Portland city councilors favored a plan to reduce the amount that clean elections candidates can be awarded during a Monday night workshop ahead of a first reading next week.
They also supported allotting the money to qualifying candidates over three separate installments. The plan could change when the program reaches a second reading, and councilors are able to bring amendments forward.
Clean elections are a program where qualifying candidates can opt in to publicly-financed funds to campaign for office, and are therefore not able to privately fundraise in the traditional manner. It is one of a handful of revisions that voters approved from recommendations from the Charter Commission last November.
The program will be in effect for the upcoming mayoral election in November seeking a successor to Mayor Kate Snyder, who has said she won’t run again. In 2011, when Portland had its first public mayoral election in decades, 15 candidates ran. In 2015, just two candidates ran, and in 2019, four candidates were on the ballot.
Councilors support, at least for now, a program that gives qualifying candidates in contested mayoral races up to $75,000 over three installments. An uncontested mayoral candidate would be eligible for $25,000. Initially, lawyers from the firm Perkins Thompson who are representing the city proposed that mayoral candidates in contested races be able to receive $120,000 in one lump sum.
Qualifying candidates in a contested at-large council race could earn up to $25,000 compared to $10,000 for an uncontested race. For a district council race, those figures are $10,000 for a contested race and $4,000 for an uncontested one. On the school board side, a candidate in a contested at-large race could receive up to $5,000 compared to $2,000 when the candidate is unopposed. And a district candidate could receive up to $3,000 in a contested race, compared to $1,500 when uncontested.
The reasoning behind giving the qualifying candidates funds in installments is that a candidate may decide they don’t need the full amount to run an effective campaign.
Councilors supported the clean elections program in a straw poll on Monday. It could face amendments when it reaches a second reading and public hearing. It is a hybrid of three models presented by attorneys from Perkins Thompson as well as proposals from Councilor Anna Trevorrow.