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Portland residents may be fed up with Mayor Ted Wheeler but the alternative is currently looking less appealing.
The Democratic mayor in the Oregon city that has been reeling under months of violent protests is facing a challenger who appears to be so much further to the left that an unlikely coalition has formed to back his bid for a second term. Polls this week showed Wheeler trailing his opponent, Sarah Iannarone, a self-described member of the Antifa movement who was seen in a resurfaced photo this week wearing a skirt with the images of Communist dictators.
The Portland State University educator and far-left activist has repeatedly expressed her support for the nightly protests rocking the city and has even declared “I am Antifa.” She has called for defunding the police and her vocal criticism of Wheeler has led to her rise in the polls, giving her an 11-point lead over the Democrat incumbent, according to a survey published earlier this week by local newspaper, the Willamette Week.
But her radical views have raised some concerns in Portland as Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, has come under fire for his handling of rioting and unrest. Their contrasting visions for the city and Iannarone’s left-wing stance on the issues were on clear display during their first televised debate on Thursday.
(Source KGW8 via Twitter)
Iannarone, who is unaffiliated with a political party and has never held political office, raised plenty of eyebrows when she proudly touted herself as an “everyday anti-fascist” during the debate.
“You’ve been called the Antifa mayor. Are you Antifa and how would that guide how you would handle protests as mayor?” KGW’s Laural Porter, who co-moderated the debate, asked the mayoral candidate.
Declaring that “being opposed to fascism in 2020 is not something to be embarrassed about,” Iannarone revealed with a smile that she has had a bumper sticker “from the beginning of my campaign that says #EverydayAntifascist.”
She went on to explain that she has taken to organizing events to try and “normalize peaceful responses to the rise of white nationalism,” giving examples and claiming that “the answer to toxic masculinity is an inclusive pluralist society where people of all backgrounds feel welcome.”
The moderator interjected to press Wheeler’s challenger, asking if “being antifascist the same thing as being Antifa? Are you Antifa?”
“Antifa is not anything more than idea. That’s what Vice President Biden explained to us. It’s people who oppose antifascism. And I strongly oppose antifascism and I adopt and implement peaceful responses to that, and that is how I describe my position on this issue,” Iannarone replied. “Donald Trump has decided to make the enemy of groups of people who oppose his beliefs and his militia forces, but I’m not going to be caught up in that rhetoric because it’s false, it creates division in our society, it creates division in our city. What we need is every single Portlander faced in the right direction saying hate is not welcome here.”
Neither Iannarone nor Wheeler received a majority of votes in the first round of voting and will square off in a runoff election on Nov. 3. The far-left challenger had noted in a statement in May that protests across the nation would continue “until our leaders address the problems racism, police brutality, and white supremacy undergirding our society.”
Back in 2019, she openly expressed her Antifa support.
To those who say Antifa are violent thugs: I am not a violent thug and I am Antifa.
I am Antifa because the Red Hats are coming after brown & black people, after Jews, after queer & trans people, and more.
— sarah iannarone (she/her) (@sarahforpdx) January 27, 2019
This week, a resurfaced photo of Iannarone shared by journalist Andy Ngo showed her views more graphically as she wore a skirt bearing the images of Communists Che Guevara, Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.
Look at the skirt. pic.twitter.com/kAu3a3PgUF
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) October 5, 2020
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) October 10, 2020
Her platform includes plans to ensure that Portland is carbon neutral by 2030, to create a city-owned bank, to legalize all sex work and to allow anyone, including non-citizens, to vote in local elections, according to Willamette Week.
And while many have criticized Wheeler over the last months, the more progressive views of his challenger have raised concern in Portland groups who banded together to boost the incumbent’s reelection campaign. A new political action committee, United for Portland, was launched this week and released an ad urging voters to “reject” Iannarone because she “spends a lot of time tweeting.”
— United for Portland (@unitedforpdx) October 8, 2020
“Portland needs a leader. Not a Tweeter,” the video ad said.
The Portland Business Alliance, Portland NAACP, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union Local 49 are some of the groups that make up the new coalition.
Naturally, Iannarone’s campaign slammed the ad for being misogynistic.
“The opponents of progress are trying to buy Wheeler’s re-election by smearing Sarah instead of responding to her incredible policy leadership,” Greg McKelvey, Iannarone’s campaign manager, said, according to OregonLive.
Iannarone blasted it as “a last-ditch effort by some accustomed to buying elections feeling their grasp on power slipping away.”
“The current mayor needing this super PAC’s money to save his re-election bid indicates how little support he has from everyday people,” she said in a statement.