Stacey in run-off, a Saltzman surprise, and other election thoughts

Metro President hopeful Bob Stacey-3

Bob Stacey faces a tough fight for
the top spot at Metro.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The election results were full of surprises last night. There are three races in particular I want to share some of my thoughts on today: Metro President, Portland City Council, and Washington County Chair.

The biggest story (at least from my perspective) is that Rex Burkholder, a co-founder of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and major advocate for bicycling and active transportation, finished third in the race for Metro President and will not be in a run-off for that position.

Burkholder ended up with just 28% of the vote, far behind the other two men in the race. Former Mayor of Hillsboro Tom Hughes won the election with 37% of the votes, just over 4,000 more than Bob Stacey.

Hughes ran a campaign touting his experience at job creation, even though Metro — which governs 25 cities in the region — deals more with land-use and transportation policy than job-growth. On those fronts, Stacey and Burkholder clearly had more credentials.

Burkholder’s history in bike advocacy is well-known and as a current Metro Councilor he serves on a number of transportation-related committees and boards. Stacey is a veteran of city and state politics and a former leader of non-profit land-use and planning advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon.

For many voters (as this Portland Mercury article detailed), the Stacey-Burkholder decision was based on their positions on the controversial Columbia River Crossing Project. Burkholder supports it and Stacey doesn’t.

For people who are opposed to the CRC project, Stacey’s success at the ballot box is cause for optimism (and likely gave them a boost of energy at today’s protest). Or, as a commenter put it last night, “Electing Bob Stacey is critical in ending this 12 lane CRC nightmare.”

Burkholder’s drift into the political center — illustrated most sharply by his CRC stance — is likely what contributed to his poor showing. To the voters in the region on the political right, he was known as the classic progressive supporter of bicycling — while his CRC stance turned much of his base against him. Burkholder had 7,600 fewer votes than Stacey in Multnomah County (which includes Portland and six other small cities) and 3,100 fewer votes in Washington County (which includes Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard and Forest Grove).

Interestingly, Burkholder enjoyed strong support from well-known, veteran Portland bike advocates like Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves, lawyer Ray Thomas, and former PBOT bike program manager and CEO of Alta Planning Mia Birk. This race further validates to me that there’s a new generation of activists in Portland who are not satisfied with the status-quo and incremental rate-of-change toward a less-motorized future that we’re currently experiencing in Portland.

The race between Hughes and Stacey will be very interesting to watch. The two bring very different perspectives on the future of our region’s growth. (I sat down with Stacey for an interview a few weeks ago and look forward to sharing more about his thoughts on bicycling, the CRC, and other topics very soon.)

In the race for Portland City Council Position No. 2, incumbent Dan Saltzman avoided a run-off by getting over 54,000 votes (or 55%) according to the latest counts. The surprise storyline of the night wasn’t only that none of his contenders made a serious run (Mary Volm was second with just 12%), but that publicly-funded candidate Jesse Cornett had an abysmal showing.

Despite being the only candidate in this race to qualify for $150,000 of public funding to run his campaign, Cornett got only 8% of the vote. Some local pundits think his performance might mean the end of Portland’s voter-owned elections.

Voter-owned elections might be in trouble, but it wasn’t entirely a lack of funds that hurt Cornett.

I interviewed Cornett back in January and he was definitely the most bike-savvy guy in the race. However, during his campaign he jumped on the “We shouldn’t use sewer money for bike lanes” bandwagon. Mayor Adams’ plan was (admittedly) handled terribly from a PR-standpoint, but the “sewer money for bike lanes” line is nothing more than a catchy soundbite that doesn’t accurately represent the concept (for starters, the money cannot be used for bike lanes and some bike-related/traffic calming infrastructure is quite complementary with stormwater management — a key function of our sewer dollars).

It was almost as if Cornett had the funding structure of a grassroots candidate but a campaign that tried to be a bit too slick and professional. Saltzman is about as professional as politicians get. To give him a serious run, Cornett needed to play the crusader, not the politician-in-training.

