Press Talk: Could Mayor Leavitt get whupped?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



M&M tie.

Watch Leavitt tackle the no tolls flip flop question.

Do you know how many neighborhood associations there are in Vancouver? How many could you name? Watch the mayoral candidates tackle this surprise question.

I was rummaging around Portland the other day, looking for a haberdashery haven.

I had it on good authority that Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt comes this way when he’s looking for a new suit. No Vancouver J.C. Penney seersucker for my main man, I tell ya. He is a sharp-dressed dude.

I had no luck in the ensemble arena, other than an M&M tie I practically stole for half a sawbuck. I was going to give it to county Commissioners David Madore or Tom Mielke (the original M&M boys) but — sorry, fellas — I fell in love with it.

It was a beautiful day in Portland, so I walked the streets. While doing so, I came across a sign.

“Stop Leavitt.”

I thought to myself, “Huh?”

Now for those of you who have been sipping too much of the red Kool-Aid and not paying attention, Leavitt is bidding for a second term as mayor. He’s in a race against a legitimate opponent in City Councilman Bill Turlay.

This race — most would agree — has sharpened the edge on the anti-Leavitt crowd. So the words “Stop Leavitt” are a likely rallying cry.

But why in Portland? OK, OK, — as you can see from the photo — the sign is the real deal. It’s a real Portland street sign. And a real stop sign. Still, it was deliciously devilish to unexpectedly wander into it.

Regardless of the Portland sign — and many others that have cropped up during the campaign — is there a chance Leavitt could lose?

Of course, some would say yes. And you can count Madore as one of them.

Madore and Leavitt are archenemies. One is Superman. The other is Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor. You decide which is which.

Most of those who think like Madore have hung their hat on his tolling flip-flop. Leavitt was strongly against tolling the proposed bridge across the Columbia River when he ran for mayor the first time. Then, shortly after winning, he found religion — or some additional facts — and was strongly in favor of tolling. Not that he likes tolling, mind you, but he sees no other way to get the project done.

For years I have been writing that Leavitt should say he was wrong on his pro-tolls stand and move along. But he has always wiggled around when answering what the heck he was thinking in that first election run.

A few days ago, at our editorial board meeting on the mayoral race, he was asked the question — again.

And we finally heard the words: “I was wrong.”

Now, that won’t make his intense opponents go away. But I believe it’s helpful to him. After all, there are many Vancouver improvements Leavitt can point to. But they always have been smothered by his tolling flip-flop.

After our editorial board meeting, I asked him a follow-up question: Was his anti-tolling stance when he ran — and beat — incumbent Royce Pollard a campaign tactic?

He said it wasn’t.

Now, the mayor and I might have different definitions of what a campaign tactic is, but for me, everything you say and do during a campaign is a tactic. So I asked a more direct question:

“Did you take the position of no tolls in your first mayoral bid knowing you’d change your mind later? In other words, did you lie?”

Leavitt’s answer: “Of course not. If some who don’t like that I’ve evolved and come to understand the reality and arrived at a reasonable position on the financing of the project want to call me a ‘liar,’ they certainly have that prerogative. I guess, then, that anybody who changes their mind is a liar.”

Turlay — whom I like and believe is a good man — has his own “moment” to deal with. After the conservative council member voted to raise taxes, he supported the decision by saying he had no options.

Of course, that’s a silly comment because you always have options. And by voting to raise taxes, he lost a crucial campaign tactic to separate himself from Leavitt.

But back to the original question: Is there a chance Leavitt could lose? Well, I wouldn’t bet my beloved M&M tie on it.

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