As former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell learned in 2001, it’s not easy to win reelection when the city has been torn by protests. Schell didn’t even survive the primary that year after the WTO protests. Will history repeat itself in demonstration-drenched Portland and Seattle?
In Portland, at least, there are early warnings to incumbents. Embattled, “embaffled” Mayor Ted Wheeler had seemed a shoo-in, but months of nightly demonstrations and violence that he seems powerless to end have now put Wheeler in a tie with his challenger, according to new polling by Oregon Public Broadcasting. His opponent is an urban planner, Sarah Iannarone, inexperienced in city government.
The polling indicates 52% of likely voters think the Rose City is on the wrong track, a strong indicator of the need for change. The major issue for Portland voters is homelessness, an issue somewhat entwined with the demonstrations and occupations of downtown blocks. With the election only weeks away, very high numbers of voters, up to 40%, are undecided, torn between unpopular incumbents and unproven newcomers.
Another indicator of discontent is the city commissioner race of Chloe Eudaly, a first-termer who has made her main cause tenants’ rights, thus picking up opposition from landlords. She trails her challenger, Mingus Mapps, a Black former political science professor who is running as a conciliator and has a 9% lead in the new polls.
Translated to Seattle, where the key races are one year off, one can see troubles for incumbents, including the two city councilmembers up for city-wide vote, Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda. Seattle’ Mayor Durkan has been sliding in the polling, and hasn’t declared whether she will seek re-election next year. Durkan’s favorable/unfavorable polling has dropped from 63/25 in July, 2018 to 43/36 this summer of our discontents. Meanwhile, the city council ratings are plunging, with only 32% of those polled saying that the council is doing a good job, according to a KING-5 poll.
If the council really does slash police officers and permits more homeless encampments in neighborhoods, one can see the broom in voters’ hands and more newcomers jumping in.