PORTLAND, Ore — A runoff election will be held today between Loretta Smith and Dan Ryan to fill Portland Commissioner Position No. 2. Neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote for former Commissioner Nick Fish’s seat.
Fish died in January after a two-year battle with cancer. He was elected to a four-year term in 2018.
In May, the field was narrowed from 18 candidates down to the top two. Ballots went out on July 22 and are due back by 8 p.m. today.
Results will be available right here on election night
Smith is a former Multnomah County Commissioner and has years of political experience behind her.
Ryan is a former education nonprofit executive and is a first-time candidate.
The pair talked with Laural Porter on Straight Talk about a variety of issues. Here were some of their stances.
The two candidates differed on how they would try to resolve the protests that have continued in Portland for months.
Ryan said he thinks the city needs to have a peace summit bringing together representatives from various groups, including protesters, police, business owners and residents who live near areas affected by the protests.
"I grew up admiring Jimmy Carter and the work he did in the Middle East. I think we need a Middle East-type peace summit here in Portland. I have the skills in conflict negotiation. We need a different approach," he said.
Smith disagreed with the idea of a meeting with different groups of people. She said there needs to first be a meeting with only people who are protesting.
"We need to make sure we have a clear agenda for them, because they are the ones protesting in the evening. They're the ones fighting the establishment and status quo. We can't always bring other people in the room just to make us feel comfortable," Smith said.
Businesses hurt by protests
Business owners have told KGW the protests are hurting them and they're not sure they can survive. Some have said they plan to leave downtown.
They point to the homeless crisis, the pandemic, and now the protests as a set of challenges they aren't sure they can overcome.
Ryan said he would want business owners at the table for a summit to discuss a resolution to the protests.
"We are in economic devastation. We are in a pandemic and we need to figure out how to get the revenue streams moving again. We have to turn the spigot on for currency. We can't lose our businesses," he said.
Smith said she thinks the city needs to set aside a pot of money for small businesses to recover from COVID-19 and from the protesting.
Making their case to voters
Dan Ryan pointed to his 35 years of experience as a tested executive leader in the nonprofit space as one reason he believes he's the best choice to replace Fish on city council.
"When you're a nonprofit leader and community leader, you really have to rely on bringing people together to make results," he said.
He called himself a reformer and change agent ready to take on all the challenges the city faces.
"There's nothing like a lot of crises for a lot of opportunity," he said.
Smith highlighted her decades of political experience. She is a former Multnomah County commissioner and served as a staffer for Sen. Ron Wyden for 20 years.
"Now is not the time for on the job training," she said. "We need someone like me who has experienced leadership."
Whoever wins the election on Aug. 11 will join the city council immediately and serve through 2022.
Both said Portland faces a daunting economic and health crisis and they're eager to serve.
"We have widespread poverty in this city, in every ZIP code. I want everybody to not just survive in this city, but to thrive," Smith said. "I'm the person who is going to speak truth to power."
Ryan asked voters to give the newcomer a chance.
"I think you ought to give the new person the shot who's from the community, who's from the independent sector, who's been able to get results with little means," he said.
Smith and Ryan also discussed their ideas to solve homelessness and accounting problems each faced with Portland's public campaign financing program.