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Sharon Meieran has the second-highest vote count behind Jessica Vega Pederson. A November runoff appears likely.

COURTESY PHOTO - Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega PedersonThe race for Multnomah County chair appears likely to be heading to a runoff election.

Jessica Vega Pederson is leading the race with 40% of the vote, according to unofficial voting results updated Wednesday morning.

Sharon Meieran currently has the second-highest vote percentage with 19%.

Sharia Mayfield and Lori Stegmann have 15% and 13% of the vote, respectively.

Two other candidates, Bruce Broussard and Joe Demers, currently have 7% and 5% of the vote, respectively.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will move on to a runoff election in November.

It's the first statewide election in which ballots mailed and postmarked by election day will count, as long as elections offices receive them no later than May 24. Elections officials say it may take days or even weeks before close races can be called.

Whoever becomes chair will need to respond to an ongoing homelessness crisis. All four leading candidates have said they would focus on the issue urgently if elected. Meieran, Vega Pederson and Stegmann all currently serve on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. Mayfield is an employment discrimination lawyer and adjunct law professor at Willamette University.

Meieran has been trying to set herself apart in the race by sounding an alarm, saying the county has not moved quickly enough to address homelessness despite receiving unprecedented local funding to do so.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Commissioner Sharon Meieran hugs supporters this evening after early results indicated her advancing to a general election runoff against fellow commissioner, Jessica Vega Pederson, for Multnomah County Chair.While she supports resources being used to place people in permanent supportive housing, she also advocates for a greater focus on sheltering people more immediately. She has said leaders need to "stop the bleeding," referring to large numbers of people living in encampments in public spaces.

An emergency room doctor, Meieran also wants to see more funding focused on providing behavioral health treatment to homeless people.

She has been endorsed by the Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC, the Oregon Nurses Association and the Public Safety Action Coalition.

Vega Pederson has proposed convening a regional collaboration of local and state leaders to coordinate their responses to the problem, which she says is her top priority. She has outlined an approach that combines rent assistance and other measures to ensure people stay housed, expanding shelter capacity and increasing placements in permanent supportive housing.

"I'm honored to have the chance to prove to Multnomah County voters that I'm the best person to lead us forward," Vega Pederson said via Twitter Wednesday morning. "Our work is far from done."

The East Portland resident, former state legislator and tech sector worker, emphasized her work on Multnomah County's Preschool for All measure, legislation to transition the state's energy mix away from coal, raising minimum wages and access to reproductive health care.

A coalition of labor unions, as well as organizations such as Pro-Choice Oregon, the Latino Network Action Fund and the Portland Association of Teachers, have endorsed Vega Pederson.

Mayfield, an employment discrimination lawyer and adjunct law professor at Willamette University, also has been critical of the county's response to homelessness. She has said her opponents currently serving on the county board haven't done enough to address the problem. She has proposed multiple short-term measures such as creating sanctioned camping zones to reduce camping in public spaces and wants to see more resources dedicated to mental health and addiction treatments.

Stegmann's approach to the issue has focused on building people's economic stability, particularly for low-income families, people of color and East County residents.

Broussard is a talk show host and retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has run for office in multiple recent Portland area elections.

Whoever wins the election will replace current Chair Deborah Kafoury, who is term-limited.

Read more about the candidates' policy proposals here.

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