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Monday, October 2, 2023
Oct. 2, 2023

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Recall effort against Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler hires campaign manager, plans July launch


PORTLAND — A progressive-backed effort to recall Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has brought on a campaign manager and plans to officially launch in a matter of weeks, the group announced Tuesday.

Audrey Caines, an environmental and social justice organizer, joined Total Recall PDX last month, becoming the first salaried staffer of the self-described grassroots campaign.

Caines recently worked with Portland Rising Tide, an environmental group that has fought the construction of a natural gas pipeline in southern Oregon and has blocked oil trains traveling along the Columbia River gorge.

In an interview Tuesday, Caines said the recall effort has attracted close to 200 volunteers — many of whom will hit the streets the week of July 9 to begin gathering the nearly 50,000 signatures required to initiate a citywide recall in Portland.

Recall efforts in Oregon cannot begin until the elected official has served at least six months of their current term, according to the state’s constitution. For Wheeler, that will be July 1.

Local activists Alan Kessler and Seth Woolley formed a political action committee to unseat the mayor last November, less than two weeks after Wheeler won his re-election with just 46% of the vote.

Woolley, a campaign finance watchdog, ran unsuccessfully last year for the City Council seat held by then-Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.

Kessler, an attorney and public records advocate, served as a campaign lawyer for progressive challenger Sarah Iannarone, who narrowly lost her bid to unseat Wheeler last November.

Filings show the group, Total Recall PDX, has raised nearly $40,000 and has just over $26,500 on hand.

Wheeler’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Those calling for the mayor’s recall have criticized a large personal loan Wheeler made to himself during his re-election bid as well as the financial support he received from the city’s business interests, which spent heavily on his behalf.

The group has also blasted Wheeler over the city’s police response during months of racial justice protests and for his recent decision not to immediately expand Portland Street Response, an experimental program to provide a non-police response to those in crisis outdoors.

While the campaign had also originally placed its sights on unseating Commissioner Dan Ryan, it is now only focused on the mayor, Caines said.

Once a recall effort is officially launched, petitioners have 90 days to gather signatures from registered voters represented by the office-holder who add up to 15% of all ballots cast for governor in the jurisdiction during the last gubernatorial election.

That number is 47,788 based on votes cast in Portland during the Nov. 6, 2018 governor’s race, according to the city auditor’s office.

Caines said the campaign will seek to gather twice the number of required signatures, 95,576 — nearly 25% of all 431,522 registered voters in the city of Portland.

While scores of Oregon elected officials have faced threats of a recall, including former Portland Mayors Sam Adams and Charlie Hales and Gov. Kate Brown, few have made the ballot let alone prevailed.

One exception: Oregon City residents last November voted to remove Mayor Dan Holladay from office.