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Out Gay man elected Tuesday as mayor of Portland, Oregon
Out Gay man elected Tuesday as mayor of Portland, Oregon
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

"I'm running not to be a Gay mayor, but a great mayor," Sam Adams liked to say during his campaign for mayor of Portland, Oregon. On Tuesday, May 21, Portland voters expressed their confidence in him by giving him 58% of the vote, against 34% for his nearest opponent. Adams will take office on January 1, 2009.

What makes a great mayor? "The ability to get stuff done," Adams says. "Addressing problems and finding solutions with support from the people in the community." This is an ability Adams demonstrated for more than a decade as chief aide to Portland Mayor Vera Katz, and since 2004 as a Portland City Commissioner. During that time, Adams built a reputation for taking on tough issues and delivering solutions.

Asked about the toughest issue he faced, Adams was quick to reply, "Lower taxes for small businesses. It took two and a half years to do that, but I got it done." Adams also fought to ensure that big businesses paid their fair share of city taxes, after discovering that over 1,000 Portland businesses with gross revenues of more than $20 million annually were paying only $100 a year in business taxes. In addition, Adams was prime sponsor of Portland's Equal Benefits Ordinance, and an ordinance guaranteeing health care for part-time and seasonal city workers.

Adams will become the first out Gay mayor in Portland's history, and the first elected Gay mayor of a major US city. Lesbian Toni Atkins was appointed mayor of San Diego, California, on July 19, 2005, when a series of financial scandals led her two immediate predecessors to resign within a single week. She served as mayor until December 5, 2005, and continues to sit on the San Diego City Council.

Adams credits his victory to "a great campaign staff, support from the Victory Fund, and an issue-oriented campaign" that addressed bread-and-butter issues. An estimated 21% of jobs in the Portland area pay wages at or below the federal poverty line, as compared to only 9% in the Seattle area, Adams notes. He calls for creation of new living wage jobs "before we are left impossibly behind."

Sustainable growth is also an issue Adams plans to tackle. "Demographics tell us we can expect nearly 1 million additional residents in the region in the next 25 years," says Adams. "We are not ready. We must invest in and have innovative strategies for transportation, mass transit, affordable housing, green building and infrastructure."

Asked about the needs of the LGBT community in Portland, Adams says "Marriage equality. We already have statewide domestic partnership benefits. And safety. We need a Federal Hate Crimes Bill. Of course I'll be involved in the US Conference of Mayors, and I will lobby for it. The City of Portland also has its own paid lobbyist."

Adams won endorsements from a wide range of groups including the Victory Fund, the Sierra Club, the Northwest Oregon Central Labor Council, and almost all the union locals in the Portland area. Keeping in touch with his diverse constituents is important to Adams. "We've created a blog on my website for people to post comments, even anonymous comments," he says. "I've done 30-some town halls, I do walkabouts in business and residential areas. I like meeting with people face to face."

Educated at the University of Oregon, Adams spent two semesters at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. It was a formative experience. "I went down a Republican and came back a Democrat," he says. "I learned how little perspective I had on my own country and how much responsibility as a nation we have for being a good neighbor to the world."

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