Hardesty Focused on the Issues

Frontrunner has boots-on-the-ground campaign

Danny Peterson | 8/21/2018, 5:31 p.m.
As the decisive May Primary winner for a position currently occupied by retiring City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, city council candidate ...
Jo Ann Hardesty, the front-runner for a seat on Portland City Council, briefs her campaign staff on Saturday before they head out for door-to-door canvassing from her campaign headquarters at the Filipino American Association at 8917 S.E. Stark St. Photo by Danny Peterson

There wasn’t a minute to waste as Portland City Council Candidate Jo Ann Hardesty greeted supporters and reached out to voters. The frontrunner to become the first African American female city commissioner was fully engaged in her signatory boots-on-the-ground activist mode.

Meeting at the Bipartisan Café, just down from her campaign headquarters in southeast Portland, Hardesty had the phone to her ear. She thanked a union representative who had just given her their endorsement. Another endorsement is delivered in person when a woman running for the State Legislature canvassing in the same neighborhood stops in to greet her. Hardesty then finds a moment to turn to an elderly man who was sitting next to her at the cafe, making sure he got the sandwich he ordered.

“You come in here an awful lot,” the man told her. “You must be the governor by now.”

“Not yet,” Hardesty quipped. “I’m just running for a little small post like Portland City Council.”

The man listens intently as Hardesty answers my reporter questions while also keeping the potential voter in her orbit.

As the decisive May Primary winner for a position currently occupied by retiring City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Hardesty is running confidently. Her optimism shows just as it had the night before at a Race Talks Forum which also featured Hardesty’s opponent, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.

Hardesty, 60, a former state representative from Portland from 1995 to 2000, and a longtime grassroots political activist and former president of the Portland NAACP, has centered her campaign on four main platforms: Housing and homelessness, green jobs, police accountability, and access to local government.

On her point to make entering politics more accessible, she backs a campaign finance proposal that will make it easier for working class people to raise funds for public office. The measure will be on the same November General Election ballot as her City Council race.

Hardesty likes how the proposal would work, allowing a $50 donation from an individual to be matched six times by a City of Portland election fund, raising the total to $300, and giving small campaign contributions from individuals more impact so that regular people running for public office can have a better shot at winning.

“I believe that will be a game changer,” she said, adding that she understands how high-cost campaigns steer people away from running for office, and explaining how she was even told she would need to raise at least $250,000 to even compete in her election.

“For most people, that is an enormous hurdle to overcome. I personally don't know anybody that has $250,000, so that was going to be a huge hurdle,” Hardesty recalled.

Other ways Hardesty wants to make local government more accessible is to hold meetings in different parts of the city, and during the times when people are getting off work, rather than the usual 9 a.m. city council meeting at City Hall on Wednesdays, downtown, which Hardesty said must be an inconvenience to many.