Stan Pulliam, 40, is serving his second term as mayor of Sandy, Oregon, his hometown of approximately 10,000 people about 27 miles east of Portland. In the crowded field of 19 people vying to become Oregon’s first Republican governor in 35 years, he remains one of the leading candidates ahead of the May 17 primary.
‘It’s not funny anymore’
On April 30, the resource-strapped Portland Police Bureau (PPB) reportedly took more than 20 minutes to respond to an emergency call after masked, black-clad members of Antifa allegedly assaulted Pulliam’s campaign event just blocks from police headquarters in downtown Portland.
By the time officers had “sufficient resources” to establish a crime scene near Southwest 3rd and Main Street, the demonstrators had already dispersed after hurling smoke grenades, paint-filled balloons and fireworks, according to police. Two were injured by “mortars,” police said.
Pulliam noted how Oregon’s largest city has gone from being somewhere he once enjoyed visiting for baseball games and Saturday markets to a place where he is afraid to take his two young daughters.
“Portland always had this slogan: ‘Keep Portland Weird,’” Pulliam said. “And that was kind of funny, and people thought it was kind of fun. But it’s not funny anymore. It’s now dangerous.”
Portland started to see a mass homelessness problem and an uptick in crime even before COVID-19, Pulliam explained, but the problems have surged in the wake of the shutdowns over the past two years.
“The homeless crisis has only grown, and of course we had the 100 nights of riots after the murder of George Floyd,” he said. “And it’s just really been chaos and mayhem ever since.”
Pulliam sees Portland’s problems as symptomatic of larger cultural issues afflicting the entire country because of widespread initiatives to defund the police and go soft on criminals. He noted how he recently drove by a local mall and saw a young kid crossing the street carrying a bunch of clothes with the tags still on them.
“He didn’t have a fear in the world on his face, because he knew if I called 911, it would be at least 20 minutes until I got an operator. It would be several hours until the police arrived, and even if they did, they would write him a citation at best.”
He placed particular blame at the feet of Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who dropped charges against hundreds of people arrested during the 2020 protests in Portland for offenses that included interfering with cops, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and rioting. Schmidt also made it more difficult to prosecute assaults on police officers.
Under Schmidt’s catch and release policies, Pulliam said Oregon finds itself “entwined in the culture of no real ramifications, from crime to street living to riots.” A spokesperson said the district attorney’s office has no comment in response to Pulliam’s assertions, though Schmidt recently said the violence and property destruction in Portland over the past year is “unacceptable” as the county hemorrhages prosecutors and its homicide rate skyrockets.
‘We fought back’
Pulliam traced his decision to jump in the race to a meeting he had with Sandy business owners a year and a half ago, when they were struggling under a second statewide COVID-19 lockdown.
“I’m mayor of my hometown of Sandy, and business owners asked me to come and meet with them,” he said. “And when I looked those folks in the eyes, those were people that I’d grown up with. Those were my classmates. Those are people whose kids go to school with mine.”
“So we made a decision that day, and we fought back,” he added.
In response to the extended emergency orders of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who is set to leave office with the highest gubernatorial disapproval ratings in the country, Pulliam sued her in federal court on behalf of Heart of Main Street, the Oregon Moms Union, as well as other people and businesses. He also took to the national stage to promote the “Open Oregon” movement in support of Oregon businesses defying the mandates.
His wife, MacKensey, started the Oregon Moms Union to advocate for getting kids back to school full-time without masks or forced COVID-19 vaccinations. Now that students have returned, their focus has shifted to keeping critical race theory and age-inappropriate sex and gender identity curriculum out of the classroom.
“So that led to this decision to really stand up for our community and our kids and run for governor,” Pulliam said, adding that addressing Portland’s “culture of criminality” has become another pillar of his platform. “And then we tried to have a little campaign event in Portland about that over the weekend, and of course, all this happens.”
‘People are tired of it’
If elected as governor, Pulliam hopes to quell the rampant lawlessness by refunding the police, tripling the size of state law enforcement and putting armed National Guard on the front lines of any unrest, which he noted Brown refused to do when Portland descended into chaos in 2020.
He also plans to deputize a small portion of Oregon State Police as U.S. marshals, which will empower them to send some criminals to federal court instead of what he described as Schmidt’s extreme, left-wing jurisdiction. He would also look to appoint a special prosecutor for state crimes as another way to circumvent Schmidt.
“What I hope you hear I’m saying is that we’re going to do whatever is at our disposal to address the culture of criminality in the City of Portland and throughout the state,” he said.
In speaking to Oregonians all over the state, which is replete with deep-red pockets of rural voters, Pulliam said the overwhelming message he receives is that “they’re sick and tired of what’s going on.” He cited studies that show more than two thirds of small businesses are looking to leave Portland. He said residents are fleeing the city in droves and young families no longer feel comfortable visiting a place that was once on the cusp of becoming a world-class destination.
“You would turn on the Food Channel or Travel Network, and you would see our chefs battling against some of the greatest chefs in the world,” Pulliam said. “We have the craft breweries and some of the greatest wines on the planet out here. This was really starting to become a place where people wanted to retire or visit to have fun in their 20s and 30s. And unfortunately, now this is a completely different place.”
“People are tired of it, and they’re ready for a new direction and leadership,” he added.