POLITICS

Jefferson Smith, Portland Mayoral Candidate, Faces Questions About Assault Charge

10/16/2012 03:54 pm ET | Updated Oct 16, 2012

The campaign of Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith continues to deal with questions after reports earlier this month that he was charged with assaulting a woman at a party while he was in college.

According to the police report from the 1993 incident, the woman told police that "he really popped me in the left eye with his closed fist," after she was woken up at a party and approached Smith. Smith told police that the victim approached him, and that while trying to keep the victim away from him, he made contact.

The victim's attorney this week released an account in which the victim says the altercation occurred after she rejected Smith's advances at a fraternity party earlier that day.

A diversion agreement was reached between the two parties in 1994, ordering Smith to cover the woman's medical expenses, pay a $250 court fee, and complete 20 hours of community service, among other conditions.

"Somebody I didn’t know was asleep on the couch. Somebody pushed her off. She came at me and started swinging at me," Smith told Willamette Week, the outlet that broke the story. "I tried to get her to stop. My memory is, I was seated on a couch. I tried to get her to stop and told her to stop. I held her wrists and she said, 'Let go of me.' I tried to push her away and obviously made contact with her, and there was an injury."

Smith is a two-term Democratic state representative and founder of The Bus Project, a non-profit organization designed to engage young people in progressive politics around Oregon.

He apologized for the incident at a news conference after the story broke and released a long statement on his Facebook page Saturday. "As vigorously as I want to defend my honor, I want to do that not by denying but by apologizing," he said in the post.

"Ultimately, I'm not asking you to trust my memory. Or my descriptions. Or even recounts of other people there. I am just asking that you trust my apology."

But it is not the only report of Smith behaving violently in his adult life. He acknowledged that he was banned from an intramural soccer league in early 2011 after pushing another player. He has also admitted to punching an opposing player during a pickup basketball game in November of last year.

Smith lost several key endorsements as a result of reports on the 1993 incident. Last Thursday, the Portland Firefighters Association and Portland Police Association pulled their support and decided not to endorse in the race.

"Our members count on us to make recommendations and, at this point in the campaign, we cannot make a strong recommendation for either candidate," the unions announced in a joint statement.

Mother PAC, a group which describes its mission as electing more pro-family candidates, also revoked its endorsement of Smith.

"When we decided to endorse Jefferson this past summer, we believed him to be the better candidate to move forward on the issues most important for Portland families. At the time, we were not aware of the events in his past that have recently come to light, or the impact those actions would have on his campaign now," the group said in a statement.

The Oregonian has endorsed Smith's opponent Charlie Hales, a former Portland City Council member. "Hales doesn't appear to punch people very often," part of the endorsements reads, "And in this race, unfortunately, that counts for something."

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