PORTLAND, Ore — When Portland voters cast their ballots in the May 17 primary, incumbent City Commissioner Dan Ryan is hoping voters give him another four years on City Council. He said he knows voters are disappointed in the direction of the city, but he said he's working to turn things around.
"They want city leaders who are bold and will take action and get us out of this ditch and I think they're seeing that from me as the earnest elected official," he said.
Ryan was first elected in 2020 in a special election to serve the last two years of the late Commissioner Nick Fish's term. Now, he is running for a full four year term, but faces a challenge from several candidates, including leading opponent Alanna Joy (AJ) McCreary.
McCreary is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Equitable Giving Circle. She said community members convinced her to run against Ryan because they felt not enough is getting done.
"Nothing is really moving around houselessness, nothing is really moving around economic development. And the incumbent doesn't have serious plans," she said.
Ryan and McCreary were guests on this week's episode of Straight Talk. They discussed their plans to address homelessness, gun violence, and why they're the best candidate to lead the city forward.
McCreary responds to questions about paying her son with campaign funds
McCreary also responded to questions raised by a Willamette Week article
about her campaign finance spending. Both she and Ryan are participating in the city's Small Donor Elections program, which matches small donor contributions 9-to-1. Willamette Week reported McCreary paid her 15-year-old son $3,200 in campaign funds for management services.
On Straight Talk, McCreary defended the payment and said it was for work her son did on her website.
"If I hired a firm to do my website in January it was going to take four to six weeks. My son was able to put a website up and it's beautiful, it's very nice, and I am not the only person he has done a professional website for, he was able to do it in four days. So, yes, I paid him and the headline should have said 'AJ McCreary ripped her own child off and underpaid him,'" she said.
She also said she hired another youth to do work for her campaign because she believes in multi-generational work and collaborations, and to have young voices on her campaign. Paying relatives isn't a violation of campaign finance law and McCreary discounted questions about whether paying her son was an appropriate use of taxpayer money.
"I would say haters are gonna hate and I hired my over-accomplished, overachiever child. I don't feel bad about it and I will absolutely continue to work with young people in this way" she said.
Pitch to voters
McCreary said she's a doer, knows how to bring people together, and knows how to do tough things. She said Portland needs new energy in City Hall.
"Portland needs change. You cannot invest in the same old, same old and expect new results. So, if you want change, please get onboard with Team AJ," she said.
Dan Ryan said he is ready to build on a sense of renewed hope in the city and that now is not the time for political inexperience on the City Council.
"This isn't the time for people to build a political resume. I'm doing this after a really good career. I'm giving my skill set back to my hometown....I'm not worried about managing some brand. I'm just getting started. I'm so ready to have a full term for all of you," he said.
Straight Talk airs Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.