Sean Davis

My Mayoral Campaign: Paying Dues

Sean Davis continues his bid to be mayor of Portland, responding to people who believe that he needs to pay his dues before running for office. 


The campaign goes on. One of the things about announcing that you are running for mayor is that you start getting advice from everywhere. Along with advice comes criticism, which is good, but many people who I haven’t met are writing me and saying while they love that I want to get into politics, I should have run for a smaller office. They say that maybe I should pay my dues before throwing my hat in for mayor of a town this size.

While I can see what they mean from their point of view, I would argue that I might know more about democracy than the other candidates. I would argue that I have paid my dues while protecting people in war-torn countries who are voting in the first democratic election of their lifetimes. I’ve watched people risk their lives to cast their vote and I believe that political lesson is more valuable than going to an Ivy League school and then returning to Oregon to be handed an official office. I understand, in a way that many people can’t, how important it is for our political leaders to truly represent the people they are trusted to govern.



Here in Portland, the big papers have all but called the election already for a man who is the current state treasurer. He raised $250,000 almost instantly after announcing, and our local papers have run articles with the same message: there is only one real candidate. Recently they have conceded that there is one other candidate for mayor, but he won’t put up that big of a fight. He’s also a career politician (county commissioner) with a degree from an Ivy League school.

But this all begs the question, when did we start putting our politicians on pedestals and start believing that only a certain type of affluent person could govern us? Representing and governing the population isn’t a privilege for the few, it’s the responsibility of the many. With the most recent pay raise, the Portland mayor makes sixty-five bucks an hour. Why? How much does a schoolteacher make? A fireman? A police officer? Why are we paying politicians ridiculously more than those who educate our children or put their lives on the line every day for our safety? I’ll guarantee you right now that when elected I’ll give a third of that salary back to the city, to our struggling public schools or to one of our communities.

Today, I met with David Schor who has been a candidate for mayor longer than anyone else. He filed before the state treasurer or the county commissioner. We had coffee and he told me that other than a combative interview on the conservative Lars Larson radio show and a small article in the alternative paper to our alternative paper, no media would respond to him. This is a shame because Schor has some intelligent and creative ideas on how to help Portland and its housing crisis. These ideas need to be heard.

As far as my campaign is concerned, we’re building what I’m told is called the “kitchen cabinet.” My core group has grown. I’m lucky to have some amazing people volunteering to help. Gabe Vaught is an officer in the National Guard and he’s taken over a lot of the work. He’s bringing more people in. We have what’s shaping up to be a good staff.

I spoke last night at the Clinton Street Theater in Southeast Portland at a reading celebrating Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. After the show, I spoke to groups and individuals. I really feel like we’ve won people over. There is so much support out there. I’ve had to start a Political Action Committee and register it with the Secretary of State. This means filing more paperwork because when I filed as a candidate we had no money, but every new adviser I trust tells me we need money. They tell me that’s why the papers and the media aren’t taking us seriously. Money buys cred. Money pays for bumper stickers, brochures, ground pounders, ads, and so much more. So, the “Friends of Sean Davis” PAC should be approved tomorrow and our bank account will be ready to receive donations by the end of the week.

I knew going into this it would be hard work, but like I always say, unless they’re going to shoot at me and blow me up, I’ve been through worse. This summer I worked 16-hour days for months on end. I’ll put the time in. No one questions my determination.

And more good news: many people have already compared me to Bud Clark, a former mayor of Portland, 1985-1992. He was a man with no real political experience who had had enough of the system and ran. He won. Not only did he win, he was one of the best mayors our town ever had. Last week, I called the bar that he owns on a whim thinking there was some wild chance that he might email me and give me a word or two of advice. Days went by and nothing, and that’s what I expected. But today, he emailed me back and he called me “a very talented human being.” Not only did he give me some very kind words, but he also said he’d come to the American Legion Post that I manage to talk to me next week. The momentum is growing.

The number one goal here is to get my name and views out and get enough people interested before the May primaries. Oregon election laws state that if one candidate gets more than 50% of the votes in the primaries, the election is pretty much over. No one else will be on the ballot in November. I’ve emailed many community leaders, government officials, and small business owners. I’ll be meeting with a lot of them in the next few weeks.

We will have an election here in Portland. Democracy belongs to the people. Political positions need to be decided by elections, not by who has the most money. I don’t doubt that the papers and other media will come around. People across this country, and especially here in Portland, Oregon, are sick of the current political climate. We’ve all paid our dues.


Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland, Oregon. His latest stories, essays, and articles have appeared in various magazines and media sources such as HUMAN the Movie, the international fashion magazine Flaunt, Forest Avenue's forthcoming anthology City of Weird, and much more.

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One Comment;

  1. David Schor said:

    Thanks for the shout out, Sean. We always need more people willing to work toward truly representative government. The exclusion of non-wealthy candidates from forums is only a small symptom of the larger problem of money in politics. We can only disarm the powers that be if we are willing to fight on despite the media narrative.