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Could Wheeler Be Vulnerable to a Challenge from the Left?

Monday, November 02, 2015


Ted Wheeler

A week after incumbent Mayor Charlie Hales ended his campaign for re-election against State Treasurer Ted Wheeler (D), there has been no announcement of a new challenger in the race to be the city’s top executive. Experts tell GoLocal that what Wheeler should be most afraid of is an opponent that can present a more progressive platform than the State Treasurer.

“I think Wheeler could really struggle with a challenge from his left,” John Horvick, Vice President and Political Director of DHM Research, a Portland-based political research and polling firm. “Both he and Charlie Hales, before Hales decided not to run, aren’t part of the further left part of the party. I think if someone really challenged him as a liberal and a progressive that he could be vulnerable to that.”

Since stepping off the campaign trail, Hales has remained vocal about the campaign, saying that he would like to see a strong challenger enter the race, and mentoring liberal leaders such as Marissa Madrigal, Multnomah County’s COO, and community organizers from the Lents neighborhood. 

"The filing deadline is still over four months away, and I hope and expect that several qualified candidates will seek the office of mayor," Hales said in a statement announcing the end of his campaign. "There are some dynamic new leaders in our community, and I'm excited to see who steps up."

Following National Trends

Horvick said that he believes the city would support an outsider candidate in the same way they have supported outsiders in the 2016 Presidential primaries. 

“I think that if you look at national trends, outsider candidates that find themselves at the more extreme end of the spectrum have found a lot of success, and I think the city could follow those trends,” Horvick said. 

Horvick cited the reception that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I) received when he visited Portland earlier this year.

John Horvick, Vice President and Political Director of DHM Research

“We’ve already seen evidence of it. Bernie Sanders had an incredible turnout at the Moda Center,” Horvick said. “If someone could challenge Wheeler in that same way that Sanders has challenged a more establishment Democrat like Hillary Clinton, I think they would have a lot of success.”

Len Bergstein, a political analyst and President of Northwest Strategies, Inc., agreed with Horvick, saying that Portland would respond to a candidate that bucked the status quo of politicians in the area.

“Both Ted Wheeler and Charlie Hales are just middle-aged white guys, and I think there’s a lot of people that want to see something different in the city,” Bergstein told GoLocal. “I think there is a big hunger in Portland for someone who would fill a different lane.”

Wheeler Responds

Wheeler himself embraced the title of progressive, and called on Hales to show his liberal credentials, during his campaign announcement speech on September 10.

“It’s not enough to call yourself a progressive, or an activist, or a leader when so many of the basic things that make a community thriving and successful aren’t getting done,” Wheeler said. “You can’t claim to be a progressive if you’re not making progress on helping the homeless get off the streets, into transitional housing with the mental health care or intervention they need to stay off the streets. You can’t wear the mantle of activism when you have not taken action on creating economic opportunities for the entire city.”

Jake Weigler, Wheeler’s campaign spokesman, told GoLocal that Wheeler has done plenty to show his liberal credentials and that he plans on doing more to probe his progressivism as the campaign continues. 

"Ted will be happy to stack up his record of progressive results with anyone," Weigler said. "Ted committed Oregon to doubling its investment in renewable energy technologies; pioneered a revolutionary retirement plan that will protect middle and working-class families; and led the first Oregon jurisdiction to ban the box and offer health benefits to the transgender employees. He launched his campaign pledging to make progress on the challenges we face and we look forward to continuing the discussion in the campaign to come."


Related Slideshow: SLIDESHOW: Ted Wheeler Announces Portland Mayoral Candidacy on Rooftop of Revolution Hall

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler was joined by the press and many close friends, family members, and supporters on the rooftop of Revolution Hall off of SE Stark so that he could officially make his candidacy announcement for Portland mayor in the 2016 mayoral race.

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Wheeler's podium before his arrival.

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A string of Wheeler supporters stood behind him during his announcement. 

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Wheeler supporters wait for his arrival.

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Representative Lew Frederick (D) from District 43 is a Wheeler supporter.

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A Wheeler staffer readies reporters for Wheeler's entrance.

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Media and Wheeler staffers at the announcement speech.

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A reporter at the announcement speech. 

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Ted Wheeler arrived on the rooftop to heavy applause. 

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Representative Lew Frederick (D) from District 43 gave the opening speech at the Wheeler mayoral announcement.

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The Portland business community turned out to speak on Wheelers' behalf. 

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The owner of Mother's Bistro, Lisa Schroeder, gave a speech in honor of Ted Wheeler's candidacy announcement.

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Lisa Schroeder and Ted Wheeler shake hands. 

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Ted Wheeler gave his speech with supporters surrounding him. 

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Mayoral Candidate Ted Wheeler spoke of repaving roads, helping the homeless, issues of racial equity, and resurrecting the "Portland weird" of former Portland mayor Sam Adams. 

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Supporters and media watched as Wheeler spoke. 

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Wheeler greeted supporters after his speech. 

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Wheeler shook hands with supporters after his speech. 

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Ted Wheeler's wife, Katrinka Wheeler, whispers something into her husband's ear as he thanks friends and supporters after his announcement speech.

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Ted Wheeler hugged one of his supporters. 

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Ted Wheeler's mother pets a visiting dog after her son's announcement. 

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"He's an ally to the LGBT community, he cares about making the situation better for the homeless -- and he has a long history of showing that he cares," said owner of Mother's Bistro Lisa Schroeder. 

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Katrina Wheeler speaks with her husband's mother as well as friends after her husband's announcement speech. 

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Media and Wheeler supporters stuck around after Wheeler's speech. 


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