Portland, OR: Voter Owned Elections A Success
In the first primary elections held under Portland, Oregon’s Voter Owned Elections law on May 17, publicly funded City Council candidate Erik Sten won his race. In addition, the new law helped make Portland elections fair, open, and accountable with a more level playing field, less campaign spending, reduced influence of special interests, and new options for genuine participation in politics by typical residents from nearly all city neighborhoods, according to the Friends of Voter Owned Elections.
With at least 3,500 ballots still outstanding, Sten, who as city commissioner authored the Voter Owned Elections law that the City Council approved a year ago, won just over 50 percent of the vote. If his margin of victory holds, he will avoid a run off race in the fall. His closest opponent was Ginny Burdick, who spent more than $170,000 in her race, and got 30 percent of the vote.
"Portland voters said no to big-money politics in their vote for Erik Sten over a candidate recruited by Portland's big business elite,” said Janice Thompson, executive director of the Money in Politics Research Action Project (MiPRAP).
Amanda Fritz, a nurse and neighborhood activist, lost her race against Dan Saltzman, an incumbent who has served in the city council since 1998, and garnered 57 percent of the vote. Saltzman, however, did voluntarily limit his spending to $150,000 and his contributions to $500. Saltzman supported Voter Owned Elections when the City Council voted last May.
Portland’s Voter Owned election candidates received $150,000 to run their campaigns after qualifying for the program by collecting 1,000 $5 contributions and agreeing not to take private contributions.