags and kittens and puppies.”
In his campaign materials, speeches and public appearances, Pulliam has emphasized his small-town values and presented himself as the true conservative in the race.
“When I look around at Sandy, I can see the Oregon of my childhood,” Pulliam says in one of his campaign videos. “It’s time to restore our pioneer glory.”
On his website, Pulliam calls himself a “a proud pro-life, pro 2A [Second Amendment], pro medical freedom and pro private-property rights conservative.”
Pulliam says his past sexual activity is consistent with the values on which he’s built his campaign. “In Oregon, we really cherish values of individuality and liberty,” Pulliam says.
“The decisions that we made were for MacKensey and I to make in the privacy of our own homes,” he adds. “We’re certainly not asking anybody to participate or practice or do any of the things that we have decided to do in the past. But we’re also certainly not ashamed of decisions that we’ve made in the past either, as they’ve made us stronger.”
Pulliam says he has both received incoming calls from campaign supporters since the screenshot began circulating and proactively called others.
“They’ve all been very positive interactions,” he says. “We have continually heard that people mainly care about MacKensey and I, and they just want to make sure that we’re handling this OK.”