Iannarone’s tweet of ‘violent despots’ stirs Portland mayor’s race

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Poll shows the race is effectively tied one week before Election Day

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Just a week before the 2020 election, Portland’s mayoral race is scrutinizing a tweet from the 2016 primary campaign.

Last Friday, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s campaign released a statement taking challenger Sarah Iannarone to task for “writing in violent despots like Ho Chi Minh and Joseph Stalin on her 2016 ballot.” The tweet, from May 1, 2016, also includes write-in votes for Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, plus others.

Most are figures on the global stage responsible for the deaths of millions of people over multiple decades.

Iannarone campaign manager Gregory McKelvey told KOIN 6 News by email that’s not her ballot. Iannarone, he said, “posted the ballots of many of her supporters who sent them in after voting for her.”

When she posted that tweet at 9:44 p.m. that night, she added: “Quite possibly my favorite “I voted this way” photo to date (tho I 😍 them all) #pdxmayor #forcetherunoff”

A screen shot of a tweet by Sarah Iannarone posted on her official campaign Twitter feed on May 1, 2016 (Screen shot taken October 27, 2020)

In a statement McKelvey added, “In 2016 Sarah shared a picture of someone else’s ballot celebrating Black women like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur.”

Angela Davis is an activist who was acquitted of kidnapping, murder and conspiracy charges in the 1970s, then ran as Vice President on the Communist Party ticket and later became a professor at the University of California Santa Cruz. Assata Shakur is a convicted killer of a New Jersey state trooper who later escaped from prison and was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Wheeler campaign manager Danny O’Halloran said, essentially, it really doesn’t matter if that’s her ballot.

“No one who saw that tweet would have any way of thinking that (it wasn’t her ballot),” O’Halloran told KOIN 6 News. “But more importantly it doesn’t really matter. On that ballot is a vote for Sarah Iannarone and everyone else written in was a Communist dictator. And her choosing to post that is just as inflammatory and mocks our democratic institutions in just the same way.”

The tweet, he said, “fits a pattern of constant inciteful rhetoric by Sarah Iannarone and her campaign. She has repeatedly said she is affiliated with Antifa, she has chosen to wear items of clothing with Mao Zedong’s face on it, she posted this tweet of a ballot with Communist dictators names – seeming to praise it – and she has been asked in interviews to condemn violent protest and has refused to, going as far as to say in an interview that peaceful protest might not be going far enough.”

McKelvey declined a request from KOIN 6 News for an on-camera interview with him or Iannarone. But he did issue a statement:

“Ted Wheeler is using the same tactics as Donald Trump to scare and confuse voters. The claim is simply a lie. Trump and Wheeler paint progressive women as too radical because they believe misogyny and misrepresentations can still win elections. They are tired tricks from a time that our city and nation are eager to move past. In 2016 Sarah shared a picture of someone else’s ballot celebrating Black women like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur. Wheeler’s campaign is increasingly desperate to paint Sarah as a radical because his ideas are straight out of the McCarthy era – degradation of the climate, housing segregation, police brutality, and Red Scares. Portland deserves a conversation surrounding our housing crisis and economic recovery, not the daily distortions, alt-right attacks, and Red Scares of Wheeler’s desperate reelection campaign. We expect voters to reject Donald Trump and Wheeler’s shared tactic on election day.”

With a week to go, Portland’s mayoral race is becoming increasingly combative.

An OPB/DHM poll from a few weeks ago showed Wheeler trailing but with about 28% of the voters undecided. O’Halloran said that’s changed.

“The most recent poll shows the race is effectively tied,” he said, noting there are still a large number of undecideds and about 6% supporting write-in candidate Teressa Raiford.

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