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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chief Reese Calls Possible Mayoral Campaign "Daunting," Says He Was "Surprised" News of His Intentions Leaked Out

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 5:28 PM

I finally caught up with Chief Mike Reese in person today, outside City Hall as he headed upstairs to meet with the boss, Mayor Sam Adams, he may decide he wants to replace.

Reese said he was "surprised" when WW announced late last night he was definitely running—he says that's maybe weeks away. But he wasn't as definitive about that as he was in his interview with the Oregonian.

"I need to talk to more people," Reese said, still in a suit, and not in uniform. "I also need to have a heart-to-heart conversation with my wife. We were both surprised" that the news of his interest leaked out.

Reese still won't say who approached him to run—"I'll let them identify themselves if they choose to"—although presumably they're would-be campaign donors who haven't fallen in love with either Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, or Jefferson Smith. The "unique opportunity" Reese mentions—Adams stepping down after one term—also has to include Portland Business Alliance poll results that show more voters willing to vote for "anyone else, please," than either of the current three.

Reese repeated his standard lines of the day, including that Portland needs a "strong, experienced leader" and that he's proven himself as leader of a "complex and large organization with a large budget." He says he's "humbled" to have the job he has, police chief, but that it's been hard to ignore the pleas when "people I respect ask me to run for mayor."

It's always concerning when a candidate for any office is drafted to run instead of deciding on their own that they have a vision they need to share and that they need to make the leap into politics. But Reese is an interesting candidate—with a base that spreads beyond the law and order crowd and likely includes a variety of mental health services providers who appreciate the spotlight he's placed on woeful funding for treatment and addiction counseling. (Reese used to run a Boys and Girls Club before, at the advanced age of 32, getting into law enforcement.)

Also, under his watch as police chief, two officers have been fired, one for the shooting of Aaron Campbell, and one, former union chief Scott Westerman, for a pair of road-rage incidents involving the same woman. That's earned him union ire, but he's also sweetened things by approving generous pay raises in the bureau's last contract. Most importantly, he's helped pioneer a new "step back" policy—first written about in the Mercury—in which officers will no longer forcefully engage with mentally ill Portlanders if they're not committing a serious crime.

Reese isn't ready to think about who might replace him at the bureau if he steps aside to run a campaign. First, he says, "is figuring out whether I'm actually a viable candidate," calling the election gantlet "daunting."

Can he raise enough money? People smarter about these things than myself say it's definitely possible, if not easy. That he's been well-liked as chief may hurt him—since the chiefs most people remember remain well-known because they were lousy and/or controversial. But his base is broader than usual for a police chief—and there's plenty of uncommitted money still left to claim. Also, in what could be an interesting twist—he might raise money from people who have previously given to the other candidates and who no longer want to throw, as they might see it, good money after bad.

"Campaign season is upon us, and people have been running a long time," he says, noting he "respects each of his potential opponents "and the work they've done."

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