Tuesday night’s elections were full of good news for Portland’s re-energized Bike Walk Vote political action committee.
After being founded in 2004, then lying dormant for several years following the 2008 elections, Bike Walk Vote came roaring back last winter. Boasting some seriously smart and plugged-in new leaders (Evan Manvel, Peter Welte, Mike O’ Leary just to name a few), they threw a highly successful launch party in December. When the likes of U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer and a packed crowd showed up, it was a clear sign that Portland’s huge population of low-car advocates were just waiting to organize and make their voices heard.
With the votes counted from the May 15th primary, candidates supported by Bike Walk Vote did extremely well. In fact, five of the seven candidates they endorsed won outright and the remaining two — Jefferson Smith for mayor and Mary Nolan for City Council — finished very close seconds and will sail into runoffs in November.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
The other candidates they endorsed were: Steve Novick for Portland City Council, Bob Stacey, Sam Chase and Craig Dirksen for Metro Council, Dick Schouten for Washington County Commission, and Jeff Reardon and Alissa Keny-Guyer for Oregon State Representative.
So, how did this scrappy, all-volunteer organization manage to choose so wisely and help push these campaigns to victory? From what I can tell, it was equal parts political savvy, passion, and hard work. In a message to supporters, Bike Walk Vote volunteer Mike O’Leary, shared a few more specifics.
At that party back in December, they began to poll members and supporters about their priorities. The results went into building their candidate quesionnaire’s, which served as the backbone of their endorsement decisions. (If you’re curious, opposition to the Columbia River Crossing project and promoting equity in transportation planning/funding polled at the top.)
For the next four months, they collected and reviewed all the candidate responses, conducted face-to-face interviews, and researched each candidate’s public record. For their mayoral endorsement, Bike Walk Vote volunteers even did ride-along interviews with each of the top three candidates.
Once the election heated up, Bike Walk Vote’s work really began. They gave over 2,000 hours of time, raised and spent $8,600 for their chosen candidates, and approached over 4,000 biking, walking, and transit-centric voters with endorsement pamphlets.
The biggest success story for all this work is probably Jefferson Smith. Not only did Smith come from way behind in the mayoral race to finish just four percentage points behind Charlie Hales, but a centerpiece of his campaign turned out to be his clear opposition to the CRC project.
Bike Walk Vote’s work is far from over. They’ll continue to work hard for their candidates and more events and actions are planned.
“But right now,” says O’Leary, “we’re gonna’ turn off our phones, enjoy a nice bike ride and then go take a nap in the shade.”