Sean Davis

My Mayoral Campaign: True Currency

Sean Davis (l) meets with former Portland Mayor Bud Clark (r)

Sean Davis continues his bid to be mayor of Portland, talks about support, listening to constituents, fundraising, and currency more valuable than money.


We reached over 600,000 people this week, but it was on a radio station with a host whose views run perpendicular to mine. You have to take the media you can get when you’re the guy in the race without money. Well, that’s not altogether true; I am outraising my opponents 10 to 1, but only in a certain way. While the leader is supposedly raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from very rich people, I am getting hundred-dollar donations from people I know can’t afford to give hundred-dollar donations. Rich people don’t mind asking for money. People who grew up poor do, and I grew up very poor. So, even though it makes me uncomfortable, I’m accepting people’s money because no one else is fighting for us in the political arena.

When asked why I’m running for Mayor, I say that I’m running because people asked me to run, but honestly, there is more to it than that. Yes, many people asked me to do it, but when I finally decided to really join the race, I had to ask if opening myself up to the public is worth it, if putting in forty or fifty hours a week for this on top of my full-time job is worth it, if making life harder for my family is worth it, if having people believe that you can do it with a big chance of letting them down is worth it.

Every year, career politicians claim to fight for the real people, but we all see through them. If you go and look at the money each candidate is getting (it is public record) you can see who their donations come from and whether these are actual donations or loans. A lot has been made of my competitor Ted Wheeler raising $330,000 for a small town mayoral race, but if you really look at it, just about all of the money is loaned to him or people said they would donate it to him in the future. The truth of the matter is that he only has $51,000 on hand.

Some of Wheeler’s donors would surprise you. While he has huge contributions from bottling companies and other businesses in Portland, he also has Clear Channel giving him a sizable donation. That’s the conservative media company that does radio and billboards. You’d think that money would be going the other way. He also accepted a sizable donation from land developers trying to create a casino in East Portland. What favors will he owe? Because when accepting money like that you know you will be expected to do something in return.

When looking at my other competitor Jules Bailey’s $20,000 in donations, there are a few surprises as well. The PAC “Retain Dan Stanton for Multnomah County Sheriff” just gave him a donation. If you think you’ve heard that name before, it’s probably because he’s the sheriff in the news being accused of sexually harassing his deputy and degrading his officers. The rest of the donor sheet looks like a list of contractors and unions in the Portland and Seattle area. I look down the list and I can’t help but imagine all these developers rubbing their hands together in a Bond villain way with their mouths watering.

But knowing that I’m competing with 50 grand and 20 grand makes it possible. It’s like finding the little frail man behind the curtain while off to see the wizard. That said, I don’t have hardly any money, but I do have time. Every day I’ve been meeting with people, organizations, and neighborhoods, and what I’ve found is interesting in a different way …

A few days ago, I spent two hours sitting in a tent listening to a man named Ibrahim speak to a council of displaced people fighting to survive in a land torn apart by war, people trying to find their way in a nation who looks down on them, people who had overcome amazing hardships to be there and have as little as they do. This sounds like I’m talking about Haiti after their revolution or Iraq during the war, but no, this happened right here in downtown Portland, Oregon. This war is the crisis on our streets. I sat in on the weekly Sunday meeting at Right 2 Dream Too. People dismiss them as an eyesore or wretched lazy bums draining our city’s resources, but the reality is they’ve done something I’ve never seen done by displaced people: they built their own society and they are succeeding. They pay for their portable toilets and electricity. They find jobs for some. Others go to school while they’re staying there. It hasn’t been one group living there for four years. It’s not a homeless camp as much as it is a conduit for people to escape houselessness (their words, not mine). If anything, our city needs to encourage this type of camp.

I spent two hours speaking with former mayor of Portland Bud Clark. He was one of the most popular mayors we’ve had here. We hit it off. Probably because we are so similar. We both run a bar. We’re both veterans. We’re both citizens who love our town and ran for mayor because we didn’t like the political climate. I call him on his cell for advice before heading to meetings or forums. His wisdom is worth more than a donation on a spreadsheet.

As a candidate in this race, you can spend money or you can spend time and I’ve found time is worth more. I spent hours talking to an old war buddy of mine who is now a Portland police officer and he told me straight what is going on. I spent time meeting with the head information director for Central City Concern, assistant director of The Returning Veterans Project, with the LGBTQ community, with developers, business owners, waiters, artists, musicians, bartenders. I’ve spent time answering every single person who writes me. I address questions and listen to people from coffee shops to tap houses. I speak and listen at PTA meetings and bus stops. My currency is time and I’ve been putting my time in.


[Editor’s Note: The Sean Davis for Portland Mayor Website is now live and you can donate money to his campaign through it.]



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.

Related posts