The other race that interested me was for Washington County Chair. Major active transportation advocate Dick Schouten came up short against Andy Duyck, garnering 39% of the votes to Duyck’s 54%. Schouten would have been a force for biking and walking improvements on the West side. To give you a sense of how that race was framed for voters, here’s a snip from the Beaverton Valley Times from back in January:

“Duyck, a Republican, is known for his straight talk and ties to the county’s agricultural community. Schouten, a Democrat, is a brainy planning advocate more often than not seen riding his bicycle through the county.”

Schouten is far from out of the picture. He noted in an email to supporters today that he’ll remain dedicated to his principles as a member of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

I plan on doing more coverage of the general election in the months to come. Stay tuned for an article from my interview with Bob Stacey. I also plan to meet Tom Hughes as well as our two candidates for governor, John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Camp Bike Fun
14 years ago

8:00pm-8:30pm tonight at the Portland Expo Center!

http://stopthecrc.wordpress.com/

Camp Bike Fun
14 years ago

I’m looking forward to seeing Rex, Mia Birk, Jay Graves, and Ray Thomas throw their support behind Bob Stacey.

Steve B.
14 years ago

Stacey, FTW!!

Saltzman’s seat: As always, it helps if the candidate demonstrates an understanding of the issues and doesn’t resort to histrionics. If Jesse actually picked a theme and ran with it, or actually backed up his statements with real facts, I believe he would have garnered more votes. Instead, he picked at any possible wedge issue and opposed whatever Saltzman did. Cornett lost my vote when he made a factless argument that council’s approval of $20 million for bioswales was somehow an unjust use of tax payer money for bicycle infrastructure. It simply wasn’t. And that’s the sort of mistake that demonstrates a poor grasp of the issues.

Jesse, if you run for election again, and decide to be the “bicycling” candidate, you should really come to the table with some awesome, innovative ideas next time. Base your arguments on facts (like how bike infrastructure actually pays us back, for instance), and you’ll easily double your votes.

(may have posted this twice, sorry.)

ValkRaider
ValkRaider
14 years ago

I voted against Rex because of his support cheerleading for the CRC.

You can’t be for progressive policy and support a several billion dollar gift to auto oriented suburban / exurban sprawl in Clark county.

ValkRaider
ValkRaider
14 years ago

Sorry, my HTML got borked up on that post (Jonathan, we need a “preview” button!)

Michael M.
14 years ago

For me, the biggest story was Multnomah Ct’s pathetic 35% voter turnout. At least the state managed somewhat better overall (at about 41%). I don’t know what that says about Portland residents’ attitudes to our local government structures (city, county, and Metro).

Looking forward to your interview with Tom Hughes. I was impressed enough with his stance at the City Club debate to vote for him in the primary. I think his point was that Metro should be more involved with job creation and building business than it is currently, rather than serving as an agency so many attack (not entirely without justification) as an impediment to business and jobs. That message — and his credentials — seems to have resonated with a lot of voters (at least, a lot of those who bothered to vote), and many local papers like Willy Week, which endorsed him.

Keep up the election coverage! We need to get people more engaged.

Jackattak
Jackattak
14 years ago

@ Michael M. –

If you look across the country, voter turnout was pretty abysmal all-around.

I don’t think it was just Portland.

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
14 years ago

I was initially interested in Cornett, but Jesse lost my vote with his utter lack of understanding regarding the bike boulevard funding. If he can’t grasp the simple nuance of that, then what else isn’t he getting either? You gotta have the substance to back up the rhetoric.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)

RE: voter turnout.

we can’t blame voters. people are sick and tired of the way politics in this country has been poisoned by irresponsible leaders and irresponsible media. until we clean those two things up, voters will be understandably withdrawn.

Michael,
thanks for making that point about Hughes. I almost added a line saying a similar thing. I hope Hughes and the public are able to frame the race not in either jobs OR good land-use/transportation etc… but that we can have BOTH if we do things differently and aren’t afraid to innovate.

