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Hardesty debates two challengers in race for Portland City Council

On Thursday, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty debated against her two challengers who have raised the most money and are the most active on the campaign trail.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As political races heat up in Portland, a big one to keep an eye on is the race for Portland City Council Position 3, which is currently held by incumbent Jo Ann Hardesty.

Hardesty is seeking re-election for a second term. It's a crowded field with 11 candidates in total.

On Thursday, the City Club of Portland hosted a debate between Hardesty and her two challengers who have raised the most money and are the most active on the campaign trail: Vadim Mozyrski and Rene Gonzalez. 

The three candidates fielded questions from the audience and moderator, Chabre Vickers, via Zoom hoping to sway voters their way.

Here's a quick snapshot of who the candidates are, according to their websites:

  • Vadim Mozyrski is an administrative law judge who focuses on disability law and advocates for immigrant and refugee communities.
  • Rene Gonzalez is a technology business owner and lawyer. He also helped lead a state group dedicated to sports and school reopening efforts in Oregon. 
  • Jo Ann Hardesty is the incumbent. She's the first Black woman elected to city council, a veteran and civil rights leader.

Mozyrski said city government has been dysfunctional for too long.

Gonzalez felt similarly and said, “Portland is facing an historic threat to its livability.”

Meantime, Hardesty said, "my biggest honor in life has been to serve as your Portland city commissioner position 3."

RELATED: Portland Charter Commission proposes three big changes to how the city is governed

A number of topics were addressed including infrastructure, climate change and consolidation of bureaus among other things. One big topic was around homelessness in Portland and the lack of affordable housing.

“We have to stop driving away small landlords,” said Gonzalez, who also mentioned the need for more help and sleeping options for the unsheltered.

“We should let the developers do the private market, and the city should be focused on making sure workers and low-income people are able to thrive and prosper within the city of Portland,” said Hardesty.

“We're at a point where in about five years, we'll have another housing crisis because we don’t have enough in the pipeline. We need to bring to the table developers, housing advocates, home builders and see what we can do to iron this out,” Mozyrski said.

Another big issue addressed during the debate was crime.

Hardesty said her priority continues to be public safety.

“That's why I created Portland Street Response to create a non-law enforcement response to people suffering on our street,” she said.

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Portland Street Response is a Portland Fire & Rescue program that helps people with non-life-threatening mental health and behavioral health issues.

“We need to reform and rebuild police,” said Mozyrski, who has also served on various committees related to police oversight. “You have to heed the calls of individuals.”

Gonzalez called for adequate funding for the police bureau.

“We must end what some have called the ‘defund police culture’ which makes it so difficult to recruit and retain officers,” he said.

Regarding climate change, the candidates all agreed on efforts to make Portland a greener city and safer for bicyclists as well as pedestrians.

The I-5 expansion project was also discussed. 

Gonzalez said the project is long overdue and would create jobs for Portlanders.

Mozyrski said if there is an expansion of I-5, that there should be tolling in place so as to encourage more people to take public transportation.

Hardesty was also in support of the expansion and is particularly interested in the idea of a light rail as another mode of public transportation.

The city council position is a runoff election, which means if one of the candidates gets 50% or more of the vote, they automatically win. If no one does, the top two candidates will go on to the November election.

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