Portland’s new mayor: Tom Potter

Former Police Chief Tom Potter easily defeated City ComissionerJim Francesconi in the race for Portland mayor last night. Potterwon 62 percent of the vote to Francesconi’s 36.

Portland’s new mayor-elect may be glad the race is over, but ifthe election had gone on a couple more weeks, he could have won byan even larger percentage; his margin of support over opponent JimFrancesconi was only getting bigger.

His election seemingly imminent, though not official, Potterexpressed gratitude to Portlanders that contributed to his campaignand voted him into office.

“I didn’t do this, you guys did,” Potter said in a speech beforea mass of gathered supporters.

As for his immediate plans, Potter said he is meeting withinterim Mayor Vera Katz and new City Councilman Sam Adams todiscuss the city’s future.

“We’re going to get this whole city moving again,” saidPotter.

After a surprise first place finish in the primaries, Potter hadcarried a comfortable lead against Francesconi since May. Potter’slow finance, hands-on strategy influenced Francesconi’s campaign,with Francesconi narrowing Potter’s lead only after taking a pagefrom his opponent’s book, revamping his staff and making hiscampaign more grass roots.

A Portland Tribune poll last week put Potter ahead ofFrancesconi 53-35 percent, with 12 percent undecided. A month-oldpoll from the same firm showed Potter with a much narrower lead of44-37 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

Francesconi conceded defeat relatively early in the evening, butsaid that he will remain dedicated to public service inPortland.

“For 30 years I have fought for change and social justice. Thatis not going to change tonight,” Francesconi said. “I would beproud to work with you in the future, whether it is in publicoffice or as a private citizen.”

Speaking at the Northwest Labor Council last night, Francesconiurged Portland’s citizens to support their new mayor.

“It’s very important that all of us unite under our new leader,Tom Potter,” he said.

This spring, very few of the 23 candidates on the primary ballotwere worth serious consideration, popular sentiment said. AlthoughPotter was in the small group that deserved a second look, his lateentry to the race and $25 contribution limit meant he needed apowerful message to combat Francesconi’s already burgeoning warchest.

The support for Potter’s vision was widely garnered by hiscampaign contribution limit, which he raised to $100 after theprimary. In contrast to Potter’s contribution cap, Francesconi’s $1million fundraising goal and perceived ties to the businesscommunity created an image of a mayor who would have favors to payoff down the road.

Potter has been criticized for not being specific in his plansfor the city, running on a platform of “listening” and “bringingpeople together.” He has also come under fire for having virtuallydisappeared from public life since retiring from his position aschief of Portland police in 1993. In response to this charge,Potter points to his work with New Avenues for Youth, anorganization that helps homeless and at-risk kids learn lifeskills.

Potter’s record as a police chief who promoted communitypolicing also won him support, especially in the wake of the policeshooting of unarmed James Jahar Perez this spring.

As the proud father of a lesbian daughter, Potter has attractedthe attention of the gay and lesbian community. Both Potter andFrancesconi support gay marriage, but Potter has been involved withthe gay rights movement for years. He marched in pride paradesbefore “honoring diversity” was a catchphrase.

“Let us not write discrimination into our constitution,” saidPotter.

Potter’s challenges now that campaigning is over will be toeffectively deal with constituents who weren’t wowed by hiscontribution caps and talk of vision. He’ll have to tackle thespecifics he hasn’t fully covered during his campaign.