Portland Mayoral Election- Learn about the candidates


Michelle Yamamoto

The Portland mayoral race is hotly contested. Look below to read about the candidates and their priorities.

CORRECTION(10/7/20): An earlier version of this article said that Sarah Iannarone’s endorsement from Sunrise Movement PDX had been rescinded and given to Teressa Raiford. While the endorsement has been rescinded, it has not been given to any candidate. Sunrise Reed, the Reed College hub of the Sunrise Movement, was the group that recently endorsed Raiford. We apologize for the confusion.


With the general election approaching on Nov. 3, the Cardinal Times has compiled the priorities and records of the two official candidates, incumbent Ted Wheeler (receiving 49% of the May primary vote) and challenger Sarah Iannarone (who received 24% of the vote), as well as Teressa Raiford, who finished third in the primary with 8% of the votes. Raiford, the founder of the organization Don’t Shoot PDX, is a write-in candidate.

If you are not yet registered to vote, Oregon registration for the Nov. 3 general election ends Oct. 13. Oct. 27 is the last day ballots can be submitted by mail. 




Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is running for re-election, the first mayor to do so since Vera Katz in 2000. In a poll published by The Oregonian on Sept. 8, Wheeler had a 63% unfavorable rating, while only 26% rated him favorably, of the 435 polled. 

Climate and the Environment 

Wheeler’s campaign website outlines seven priorities. Among them is a promise for “healthy, sustainable parks and a recreation system.” 

On June 30, 2020, Wheeler and other city council members voted to adopt the Climate Emergency Declaration. The declaration outlines an equity-centered approach to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with specific standards for sources of energy, public transportation and more.

Another promise from his campaign website is for COVID-19 recovery “centered in climate action and equity to ensure that we build back better and create a more resilient community.”

Police Reform and Criminal Justice

In a Q&A with The Oregonian, Wheeler said, “We need to make sure on one hand that those who are engaged in this violence and criminal activity are arrested and that they are held accountable for those actions. And on the other hand… I understand [the public’s] calls for police reform… And we also [will] create a police bureau that is de-escalated, that is demilitarized and is really focused on engaging in a meaningful, honest way with the community and rebuilding the trust that’s been lost.”

However, some Portlanders are disappointed with Wheeler’s response to the protests and calls for police reform. 

“‘I don’t know how many more examples we need to show he is not the right leader for this moment,’” said Bobbin Singh, Executive Director of Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), to The Oregonian

On June 9, Wheeler released a 19-point plan for police reform action. These points cover various ideas, including banning carotid restraints (including chokeholds) and working with the Oregon Legislative People of Color Caucus. 

The city’s website shows the status of each of these points. Of the 19 points, seven have been marked as completed, and the rest are in progress as of Oct. 2, according to the website. 

Wheeler has also denounced violence from the protestors, and in the Q&A with The Oregonian, he noted, “‘[Sarah Iannarone] has declined to denounce the violence. There’s a big difference between the two of us here. I do not support or endorse or condone violence as a means to a political end. I never have and I never will.’”

Six groups called for his resignation in August, including the OJRC.


According to his campaign website, Wheeler has “More than doubled Portland’s shelter capacity and focused on creating a robust system of transitional housing.”

However, recent comments from Wheeler have been a cause for concern for many. 

Wheeler threatened to pull funding from the Joint Office of Homeless Services, a partnership with Multnomah County, unless 300  more shelter beds were created.

This would mean the city would pull over $32 million in funding from the budget of the office, according to KGW

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury told KGW, “Any talk of dismantling the joint office is going to scare folks, and people will fear for their lives.”




After co-founding a business and working as an educator, 47-year-old Sarah Iannarone is now running a publicly-financed campaign for Portland mayor as a “progressive alternative.” She placed second in the May primary with 24 percent of the vote, forcing a run-off election between her and Wheeler this November. The rules state that candidates needed to receive 50% of the vote to win, and Wheeler received 49%.

Climate and the Environment

One of Iannarone’s main priorities is combating climate change in Portland. She has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, where politicians commit to refusing campaign contributions over $200 from oil, gas and coal industries. 

She has also committed to a Green New Deal for Portland. Her plan includes measures like declaring a climate emergency, working with communities on the frontline and becoming carbon neutral by 2030. 

“For decades, Portland has called itself a leader in climate action, touting our ‘legacy of leadership’ to the world. Sadly, we have failed in this undertaking: not only are we falling short of our carbon reduction targets, but Portland’s carbon emissions are rising,” said Iannarone in a statement from her campaign website. “Acting with urgency and partnering with our frontline communities is the only ethical and practical response to the climate crisis unfolding around us.”

