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Portland: Largest US city with openly gay mayor

Adams_suit_2By MARY HUDETZ, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland became the nation's largest city with an openly gay mayor Thursday as a longtime City Hall insider took the oath of office.

Sam Adams, 45, was sworn into office at 12:01 a.m. New Year's Day at City Hall during a ceremony attended by a crowd of about 40 that included his mother and his partner.

Adams won the job seven months ago in a primary race by capturing 58 percent of the vote and therefore negating the need for a runoff election.

None of Adams' opponents raised his sexuality in the race. Neither did he.

"This is a testament to how fair-minded Portlanders are that it wasn't an issue," Adams said. "I spend my time on the basic issues of life. A part of that includes equal rights, but that's not even close to a majority of the time."

Adams grew up in a working-class household that he said was at times dependent on food stamps and subsidized housing. Just as being a gay man drives much of his political activism, he said, his working-class background influences his ambitions as mayor.

"My passions for public service includes promoting social justice equality for all, but it obviously also includes finding good jobs for people, which is also part of my family's background of not being able to always have economic security," he said. "Being gay is part of me, so is being Irish-American, so is being from a small Oregon town."

Adams served 11 years as chief of staff to Mayor Vera Katz and was elected in 2004 to the City Council.

The new mayor said he and other city officials have so far requested $880 million in federal funds for dozens of "shovel-ready" projects to improve parks, roads and the water system in Portland, which has a population of about 575,000.

In two weeks, the city plans to announce a job stimulus package, he said, though he declined to give details.

"What I've found is in each of those recessions is government falls prey to the national frailty," he said. "What's also frustrating is it's happening at the very time when government is needed most."

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