ValkRaider
ValkRaider
14 years ago
Garrett
Garrett
14 years ago

It would be awesome if Bike Portland offered endorsements. Would’ve helped me immensely when voting.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  Garrett

hey Garrett,

I hear you. I regretted not weighing in more heavily on this last election. covering politics is something i really don’t want to do unless I feel i can do it well and thoroughly. with all the other news on my plate i wasn’t able to devote the time to it i would have liked. i will definitely aim to do more politics coverage in the future, but I seriously doubt i’ll ever do official endorsements. I’d rather just cover the facts and offer my opinions here and there… i don’t think endorsements are the way to go for media outlets… especially bikeportland.

Brad
Brad
14 years ago

A couple observations:

Burkholder’s ads were terrible. They were thematically cheesy and voters not familar with his record probably thought, “This guy is for hippies and bike dorks and I don’t like either!”. With Hughes and Stacey, you knew they were about jobs or stopping the CRC – positions that you could cast a vote on.

Overall, bikes are not an important issue to most voters. They are largely more concerned with jobs, taxes, and the state of our communities right now. You have to be more than “the bike candidate” to appeal to voters outside our still rather small voting bloc. I’ll even venture that Cornett’s drumbeat about the sewer funds hurt the bike community more than it hurt Saltzman since most non-bike voters probably blame Mayor Adams / Us for any perceived misappropriation of tax dollars.

Andrew
Andrew
14 years ago

@CampBikeFun:
The protest was 8AM, not PM.

cyclist
cyclist
14 years ago

Steve B. #3 hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned. Cornett didn’t have any real theme, didn’t bring any of his own ideas to the table, and his sole strategy seemed to be to react to whatever Saltzman news was in the paper that day. Saltzman proposed a funding mechanism for building out bike infrastructure, Cornett says, “that’s not the way I would do it” here on the site, when I ask him to provide specifics, he clams up. Great.

If you’re going to run against an incumbent I just don’t think it’s enough to point out what the incumbent is doing wrong, you have to have your own ideas, and push those ideas as hard as you can. Cornett did nothing to distinguish himself from the rest of Saltzman’s challengers, I’m glad he wasn’t rewarded for his reactionary campaign.

JR
JR
14 years ago

I think Metro already does quite a bit for economic development. The land use and transportation policies they oversee result in more affordable housing options across the region and lower transportation costs. Cities such as Hillsboro don’t like being told what to do, but if it wasn’t for Metro, Hillsboro might be 100% single-family zoning, three times its current size and still provide the same number of jobs and homes. In the meantime, the agricultural industry, which is a traded industry and greatly beneficial to our state economy, would suffer.

No thanks to Hughes..

Adams Carroll (News Intern)

Brad wrote:

“Overall, bikes are not an important issue to most voters”

i completely agree… what we need are leaders who understand that it’s not about “bikes” it’s about the many benefits that come from using them and the complementary values most voters care about like safe places to walk, bike and live and not having to drive 20 min. to everything.

Brad
Brad
14 years ago

Jonathan,

I am 100% with you on this but that can’t be pitched in a 30 second TV or radio spot and marketing yourself as “the bike candidate” falls flat with the majority of voters.

With the recent change at BTA, my hope is that they seriously think about teaching those complementary values to elected officials and bureaucrats outside of PBOT / ODOT. They might serve the bike community better by identifying officials and potential candidates without hard bike credentials for such an effort. There is a lot to be gained by reaching outside the bike community and getting connected to influencers with public health, neighborhood, pedestrian, business, etc. credentials and forming mutually beneficial alliances. It seems to me that getting bikes on the platform of more mainstream candidates is the way to win rather than getting 100% behind someone that puts bikes first and foremost and fails to resonate with 80%+ of the electorate.

As a community, we also must do a better job of talking about bikes and their many benefits. We are still too heavily focused on cycling rights, safety, and “us vs. them” in our internal dialogues and that’s not attracting others to support our cause. If we begin to be seen as regular folks with a different way to get around then our message gets real traction with the masses. We are still too hung up on labels, sub-cultures, and victim identity. Growing up and reaching out will pay bigger and faster dividends than going it alone.

