Sean Davis’s continuing bid to be mayor of Portland, reacts to being squeezed out of events showcasing mayoral candidates that instead focus on those with money or Ivy League educations.
Last Wednesday, a group called “Emerging Leaders” held an event titled “Meet Your Next Mayor of Portland.” I was not invited. I found out from an Army buddy of mine because he was asked to be the bouncer for the event; it was held at a pub. As soon as I found out, I emailed the organizers to introduce myself and ask if I could participate. After all, I am running to be the next mayor of Portland. I received no answer.
So, I crashed the party with my campaign manager Gabe. We showed up an hour early and spoke to the main organizer. She was very nice and sat down with me for fifteen minutes to talk. She said she received my email and apologized for not returning it. We spoke about my views and what issues I was concerned about and she seemed to listen. Afterward, she said the event really couldn’t be changed, but she would cut it short by fifteen minutes and I’d have that time to speak. As the night went on, other “fringe” candidates showed up as well and I figured we’d each get five minutes or so. The career politicians answered questions, recited everything on the homepage of their websites, and spoke overtime, and after that the real “emerging leaders,” myself included, ended up getting one minute to speak. As it turned out, it really wouldn’t have been too difficult to change the event.
I’ve always been an optimist and an idealist. Last night I told a friend of mine, we’re both on the board of directors for The Returning Veterans Project, that I’m running to be mayor of Portland. He told me that he was just talking about politics earlier that day and he said no one in their right mind would run for office in today’s political climate. I told him that’s exactly why I’m running for office in today’s political climate. We need sane, clear-thinking people governing us; people with the ability to think independently and use common sense; people with the same priorities as the majority of the population.
Here’s an example: Ted Wheeler believes that homelessness is the number one issue affecting Portland. While homelessness is an issue we need to fix, the real issue that the majority of the population of Portland faces is affordable housing and living wages. He sees the homeless in affluent areas. I know because I used to be a security guard in the Pearl District for a few years. They go there because rich people live there and they ask for money. So, that’s what he sees because he lives, hangs out, and works in these rich areas. The reality is that the homeless population isn’t as big as he believes it to be, especially compared to other cities, and our city council has vowed to spend 30 million dollars to fix it. This is amazing; now we really have a shot at coming up with a solution, but we should have called a citywide state of emergency to help the people struggling with unexpected rent hikes and no-cause evictions. I live paycheck to paycheck like the majority of the people who live here and I know that our number one problem is that the people who made this town great can’t afford to live in the town they made great.
I naively thought that I would throw my hat in the ring and then I’d be on equal footing with the other candidates. We can all talk about our ideas at free events held by outside parties because that would be the democratic way to hold an election. They would talk about their issues and my advantage would be that I truly am a man of the people. I had no illusions about the money. The current candidate to beat raised a quarter of a million dollars for a city mayor’s race. A bit of overkill, but I accept it. I know I’ll have to be creative in order to catch up in that regard. That’s an obstacle I knew about going in, but what I didn’t count on is the affluent community and media equating money with credibility.
The Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) is holding a “Candidates Forum for Arts & Culture” next Tuesday at the Gerding Theater in downtown Portland, Oregon. Now, this is what I do. I’m a published author and in my book, The Wax Bullet War, I go on in detail about how art saved my life. It brought me back from the edge after returning from war bone-broke and soul-wrecked. In fact, the subtitle of the book is “The Chronicles of a Soldier & Artist.” I also helped produce a segment of an international award-winning film that premiered in the General Assembly room of the United Nations in New York City last year. The film was called HUMAN and it was on the human condition. The year before that, I was the military adviser on The Canticle of the Black Madonna which was an opera with a budget of $350,000 dollars. I also was a supernumerary in this opera along with several other combat veterans and family members of veterans. I’ve written plays. I paint. I asked them weeks ahead of time if I can be a part of this event since I am a candidate and I am an artist, but instead of responding they put out a post on their event page saying that they wouldn’t add any more candidates to the stage. I had National Book Award winner Larry C. Heinemann and current Oregon Book Award finalist Lidia Yuknavitch write to RACC on my behalf, but still nothing. I wrote to them personally and they won’t answer.
So, again, only the two candidates with money will be represented: Tim Wheeler and Jules Bailey. Wheeler is the current state treasurer and I’m actually beating Bailey in the KGW poll circulating right now.
People across the country are fed up with the political system and it’s not just a national problem. Here in our local elections we are still equating money with credibility. The ones at the top know they’ll get elected, but they feign humility. For example, this morning one of the Wheeler staffers sent an email to all the candidates challenging us to take Elizabeth Warner’s “People’s Pledge” to spend our Super PAC money in a responsible way and if we spend money on a televised attack ad we give half the cost of that ad to charity. Laughable. They know that none of us have the money for ads. It’s an empty gesture and condescending. I thanked his staffer and I challenged him to help us other candidates to take part in all “meet the candidate” events. If he really believed in a fair election, then he’d be proactive in this matter.
As for the rest of the campaign at this point: Gabe is the campaign manager and treasurer. Our next campaign meeting will be at Post 134 this Monday at 6:00 p.m. and we need good people to help. We’re looking for a volunteer organizer, social media person, and event organizer. We have our bank account and the PAC is officially called “Friends of Sean Davis.” I chuckle as I type that. I never thought I’d get into politics, let alone have a Friends of Sean Davis Political Action Committee. The website will be up today or tomorrow and as soon as it’s up we will start planning our first fundraiser with music by I Can Lick Any S.O.B. in the House. We’ll also have some inspiring guest speakers and local celebrities.
People who are in their right mind need to get into politics. This isn’t medieval times where the most fortunate get to rule. This is a democracy no matter how entitled the rich feel.
“My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.” —Albert Einstein