Candidates go wild, really

The second round of Candidates Gone Wild Monday night added newdimensions to candidates Portlanders have been watching since theprimaries. Although still less substantive than the averagecandidate forum, the event appealed to many of those alreadyinterested in the races and in having a good time.

City council candidates Sam Adams and Nick Fish, mayoralcandidates Tom Potter and Jim Francesconi got the chance to takedigs at each other. Congressional candidate David Wu was present,but opponent Goli Ameri failed to show. The event was organized byWillamette Week, the Bus Project and the City Club of Portland.

As with the Candidates Gone Wild event last April, the triviaportion of the event came off somewhat empty. Nick Fish’s toughestchallenge was to distinguish Sam Adams beer from Portland Brewery’sPale Ale.

Although the Roseland was full, much of the main floor was fullof candidates’ support staffs and campaign workers, who cheered andbooed as the spirit moved them. Candidates introduced theiropponents in “Trading Races,” poking fun at opponents andthemselves as well. For those familiar with history and slogans ofthe candidates, the jokes were a lot more accessible.

“That Sam Adams, he is responsible for everything wrong inPortland,” growled Sam Adams as Nick Fish. “It wouldn’t rain sodamn much if Sam would just leave town.”

“I don’t want to put a damper on the evening,” Nick Fish as SamAdams said, “but there’s an issue of credibility here. I’ve beendescribed by some as tough, smart and real. And let’s face it:Nick’s hair’s not even real!”

The mayoral candidates’ introductions were still lighthearted,but a little less friendly than Fish and Adams.

“Hi, I’m Tom Potter,” Jim Francesconi started, then stopped.”Oh, shucks, I can’t do this! I left my button on my dresser!”After finding the courage to continue, he preached Potter’s valuesof vision, listening and getting people together. “I’m a changeagent. I’m not quite sure what the business of the city is, but I’mgonna change it.”

“What this city needs is not vision,” Tom Potter said in hisintroduction as Jim Francesconi. “It’s a plan for the first 100days. The hell with the rest of the time after that. We’re going tomake some big moves, me and the business community,” Pottercontinued. “On Nov. 2 you mark your ballot, Jim Francesconi andGeorge Bush.”

At the mention of Bush, and of juxtapositioning Bush andFrancesconi, the crowd booed wildly.

Sections of the event were interspersed with mock interviews and”Cribs”-style films by Spry Films to give a view into the pads ofFish, Adams, Potter and Francesconi. Francesconi’s got a prosciuttoholder. Fish’s got the bookcases. Adams has a great garden. And TomPotter sure does love his Vanagon.

Political guru Steve Novick returned to grill candidatesindividually in “The Novick Show.” He had dealt tough questions tocandidates at the first Candidates Gone Wild in April. This time,his questions were still pointed and intelligent, but had much moreof an element of goofiness.

He started by asking David Wu why, in light of The Oregonian’srecent allegations of sexually assaulting a girlfriend in college,he hadn’t pulled out of the race and let someone else run. Thisquickly brought the mood down. Wu apologized for his behavior butpointed out that he’s been a principled representative, votingagainst the Patriot Act and against giving Bush authority to useforce against Iraq.

Novick quickly moved back to the silly, citing a study tyingtolerant cities to economic success and asking Jim Francesconi howhe planned to welcome creative types to Portland, whom hefacetiously categorized as “gays and rock bands.” “I looked at yourweb site. There’s no mention of gays and rock bands whatsoever.Aren’t you a captain of the kind of pre-9/11 mentality we can’tafford now that we’re locked in the global war on terror?”

Obfuscated, Francesconi had Novick repeat the question to makesure he hadn’t heard wrong and then launched into a bureaucraticresponse. “Get to the gays and rock bands!” Novick snapped.

“Whatever you say about Jim Francesconi, he’s done something inthe past ten years,” Novick said to Tom Potter. “You’ve beensitting on your butt. Your biggest selling point is that you refuseto raise money, which to me is just further confirmation thatyou’re lazy.”

Candidates’ responses took a back seat to Novick’s questions,and, as with the first Candidates Gone Wild, the audience lovedit.

Crowd response was largely encouraged and was a good measure ofhow far the candidates have come. Francesconi is clearly the MostImproved Image candidate. In April, Francesconi was downrightunpopular with the crowd, being heckled with shouts of”arrivederci!”