Michael M.
14 years ago

Jonathan #17: values most voters care about like safe places to walk, bike and live and not having to drive 20 min. to everything.

One might add: food, shelter, health care. One in five Oregonians are receiving food stamps. Already this year, we’ve had three death-by-cop incidents (one in which a cop was also shot) involving people in desperate need of treatment that isn’t available. This month, our mayor just saved the mounted police patrol at the expense of cutting $300,000 from emergency housing aid.

The things you’re describing are highly desirable, but from where I sit, Portland is approaching a crisis in its inability to deliver essential services to its citizens, particularly those in the most need. You don’t bake a cake when the house is on fire. I genuinely believe that it doesn’t have to be either/or — the problem is, in Portland it always seems to end up that way, with tragic consequences (and not just for Aaron Campbell, Jack Dale Collins, and now Keaton Otis).

Nevertheless, Hughes and Stacey (and Burkholder, for that matter) ran well and maintained a level of civility and discourse we can all be proud of, whomever we end up voting for. I look forward to the two of them continuing to do so as we all learn more about the directions they want to lead Metro.

bikesalot
bikesalot
14 years ago

I think Schouten may have been seriously outspent. I saw the winner’s campaign signs EVERYWHERE. I saw exactly one sign for Schouten, and I believe it vanished before election day.

I think bikes may have been an item in voter’s minds, though. I was riding near Banks a couple of weeks ago, when someone bellowed at me from a porch: “Go back to Portland!”. Never had that before, but there were campaign signs all around at that point…..

Adams Carroll (News Intern)

Michael,

my point is that i feel that active transportation addresses and can help fix some of those problems oregon faces.

giving a greater number of our citizens the easy choice to walk and bike will help them reduce transportation expenses, improve their health, and so on.

i agree with you that our priorities are out of whack and we need politicians who listen to principles more than pundits.

Jackattak
Jackattak
14 years ago

@ Michael M. # 19 –

Nevertheless, Hughes and Stacey (and Burkholder, for that matter) ran well and maintained a level of civility and discourse we can all be proud of, whomever we end up voting for. I look forward to the two of them continuing to do so as we all learn more about the directions they want to lead Metro.

Awesomely put. Dead on.

beelnite
beelnite
14 years ago

JM – You nailed it on Cornett… when will ambitious people learn that ’round these parts we don’t take kindly to blind rhetoric? Hanging his hat on the bike/sewer funding thing was a bush league move and just plain ignorant- real Rush Limbaugh stuff regardless of what side of the spectrum one is coming from. I was disappointed to read that from the guy because I thought he might be substantial.

One person who is just awesome and I wish made the run-off cut -and whom you covered – Mary Volm. Fantastic lady – and she got those votes I think just based on word of mouth. She’s been in public service for years. People in public service – government jobs folks – don’t typically seek the spotlight, but they are certainly dedicated. I know Mary is. Yeah, I’ve worked with her before – but she also said “Hello Sweetie!” to me at MLK and Hawthorne Bridge the other morning.

Got my vote! I’m easy – I just hate empty dialogue from peeps who want to run sht. Portlander? Yep and got the attitude too.

old&slow
old&slow
14 years ago

You shouldn’t get “bikephobic” in election choices, while Burkholder may be a “biker”, I would trust and support the “1000 friends of Oregon’ views for what they do in the big picture anytime.
Support Stacey, I have no idea if he rides a bike or not, I live here and appreciate strong land use environmental laws that bikers, hikers, and just plain PEOPLE benefit from.

huey lewis
huey lewis
14 years ago

i have trouble seeing “FTW” and not being totally, momentarily confused. I know in internet nerd world it’s “for the win”, but my punk rock/metal roots will just not accept that at all.

Spencer Boomhower
14 years ago

Regarding Jesse Cornett: that “sewer money for bike lanes” thing seemed bogus, intended mainly to stoke uninformed anger (kind of like yesterday’s “Bike Lane to Nowhere” story, now that I think of it). It really bothered me.