Police Reform and Criminal Justice

Iannarone is also advocating for police accountability. On June 3, she released a statement outlining recommendations to reform the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), including bans on chokeholds, the use of chemical weapons at protests, defunding militarization and requiring de-escalation. 

“The Portland Mayor, also the Police Commissioner, must take concrete, urgent action to reform the Portland Police Bureau: this will save lives, reduce spending, and set our city on the path to healing,” said Iaanarone of these recommendations. “There is no justification to not make these reforms today.”

Iannarone has pledged to make Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty the new Police  Commissioner if elected, despite Hardesty’s refusal to endorse Iannarone in the election.

“I don’t know [Iannarone] well enough to know if changing leadership at this critical time in Portland’s history would be good or bad for the city,” told Hardesty to The Oregonian after she withdrew her endorsement for Wheeler. “I like her as a person, but I don’t know her policy chops and whether or not she’s going to be able to galvanize the city to come together to do the hard work we have ahead.”

Iannarone has declined to condemn the violence of some protesters that has occurred at some Portland protests, rationalizing it after a statement on KGW’s Straight Talk

  “We must not take our focus off why these recent protests began, and reimagine public safety so we can save lives,” Iannarone said in a statement to KGW. “I condemn arson, obviously. I also condemn the countless deaths of Black individuals at the hands of police.”


As part of her comprehensive public safety proposal on her website, Iannarone outlined her desire to make Portland safer for all people experiencing houselessness and those lacking other basic needs. Her plans include decriminalizing poverty, addressing domestic violence, focusing on the safety of LGBTQ+ Portlanders and expanding the Portland Street Response, a first responder alternative to the police. 

“These programs will increase services for people struggling with our current housing and health crises, as well as those seeking shelter during heat waves, storms, power outages and recovering from natural disasters,” said Iannarone in an interview with KATU News.




Unlike the other candidates, Teressa Raiford isn’t officially on the ballot.

Nonetheless, her supporters are currently running a write-in campaign, imploring Portlanders to write in Raiford’s name instead of voting for Wheeler or Ianaronne. Raiford is not in charge of or participating in the write-in campaign at all due to her focus on her nonprofit, Don’t Shoot PDX, during the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in Portland

Climate and the Environment 

According to a statement on Raiford’s write-in campaign website, Raiford’s climate focus will be  to “prioritize environmental justice for Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color Communities located near fossil fuel production sites, landfills, industrial factory-farming and in sites most vulnerable to natural disasters worsened by climate change.”

Her focus on the connection between environmental racism also plays into her plan for the Zenith Energy Terminal, located in NW Portland, (an energy company that has been heavily protested due to their handling of crude oil and other fossil fuels). She plans to stop the Zenith expansion, and revise the city code to hold them financially accountable for the damage they have caused to our environment. 

Police Reform and Criminal Justice

According to PDX Monthly, Raiford has been an advocate for police reform for years. In 2014 she started a nonprofit, Don’t Shoot PDX, to promote the defunding and reallocation of funding in the PPB. Raiford has been witness to police violence in her own family, which motivates her activism.

Token Rose, a community organizer working for Don’t Shoot PDX, told the Willamette Week, “She’s for [police] abolition. She’s calling for defunding the police. She’s calling for radical ideas. That’s always been Teressa, that’s always been her niche in Portland, and after [the] May 19 [primary], people started to listen.”

According to Portland Monthly magazine, over the summer, Raiford and Don’t Shoot PDX went to the city council and the courts to file lawsuits due to the treatment of Portland protesters. In addition Raiford and Don’t Shoot Portland have advocated for an investigation of the wrongful death of Shai-India Harris, an 18-year-old girl who was killed due to domestic violence. She also worked to start a conversation about how certain types of protesting has taken away from Black voices and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Raiford’s view of how the other candidates are handling the current police reform is very straightforward. She told Willamette Week in an interview, “Wheeler shouldn’t have run for a second term,” and referred to Iannaronne when she said, “But people who think they have to help us figure out how to live in America do not understand what our lives represent. We are seeing that systems were made to be inequitable. The system is racist, and until we define that new leadership, it won’t be dismantled.”

Houslessness and Housing

Raiford states on her campaign website some basic standards she wishes to enforce surrounding COVID-19. She lists; “Seek full rent cancelation for individuals by working with the city council and state officials. Work with the Portland City Council to pay the Property Taxes of businesses until the curve has flattened. Extend the eviction moratorium until our State of Emergency is declared over.”

In a conversation with the Oregonian, Raiford talks about the houselessness throughout Portland, saying, “People need to be able to get off the streets and out of shelters without spending years on apartment waiting lists. Children should not spend their childhood waiting for a chance to be kids, safe and warm. We have the land, and we can change the zoning.”