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Mayor Ted Wheeler claimed victory late Tuesday night with early returns showing him leading challenger Sarah Iannarone by 47% to 41%, with another 12% for write-in candidates.
"I want to thank the voters of Portland for the opportunity to continue serving as their mayor," Wheeler said, reaching out to Iannarone and her supporters, who he said have "passionately pushed forward important ideas."
Despite trailing, Iannarone refused to concede Tuesday night, saying, "Ted Wheeler and I share a belief in democracy, in listening to the will of the voters. Despite the heated rhetoric of this campaign, I believe Ted Wheeler is a good human being, and I believe history will remember his many good works as Mayor, even as he has admitted some failings. If Ted wins, we will continue to hold Mayor Wheeler accountable, because we are a city that demands forward progress on the issues of our time, no matter who is in power. And just as I held Mayor Wheeler accountable as a private citizen and then as a political opponent, if I win, I know he will hold me accountable when I make mistakes."
The campaign has been bitter by Portland standards. Iannarone has accused Wheeler, who is also the Police Commissioner, of allowing police to tear gas and assault peaceful protesters. Wheeler has accused Iannarone of tolerating, if not encouraging, violence during some of the protests.
Throughout the race, Wheeler and Iannorane have presented starkly different versions of the city's condition throughout the campaign. Both admit Portland is facing unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the recession that it triggered, and the racial justice movement that swept the county after the death of George Floyd. Wheeler has said he and the City Council know what needs to be done to address the isses and are making progress on them; Iannarone claims his policies are not working and must be changed.
Among other things, Iannarone has promised to assign the Portland Police Bureau to Jo Ann Hardesty, the Black commissioner and longtime civil rights activist, who is pressing the council to cut its budget by an additional million this year. Wheeler said that as the top elected official in the city, the mayor should be the commissioner and the $15 million already cut from the bureau budget earlier this year is enough for now.
Despite their other disagreements, Wheeler and Iannarone both said they favor changing Portland's form of government by no longer having council members manage bureaus, hiring a city manager, increasing the council's size, and electing some members by districts and some citywide.
Iannarone is funding her campaign through the city's new Open & Accountable public financing program that matches small contributions on 6-to-1 basis. As of election day, she had raised $296,061 in contributions and received $773,854 in matching funds.
Wheeler is funding his campaign through private contributions. On April 23, less than a month before the May 19 primary election, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved campaign contribution limit that had been on hold. Wheeler said he would begin complying with the $500 limit but has repeatedly been fined by the City Auditor's Office for exceeding it by accepting contributions from donations who gave before the court ruling that, when added together, exceed $500. Wheeler has said that is not fair and challenged the fines in court. Wheeler also contributed $150,000 to his own campaign after the auditor's office said it believes it is unconstutitional to limit personal contributions from candidates. The audiotr's office upheld that decision on eelction day.
Wheeler has reported raising $521,082 this year by election day.
An independent committee called United for Portland was formed on Oct. 12 to support Wheeler. It reported raising by election day.
Wheeler was forced into a runoff election when he failed to received just under the 50%-plus-one vote needed to win the race outright in the primary. Iannarone received 24%. Supporters of the third-place candidate,Black civil rights activist Teressa Raiford, are running a write-in campaign for her.
Several recent polls show a majority of Portland voters disapprove of the job Wheeler is doing as mayor, including his handling of the ongoing political protests. A poll conducted in mid-September by DHM Research showed Iannarone leading Wheeler by 11 points but with less than 50% of the vote. The poll was conducted for the Portland Business Alliance and had Iannarone with 41%, Wheeler with 30%, and the remaining 29% of surveyed voters split between writing in a candidate (16%) or still undecided (13%).
A later DHM Research poll commissioned by Oregon Public Broadcasting showed the race virtually tied with Iannarone at 34% and Wheeler at 33%. Six percent said they are going to write in Black activist Teressa Raiford. The poll was taken between Oct. 7 and Oct. 11.
Wheeler served as Multnomah County Chair and Oregon State Treasurer before being elected mayor at the May 2016 primary election with 55% of the vote. Former state legislator Jules Bailey came in second with 17%, and Iannarone finished third with 12%.
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