Somebody somewhere decided there is political hay to be made acting like bicycle infrastructure is a giveaway to a privileged elite. Maybe Jesse’s abysmal showing will help pound a nail in the coffin of that particular meme.

Regarding Metro: jobs are vital of course, but does every agency need to be a jobs engine?

I would prefer Metro stick to its goal: protecting the land, especially from over-development and bad infrastructure choices. We’ve benefited from Metro doing this job in the past, so why mess with it now?

Running for Metro on a jobs-creation platform is like running for Metro on a tough-on-crime platform. Worthy goal, wrong agency.

#3 Steve:

That sounds a bit like a campaign slogan I wanted to suggest (and may yet have a chance to, now) to the Stacey campaign: CRC-WTF? BOB-FTW!

Paul Manson
Paul Manson
14 years ago

Jobs in the Metro context is likely yo be about adding more land to the UGB. That will mean moving jobs to the fringe of the region creating longer commutes and needing new roads.

Job creation needs to be tied to existing infrastructure and using in-fill and land assembly to provide the jobs sites. That is largely a city function.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Evan Manvel
Evan Manvel
14 years ago

Schouten actually outspent Duyck by a fair amount – about $112,000 to $67,000. Of course, the Duyck name is deeply ingrained in Washington County, and it seems that Schouten wasn’t able to adequately introduce himself to the huge swath of voters needed in a Washington County-wide primary with the $112,000. Here’s hoping that he keeps running for great things (and glad that he’s still there on the Commission).

For those really interested in elections, let me know. In the past we’ve run Bike Walk Vote PAC, which helped elect Robert Liberty and Sam Adams (among others). Some of those who’ve worked hard on it have stepped down. I’d be up for restarting it if we found another half-dozen folks willing to raise money and make endorsements.

And Bob’s not President yet. We need to work hard to get him elected. Join his FB page here:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/Bob4Metro

Or throw him some bones:
http://www.bobstacey.com/

brettoo
brettoo
14 years ago

Burkholder and Stacy were pretty close on the other issues important to me, so it came down to voting for the one candidate in that race who opposed the most expensive and potentially disastrous boondoggle facing the metro area in the next decade: the CRC. Had it not been for that issue, I might have voted for Burkholder.
I hope the result sends the message that sometimes you have to stand firm when the stakes are this high. I understand that politics is the art of the possible and compromise is usually necessary, but environmental advocates have a sad history of feeling so grateful to be at the table negotiating with the power brokers that they get suckered / peer pressured into selling out the greater good. I want someone in that crucial position who will stand up for the values of thrift, and efficient spending, and against costly, environment-destroying sprawl, on the biggest issue the region faces. Stacy was that candidate, and we need to rally behind him in the runoff.

Similarly, I was leaning toward Cornett until he made his manipulative, deceitful remarks about the bioswale plan. That told me he was either too ignorant to understand why it was a smart, money saving move, or that he knew it but chose to pander to the know-nothings and right wingers in order to make a campaign issue out of a falsehood. Thanks to terrible reporting and editorializing by the corporate media, I bet most Portlanders still believe, wrongly, that the city “stole” money from sewer rates “to benefit bikers.” I’ve talked to several people who said that and were surprised when I explained the truth, which has been covered well enough here and in Saltzman’s statements as not to need repeating, I hope. Those oversimplifications and lies have done lasting damage to city policy and political discourse, and it made me furious to see a candidate trying to exploit them to win campaign. I hope the vote for Saltzman sends the message that voting courageously for efficient pro environment spending (it’s a 2 for 1 deal) will be rewarded by voters, not punished thanks to ignorance and deceit. If we want politicians to behave responsibly, we need to reward them when they do, and punish them when they don’t.

Of course I’m pro bike, but in neither case was it a matter of voting for some kind of bike special interest, but rather against policies that would do lasting harm to the area’s finances and environment (the CRC) and against political deception (the bogus sewer money diversion charges), and for values such as environmentally sustainable development and transportation and efficient spending. I really hope future progressive candidates will learn a lesson from these results the next time similar choices arise.

Chris Sullivan
14 years ago

Great piece, Jonathan.