Recall petition filed against Portland Mayor Wheeler

Civic Affairs

Critics have 90 days to collect nearly 50,000 valid signatures of Portland voters to prompt a recall election

FILE – In this Aug. 5, 2019, file photo, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler poses for a photo outside City Hall in Portland, Ore. Wheeler announced Thursday, March 11, 2021, he would seek $2 million in one-time funding from a reserve contingency account to invest in the Portland Police Bureau as well as other agencies and programs in hopes of slowing the city’s rampant gun violence. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The campaign to recall Mayor Ted Wheeler kicked off with the filing of the prospective election petition on Thursday, July 1.

“Portland has endured years of crisis. When we needed a leader to solve problems, Ted Wheeler’s inaction made our challenges worse,” it reads in part.

The petition was filed by chief petitioner Melissa Blount, a Portland Public Schools teacher librarian. She referred all questions to the Total Recall political action committee that is organizing the signature gathering.

Wheeler was reelected with 46% of the vote at the 2020 general election, defeating progressive urban planning advocate Sarah Iannarone, who received 41%. The remaining 13% went to write-in candidates, including activist Teressa Raiford. That plurality was enough for Wheeler to win the election.

The committee must collect at least 47,788 valid signatures of registered Portland voters within 90 days of the petition being filed. The number is 15% of the votes cast by Portlanders in the most recent election of Oregon governor. After they are submitted, city election officials have 10 days to certify them. If enough valid signatures are submitted, Wheeler will have five days to resign or submit a statement of justification explaining why he should remain in office.

If Wheeler fights the recall, the election must be held within 35 days. The only question on the ballot will be whether he should be recalled. Both the reasons for the recall and the justification statement also will be printed on the ballot. Unlike California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom is being recalled, there will be no separate ballot of replacement candidates.

The committee director is Iannarone campaign lawyer Alan Kessler. It was filed with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office less than three weeks after Wheeler was reelected. It was filed by its treasurer, Seth Woolley, a campaign finance reform activist who finished fifth with just 4% of the vote in May 2020 primary race to replace former Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.

The committee has reported raising a little more than $41,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, launched a website and hiring campaign manager Audrey Caines, whose previous political experience was with Rising Tide PDX, an environmental justice group. She said the committee also has a field organizer, around 200 volunteers, and an executive committee that includes: Kessler; Shelly Hill, a local business owner; John Schroeder, a veteran and an early, major donor to the campaign; Carly Ng, a long-time volunteer and organizer; and Mark Nerys, the campaign’s creative director. Caines had previously said the committee members did not want their names released.

Chief petitioner Melissa Blount also was kept secret before Thursday.

Petition

Here is the full petition statement, as first reported by Willamette Week:

“Portlanders have lost confidence that their government will be there in times of need. Our city is full of good hearted, decent residents. We should be an example to the world. Instead, with Wheeler as mayor, we have veered off course and our city’s reputation has been tarnished.

“A recall is an expression of democracy designed to remove politicians who aren’t serving effectively. Portlanders are ready to recover and we can’t afford to waste the next three-and-a-half years. Portland deserves better than an uninspiring mayor re-elected with less than 47% of the vote. We deserve a mayor who was elected without illegally loaning his campaign $150,000 of his personal money. Our neighbors, families, and businesses deserve a mayor who prioritizes their safety and wellbeing.

“Ted Wheeler has repeatedly demonstrated to too many of us that he does not serve this city. Portlanders deserve a fresh start.”

Contrary to the statement, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero ruled Wheeler’s campaign loan did not violate city election rules. Portland elections officials announced they would not enforce voter-approved contributions limits while a similar measure was being appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court during most of the 2020 election cycle.

A previous Portland Tribune story on the recall campaign can be found here.

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