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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel Back to 2011 With Leaked Strategy Memo From Charlie Hales' Campaign

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 2:59 PM

In politics, a year isn't just a year. It's a lifetime. And yesterday, whilst trying to navigate the inevitably bumpy re-entry that follows a long vacation, I was delivered a fascinating political document/relic that perfectly drove home that point.

Matter-of-factly titled "KEY FACTORS THAT BEAR ON THE MAYOR'S RACE," it's a strategy memo (PDF) crafted last summer by Charlie Hales' proto-campaign for mayor. You remember last summer, don't you? Eileen Brady was still the likely front-runner. Mayor Sam Adams hadn't officially decided to sign off as a one-termer. And Jefferson Smith, who knocked out Brady in May to make the runoff against Hales, was still down in Salem, looking at the unfolding race and licking his chops.

It's not the juiciest document. It's mostly a snapshot of a political landscape that's long shifted, with no smoking guns about Hales. But because it offers a rare, unvarnished look into the thinking of a campaign, it's still interesting. And if you look closely enough, you can see the themes of the race that followed this memo already starting to coalesce.

EXPERIENCE: Hales, on the stump, also makes much of his previous tenure on the city council, saying his stint as commissioner makes him uniquely prepared to lead Portland as mayor. He makes that point now when comparing his record to Smith's time in the Legislature, but the Hales memo, since it's from a year ago, savages Brady in particular.

The gist is that since Steve Novick and Mary Nolan would win their respective council races (the memo said Nolan would "almost certainly beat" incumbent Amanda Fritz; that very much remains to be seen), Brady would be have no chance to assert herself against such strong characters.

Screen_shot_2012-08-14_at_2.28.12_PM.png

FUNDRAISING: Hales and Smith have both announced plans to limit contributions in the runoff after following Brady in the most expensive primary race in Portland history. But back in 2011? Hales' camp was crowing about having more money on hand than Brady, and it also saw money as the best way to keep Smith—described as "an ambitious populist politician"—out of the race.

Screen_shot_2012-08-14_at_2.18.58_PM.png

There are a couple of other threads worth mentioning.

First is that the memo seems to have a dismissive tone, or certainly a peculiar fixation, when it comes to the lefthand side of Portland's political spectrum.

It puts quotes around "the rich" when talking about Novick's support for Measures 66 and 67. It talks about Nolan's love from "liberal interest groups," and also assumes that Smith is tight with SEIU and that his Bus Project (also in quotes in the memo) is aimed at "young, liberal voters."

The second is a question about how and when the Hales team actually assembled it. The initial document I received shows Hales as the author of the document in its properties field, also listing his employer, streetcar consulting firm HDR Inc. Hales' current team, none of whom were working for the campaign last year, assumes that staffer and volunteers did most of the writing, even if Hales created the document.

But it does raise the question—sure to be noted by anyone who sees the screenshot below—if Hales was using HDR materials and time to do campaign tasks, back when he was still splitting time between being a candidate and employee. The campaign is looking into whether the computer Hales used was his own or company property.

And, for the record, says Evyn Mitchell, Hales' campaign manager, Hales still feels like he's the best candidate to wrangle city council. Even a potential city council dominated by Novick and Nolan.

UPDATE 3:40 PM: I'm amending this to include the full statement from Mitchell.

"No one controls anyone on the city council," she says. "However, Charlie does have a great deal of experience in our commission form of government. He has had a lot of success working with four other councilors before, which is vastly different than working within the legislative context. He feels that he is the best candidate in this race to work with the council to reach decisions that are the best for Portland, no matter who the other members are."

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