Another Heavyweight Special Interest Group Endorses City Council Candidate Tera Hurst Without Interviewing Others

Contrary to its own policy, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters throws its heft behind Hurst without interviewing others.

By Nigel Jaquiss |Published January 30 Updated January 30
For the second time this week, a key interest group has endorsed a candidate in the crowded field seeking to replace the late Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, without interviewing any other candidate.

This time, the group is the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, which today put its heft behind Tera Hurst, a onetime chief of staff to former Mayor Charlie Hales and the current executive director of Renew Oregon, which is pushing for statewide action on climate change.

“Tera Hurst is the most exciting candidate for Portland City Council that we have seen in a long time, and I can’t wait for Portlanders to get to know her,” said OLCV Executive Director Doug Moore. “Over the last several years, I have seen firsthand how Tera brings people together, and how she never gives up when the future for our kids and our climate is on the line.

“She’s OLCV’s first 2020 endorsement for a reason—she’s an extraordinary person and a strong progressive leader who will make our city proud and the future brighter for all.”

OLCV is a big player in Oregon politics. Since its founding in 1972, the group has been active at the local and state levels, issuing endorsements and scorecards that hold elected officials accountable. OLCV also spent more than $1 million on campaigns in 2018, putting it in the big leagues of advocacy organizations.

On its website, OLCV describes its endorsement process:

“Any candidate seeking an OLCV endorsement—from someone running for a local water district board to someone running for state Senate—must first fill out a comprehensive questionnaire,” OLCV says. “Following review of the questionnaire, OLCV conducts face-to-face interviews with each candidate. We consider each candidate’s environmental record (if they have one) and their level of commitment to protecting Oregon’s environmental legacy. We also endeavour to determine if they are a serious contender for the office they are seeking.”

There are certainly a number of serious contenders in the race to replace Fish, who died Jan. 2 of stomach cancer.

It’s a field that includes former two-term Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith; current Metro Councillor Sam Chase, who is in his second term; Margot Black, a leading tenants’ rights activist; and environmental activist Julia DeGraw, who challenged Fish in 2018, getting 33 percent of the vote.

DeGraw, who has worked on environmental issues for 15 years, including leading opposition to the siting of a Nestle bottled water plant near Cascade Locks, says she’s worked closely with OLCV and was surprised to get a call today telling her the group had decided to endorse Hurst without a process.

“It’s disappointing,” DeGraw says. “I would have hoped for a more transparent and democratic process. But it’s not just about me, it’s about everybody in the race.”

Chase who served as Fish’s chief of staff from 2008 to 2010 before winning election to Metro, says he’s also disappointed.

“They did not contact me, provide any opportunity to present my vision for Portland, or review my lifelong record of commitment to protecting our environment and climate—which frankly stands up to any elected official in our region,” Chase says.

Moore, the OLCV executive director, says his group’s decision was unusual but not meant to slight other candidates. He says OLCV did ask ask Hurst to complete a questionnaire and an interview but gave no other candidates that opportunity.

“This is the rare instance when you have somebody who’s a climate champion and would be a game changer in City Hall, so we decided to move right away,” Moore says.

This is the second time Hurst has been the beneficiary of an interest-group organization without an interview process. She’s also been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, where she holds a seat on the board.

Related: In Crowded Race to Replace Nick Fish, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Endorses One of its Own Board Members Without Interviewing Other Candidates

“I am very proud and honored to have both these organizations in my corner,” Hurst tells WW. “I have proven myself to be a tireless advocate for these issues I care deeply about and have a long track record with them. I will continue to fight to address the climate crisis we face as a central part of my work on the Portland City Council. I am extremely proud of the endorsement from OLCV and believe that I deserve it based on my long record of leadership and activism at the forefront of this movement in Oregon.”