Portland Mayor Kate Snyder won’t be seeking re-election in 2023, but it’s still too early to know who might replace her given that a proposed overhaul to the structure of city government is likely to be a deciding factor in the race.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder has decided not to seek re-election in 2023. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

On Tuesday, one day after Snyder announced her plans, several city councilors and other current and former officials said that whether voters approve a Portland Charter Commission proposal to strengthen the mayor’s job – or reject it – is likely to determine the city’s next mayor.

“Who might run to replace her? I don’t think any candidate can fully answer that question until the voters exercise their choice as to what kind of government they want in the November election,” said City Councilor Mark Dion.


The charter commission’s proposal, which voters will weigh in on this November, would dramatically alter the mayor’s job, giving that person authority to nominate department heads, veto council ordinances, take the lead on budget development and issue executive orders.

The current city manager would be replaced by a “chief administrator” who would report to the mayor rather than the council. The mayor would no longer be a member of the council, which would expand from nine members to 12. The council would also have the power to censure or remove the mayor with a super-majority vote.


Some officials said Tuesday that the magnitude of such changes would make it hard for anyone to declare their intention to run for office without first knowing whether the changes will be in place.

“For me, it would be very important to know the job description before applying for the job,” Snyder said in a text message Tuesday.

“So much of the job description is dependent on the outcome of the November election,” said City Councilor Roberto Rodriguez. “I imagine that just like any other job a clear description of the role would be important to anyone running.”

Pat Washburn, who served on the charter commission, agreed it may be too early for candidates to step forward.

“Certainly if I were considering running for the job I would want to get (the job description) sorted first,” Washburn said.

She said there are “always rumors” about who might want to run for mayor, but it’s too early for there to be any truth behind them.


“I think we’ve created in our proposal a mayor’s job that would be more fun and more interesting than the current role, so I’m looking forward to some good people running for that spot and a good conversation coming out of it,” she said.


Rodriguez, one of three at-large councilors, said he hasn’t thought about running for mayor. City Councilor April Fournier, also at-large, did not respond to a phone or text message Tuesday.

Pious Ali, also at-large and the longest-tenured councilor, also did not respond to a phone message or email Tuesday asking if he is considering a run.

When asked who might run, Dion said it’s too early to talk about the race. Councilor Andrew Zarro agreed.

“I think my initial reaction is it’s far too soon,” Zarro said. “The election is next November. It’s over a year away and we have no idea what will happen this November with the charter commission.”


Former Mayor Ethan Strimling, who lost to Snyder in a four-way race in 2019, said in an email that he thinks it’s too early for anyone to declare their candidacy.

Strimling, who supports the charter commission’s proposal, said he is focused on helping to defeat Question A and passing Questions B, C, D and the eight charter recommendations. Question A would ban corporate owners from registering short-term rentals in the city and includes protections for current short-term rental operators.

“As a package, these 11 initiatives will confront income inequality and infuse our city with a more representative and democratic government,” Strimling said. “We have a real chance to make this city much more livable for everyone on November 8th and every ounce of volunteer time I have is focused on these vital changes.”

School board Chair Emily Figdor said she is not considering a run for mayor and is focused on the board’s work.

“We have a big year ahead, with Question 5 (for school board budget autonomy) on the ballot this fall to strengthen our schools, the superintendent transition, and all of our work to implement the Portland Promise so that we can provide an equitable education to all children in Portland,” Figdor said in an email Tuesday.

Michael Kebede, who chaired the charter commission, also said he is not considering a run for mayor. “Running for mayor – or any other office – isn’t something I’m considering,” Kebede said in a text message.



Kebede said Monday he didn’t think Snyder’s announcement will have an impact on how voters perceive the commission’s proposal. He said it makes sense that someone who ran for the job the way it’s currently structured wouldn’t want to as it’s described in the proposal.

But some officials Tuesday said they aren’t sure what impact Snyder’s announcement might have on voters.

“I don’t know how the electorate will calculate things, but I think they’ll agree she’s speaking from a very objective position and she’s not trying to advance a personal agenda,” Dion said.

He said supporters of the charter commission’s proposal may not agree with Snyder, who has said she opposes it and doesn’t think it’s the right fit for Portland, but they won’t be able to “go off track and say this is about advancing her personal position.”

“How people view the proposals is up to individual voters, but I daresay she will be able to enter that debate with complete integrity … making herself as neutral a commentator as possible on the charter,” Dion said.

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