Candidates raise big bucks for PPS board positions

"It's a heckuva lot of money," Adkins said. "It's distressing to me to see that."

Students ask Portland Public Schools board members questions, May 6, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)
Students ask Portland Public Schools board members questions, May 6, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On May 19, Portlanders will vote on four school board positions, and two candidates are already raising big bucks for their campaigns.

Incumbent Bobbie Regan and Amy Kohnstamm are trying to win a school board position — a job that doesn’t pay a dime — with little funding.

“I think it’s a challenge and we see that across all politics,” Jose Gonzalez from candidate Zone 2 said. “Some say that money can buy yourself an election.”

PPS board members speak to students, May 6, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)
PPS board members speak to students, May 6, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)

Ruth Adkins is stepping down from her unpaid job as a Portland Public Schools board member. It’s a job she called extremely important and, “a huge honor and privilege to do.” But she also said it can be stressful and take a toll.

“In my ideal world we would have some form of modest public funding for school board elections so that there wasn’t this competition for fundraising,” Adkins said. “Then more people could afford to get into the race and we’d have a more diverse pool of candidates.”

So, why would someone like Kohnstamm go to the trouble of raising thousands of dollars to campaign for the zone three position? It’s a job now held by incumbent Regan, who’s built a financial arsenal of her own.

“Fortunately I’m not running against either of those two,” Gonzalez said.

According to the secretary of state’s website, Kohnstamm has raised over $101,000 so far. KOIN 6 News learned Regan has more than $93,000 set aside to help keep her Zone 3 position.

It’s kind of sad that it is coming to be such an expensive race,” Regan said. “I mean, we’re all volunteers, we all care about the community. But at the same time it’s a low turnout election, so it’s going to be important for us to communicate directly to voters.”

In comparison, Paul Anthony has raised $18,500 in his campaign to win a position in zone two. Gonzalez said he’s got somewhere between $20,000-$30,000.

“It’s a heckuva lot of money,” Adkins said. “It’s distressing to me to see that.”

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