AFSCME Local 189 says ęGo Fish° in Portland City Council race

Portland City and Metropolitan Employees Local 189, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), has endorsed Nick Fish for Portland City Council.

Fish, 45, is running for the non-partisan council seat that Jim Francesconi will vacate next year in order to run for mayor.

Fish launched his campaign Oct. 24 with an introduction from former Governor Barbara Roberts. The primary election is May 18, but if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will square off in November.

Local 189 interviewed two candidates for the race — Fish, a Portland employment and labor attorney, and Multnomah County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey.

“Based on our interviews, we strongly feel that Nick Fish is the best candidate to represent the interests of Portland city employees,” said union President James Hester. “These decisions are never easy. But they need to be made. In our view, Nick Fish is the best candidate.”

In particular, Hester said Local 189 members liked Fish’s answers to questions about health care insurance for city workers and the issue of contracting out city jobs.

The day after the union endorsement, Rojo de Steffey withdrew from the race, citing family reasons. As soon as she did that, Sam Adams, former chief of staff to Mayor Vera Katz, said he wanted the council seat.

Hester said Adams’ entry into the race won’t affect the union’s endorsement decision and that there’s no thought of reconsideration.

“We are fully behind Nick Fish,” said Hester. “If Adams had been in the race earlier, we certainly would have spoken with him. But we’ve made our decision, and it is Nick Fish.”

With the union endorsement comes a $20,000 campaign contribution for Fish, as well as a network of in-kind contributions that will include door-to-door leafleting and phone banking on the candidate’s behalf.

Local 189 represents about 1,100 city employees and is a member of the District Council of Trade Unions, a seven-union consortium that represents most city employees.

Hester said Local 189 will consider a mayoral endorsement later this month or in early December. The union is planning an open house for Francesconi on Thursday, Nov. 13, at which time union members from 20 AFSCME locals can meet the candidate. “We have a longstanding history with Jim, and we want to give our members a chance to meet him one-on-one,” Hester said.

Francesconi is the only mayoral candidate scheduled to be interviewed because he is the only candidate to contact the union to ask for an interview. “We don’t send out invitations to candidates, they must contact us,” Hester said.

Former Chief of Police Tom Potter has announced his candidacy and rumors are circulating that auto dealer Ron Tonkin is being recruited to also run for the seat that will be vacated by Katz after three terms.

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