Today, in his first formal press conference, Portland resident Jessie Sponberg announced a last-minute write-in campaign to be the next Multnomah County Sheriff. The incumbent, Daniel Staton, was previously running unopposed. Sponberg is counting on word of mouth and the Internet to inform voters that there is an alternative to the embattled Sheriff.
Wednesday’s press conference was an energetic, if small affair. A committed group of Portlanders, perhaps 20 or so, gathered at the Multnomah Building, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd, to hear Sponberg formally announce his bid to take the office of Sheriff from Staton. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s offices are housed in the Multnomah Building and the devoted attendees were there with Sponberg to challenge power where it lives. Noise from busses and other traffic occasionally drowned out the speech, but the energy was unstoppable. A few passersby from inside the building stopped to see what was afoot, though none stuck around for too long.
Sponberg stated that, if elected, his first project as Sherriff would be to perform an audit of the county jail system to see that Portland is well-served by its county corrections facilities. It has been reported that the Multnomah County Corrections Deputies Association (MCCDA) was unable to muster a vote of support for its current boss, Staton, as he has been an absentee Sheriff as far as their department is concerned. Working conditions in county corrections facilities are said to be the worst they’ve ever been.
The driving force behind the campaign is a desire to stop using public resources to enforce foreclosures on behalf of wealthy banks. According to Sponberg, under current conditions, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office is known to sneak up on Portland homes unaware, at odd times of the night or day, and raid them with automatic weapons drawn. Such paramilitary tactics on nonviolent debtors is something Sponberg sees as anathema to the mission of a Sheriff. He sees the duty of a Sheriff to work to protect citizens from these tactics, which he characterizes as bullying and unwarranted.
Since law enforcement is often the middle man between a foreclosed home and its bank, Sponberg hopes to use that leverage to force banks to negotiate in good faith with homeowners. He sees the foreclosure process as an instrument of class warfare being enacted against the common people at the behest of the ruling elite. This non-authoritarian approach is unheard of in the modern United States and Sponberg’s position towards foreclosure enforcement is a bold one. It is unknown how a bank will respond to his refusal to raid homes, but time will tell if and when Sponberg’s write-in campaign is successful. Portland has been a proving ground for many cutting edge and progressive ideas, so the Sheriff experiment may be welcomed by a populace known for nuanced and offbeat thinking.
In interview, Sponberg’s energy is palpable. He believes in what he is doing. He is plain-spoken and authentic. His press conference was dotted with colorful language and a shoot-from-the-hip approach which was unscripted and the sort of performance one can only see one time. No matter how the words came out, the direction came through in a clear and articulate voice. He used language like ″from the heart″ and that sums up the marrow of the campaign so far. Sponberg is not soliciting donations, as Staton is, nor does he seem to be actively seeking endorsement, though he may approach the MCCDA.
When asked how he would face a department full of law enforcement professionals when he enters as an outsider, Sponberg emphasized that, ″I can win them over.″ He has been candid in stating that he is not qualified to be Sheriff, but that he would seek out competent advisors who could help explain the aspects of the job he doesn’t understand. This sort of brazen honesty is not common in politicians, but the confidence to succeed is. In his view, the incumbent has not shown the ability to manage money or resources, so his ″from the heart ″approach is likely to prove effective.
As an extra incentive for voters to write him in for Sheriff, Sponberg pledges to hand over two-thirds of his salary, up to $100,000, to the cause of preventing youth violence. In his view, the Sheriff’s job is to act from a sense of duty on the behalf of the average citizen, not to accumulate wealth.
When he came to the end of his speech and made his formal announcement of his intentions to run for Sheriff, the emotion on the Hawthorne Blvd sidewalk was palpable. Ballots are due by 8pm May 20 to official drop sites or mailed with full postage to the board of elections. Sponberg did a quick run-down of his chances versus an entrenched incumbent and estimated that he needs 35,000 votes to win the seat of Multnomah County Sheriff.
By Hobie Anthony
Guardian Liberty Voice
Interview with Jessie Sponberg
Sponberg Press Conference