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[COMMENTARY] Nobody Wants Ted Wheeler to Be Portland’s Mayor. But Nobody Wants to Run Against Ted Wheeler

[COMMENTARY] Nobody Wants Ted Wheeler to Be Portland’s Mayor. But Nobody Wants to Run Against Ted Wheeler

[Writer’s disclosure: I reside in a suburb of Portland]

Ted Wheeler is probably the most beleaguered and the least beloved mayor that Portland, Oregon has ever experienced. A local political darling when he was first coming up, Wheeler is now the scapegoat for all of the city’s ills, from the property damage caused by months of nightly protests to its overwhelming homeless population to the lack of incentive for businesses to reopen as property values continue to fall. Add to that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of a cohesive plan to reopen the city as Oregon lags in vaccinations, and it’s no wonder there’s a recall for Wheeler already in motion.

The problem is, even if petitioners get enough signatures for a recall, there’s no one to take Ted Wheeler’s place. Because no one wants to be the Mayor of Portland, Oregon right now.

The group behind the effort, Total Recall PDX, was launched to remove Wheeler from office just days after voters elected him to a second term. Or at least some of them did. Only 46% of voters voted to keep Wheeler in office. The rest voted for somebody else. Even if Wheeler got the most votes, the majority of voters don’t want him running Portland.

Their goal is to collect the 47,788 signatures they need in 90 days starting July 1st. If it succeeds, and Wheeler doesn’t choose to resign, the question of recalling him would go to voters in a special election 35 days later.

But the mayor would face no opponent. It would be Wheeler against himself. There would also be no interim mayor; instead, all of the powers of the mayor are distributed to other City Council members. According to the City, a special election for Wheeler’s replacement would be held within 90 days of the vacancy.

Perhaps Sarah Iannarone could be persuaded to run again as she gains local traction. Or Sam Adams, who spent several years in the role before a sex scandal ran him out of town. Adams recently returned to the Portland political scene in the capacity of an advisor to Ted Wheeler.

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The Mayor’s Office is losing staff like rats from a sinking ship, and it’s genuinely questionable how long Wheeler will be able to hold on to his job.

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