The Survivor: Sam Adams

During a performance at L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl last September by Portland, Ore.–based Pink Martini, out pianist and front man Thomas Lauderdale referenced Mayor Sam Adams as one of the things that makes his famously quirky hometown so famously quirky. And many in the audience, familiar with the ongoing saga of the embattled gay official, applauded. However, sentiment among Portland residents themselves with regard to Adams is decidedly mixed.

Adams ushered in 2009 with a bang, being sworn in at 12:01 a.m., January 1, and making Portland the largest U.S. city ever to be presided over by an openly gay mayor. However, by the time Barack Obama had been sworn in as president on January 20, Adams had admitted to an affair with an intern named Beau Breedlove in 2005, a relationship Adams insists didn’t become sexual until Breedlove turned 18. During the mayoral race, candidate Adams had denied a sexual component to the relationship at all when faced with a smear campaign by an opponent, so with his belated confession came calls from many quarters, both gay and straight, for his resignation.

“I should have been honest at the time when this first surfaced in 2007,” Adams told Willamette Week. “But I didn’t believe that given the way that rumors were being spread—about whether I had broken the law by having sex with a minor—that people would believe me.”

Despite doubts on the part of many, a Facebook page supporting the mayor boasted almost 3,400 members as of October. “[Adams] made a mistake when he lied about the relationship to the public,” the page reads. “But this mistake does not warrant the resignation of a committed public servant.”

Oregon attorney general John Kroger launched an investigation to determine whether Adams had a sexual relationship with a minor, but by January’s end, Adams had decided to stay in office, telling he was well aware he’d upset many residents: “I totally understand why they’re angry. I’ve let them down. The best thing I can do right now is to work at trying to make amends by serving the people of Portland.”

Adams’s instincts were on target. In June, Kroger concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Adams. And a recall effort fell far short of obtaining the necessary number of signatures to qualify the issue for the November ballot. “Portlanders are fair-minded people, and I’m very grateful for their support,” Adams told The Advocate. “What I’m most concerned with now is the city’s growing unemployment rate and growing high school dropout rate, plus keeping Portland the greenest city in the U.S.”