Portland’s defund the police commissioner, Jo Ann Hardesty, reportedly was ousted during Tuesday’s election by challenging political newcomer Rene Gonzalez.
Hardesty, a staunch progressive, conceded to lifelong Democrat Gonzalez on Wednesday.
“Earlier today, I offered my congratulations to Mr. Rene Gonzalez,” Hardesty said in a statement provided to KOIN by campaign manager Joseph Santos-Lyons. “I wished him well in his new role.”
“Comm. Hardesty just called to congratulate & wish me luck in my new role,” Rene for Portland also tweeted. “I want to thank her for her service to the city. Will have more news on celebration & transition soon, but do want to thank staff, donors, vols & my family for all the help.”
“Time to restore Portland!” Gonzalez’s campaign added.
Hardesty, a leader of the local defund the police movement who galvanized Portland voters in 2020 to approve a ballot measure for a new civilian-run police oversight board, failed to resonate with the public’s since shifting concerns over public safety amid Portland’s surging violent crime and prolific homelessness encampments.
Last week, Hardesty, the first Black woman to serve on City Council, was the sole commissioner to vote against a resolution to create at least three large, designated campsites and ban the rest of the roughly 700 encampments currently scattered across the city. The proposal says more than 3,000 people are homeless in Portland, a 50% jump from 2019.
“I am proud of the values we represented and the accomplishments we brought to life in Portland,” Hardesty told supporters after she conceded on Wednesday, according to The Oregonian. “My hope going forward is that our city will be a place where people of all backgrounds can thrive, where no one is scapegoated because they are poor. This place we call home is suffering.”
Gonzalez, a 48-year-old manager for both a law firm and a software company, campaigned as a centrist supporting law and order and dedicated to restoring livability in the city his family has called home for five generations.
A parent, Gonzalez also co-founded the group ED 300, which advocated for the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to KATU. In the campaign, he also reportedly pushed for the city to recognize that addiction and mental health problems are also factors driving the homelessness crisis.
Hardesty’s longstanding criticism of the Portland Police Bureau began to be viewed as out of touch.
“She became the voice of change, and the voice of frustration with especially the police department here in Portland, and that made her a target because remember, there’s a lot of people who say the problem isn’t with the police, the problem is with the protesters and with people who don’t express themselves right,” KATU political analyst Jim Moore said. “And other people say, no, the police are the problem. Clearly, in this race, the argument was won by the police are doing the right thing.”
As city commissioner, Hardesty oversees Portland Fire & Rescue and the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
She was also assigned to run the since dysfunction-plagued Office of Community & Civic Life, which handles a range of responsibilities in Portland’s city government, including handling cannabis tax refunds and a “racial equity plan” with “social justice goals” aimed at addressing “systemic racism” and encouraging development within Black, indigenous, people of color, immigrant, and refugee communities, according to its website.
In the final weeks before the election, Portland Accountability PAC, an outside political group bankrolled by business and downtown property owners, spent six figures on bolstering Hardesty’s challenger.