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Smith accuses Hardesty of tasteless tactic in city council race

A Portland City Council candidate claims what her opponent did at a forum Monday night goes far beyond a political attack.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland City Council candidate claims what her opponent did at a forum Monday night goes far beyond a political attack.

Loretta Smith is running against Jo Ann Hardesty for the open seat on the Portland City Council. Smith said what happened at Monday’s event was personal and brought past sexual harassment to the forefront.

“Last night was egregious,” Smith explained. “Last night was so wrong on many levels.”

Smith and Hardesty were asked to speak at an Arts and Culture forum Monday night. As part of the event, they were asked to present a piece of art.

Jo Ann Hardesty (left) and Loretta Smith (right)

Smith read a poem by Maya Angelou about overcoming discrimination and injustice. Hardesty called up two people to do the electric slide with her. Smith’s campaign manager shot video of it. One of the men in the video with Hardesty dancing is Baruti Artharee.

Five years ago, Artharee was a public safety advisor to Mayor Charlie Hales. Back then, Artharee was suspended for a week and ordered to take training on workplace harassment after making sexually suggestive comments toward Smith.

Smith said this is not the first time she has seen Artharee with Hardesty at campaign events.

“I've tried to move on from this,” Smith said. “This was five years ago, but he has insisted to be in my presence and it's just not acceptable, it's not acceptable.”

Smith claims Hardesty knew this is a man who makes her uncomfortable, saying she chose him on purpose. Smith said she felt victimized and traumatized all over again.

“I probably had the same reaction like most victims,” Smith said. “I tried to go along with it. I tried to clap as if I was happy, but I was devastated afterwards and I didn't really know how devastated I was until I went home and the tears just kept coming down my eyes and I know why they were coming down because it was like, 'Ok, so we here we go again.' I mean, when does this stop?”

Hardesty declined several requests for an interview on Tuesday. Instead she issued a statement:

"Many in our community are collectively reliving traumas experienced by sexual assault. In yesterday's forum, Commissioner Smith experienced trauma in a triggering moment during the event. I acknowledge that harm, and my part in creating the situation that provoked it. I called Commissioner Smith this morning. I have not had the chance to talk with her directly, but asked for a one-on-one conversation. I apologize for creating a painful and uncomfortable situation for her, which regardless of my intention to build community in the moment, was the impact. I send good thoughts to Commissioner Smith and all women in their healing processes. Regardless of party or the fact that we are running against each other, we must believe and support all women."

Smith’s campaign member called the apology disingenuous.

The candidates are scheduled to face off in a debate on Friday.

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