Ted Wheeler has won a second term as Portland’s mayor.
Unofficial results Tuesday evening show Wheeler leading against his opponent, community activist and political newcomer Sarah Iannarone. Wheeler will be the city’s first two-term mayor in two decades.
“I want to thank the voters of Portland for the opportunity to continue serving as your mayor," Wheeler said in a two-minute press conference held after 11 p.m., with results showing him holding onto his lead. “This has not been an easy year for any of us, and I know that many of you are frustrated with the direction of our city.”
“When all the votes are counted we must all work together to overcome challenges facing both our city and the nation,” he said.
Wheeler took only one question from the press. He was asked if he’d reached out to Iannarone’s campaign. He said he hadn’t yet had the chance.
Around 10 p.m., Iannarone’s campaign put out a statement saying the team was headed to bed.
“Let the results continue to roll in, and make sure that every vote is counted in this election,” she wrote.
“This campaign was always about tactical optimism — the belief that in our darkest hours, we have to believe in and see the path to making the world better,” she wrote. “I’m exercising my tactical optimism now, in the hopes that soon the votes will be counted and I’ll be elected as your next Mayor.”
The third batch of results showed Wheeler holding onto his lead of nearly 19,000 votes. According to Multnomah County’s election division, there were 20,000 votes left to count late Tuesday night.
Approximately 13% of returns were votes for write-in candidates, which included community activist Teressa Raiford.
The race had been closer than expected with recent polling showing Wheeler and Iannarone running neck-in-neck.
Related: OPB’s 2020 election coverage, ballot guide and results
Widely criticized for his handling of racial justice protests, Wheeler had struggled to hold on to the support he had earlier in the spring. In the May primary, Wheeler had captured just shy of 50% of the vote, forcing him into a runoff with Iannarone, who had received 24%. Months of protests upended both campaigns. With Wheeler’s support plummeting, Iannarone pitched herself as a progressive alternative who pledged to rein in the force on display by police at the nearly nightly protests.
Results early Wednesday show Wheeler falling short of majority support from Portland voters, but maintaining a lead over Iannarone. His campaign had revolved around a promise of stability, offering “committed leadership” to a city in the throes of a public health crisis, a recession and months of protests. He pledged to continue working on the issues he vowed to tackle when he first won office — affordable housing and homelessness — and to continue steering the city through its multiple crises.
Iannarone, meanwhile, had argued the mayor was bogged down in status-quo thinking and promised to chart a new course for the city. She maintained the city needed to go further in cutting funding for the police and curtailing greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change. She vowed to end the practice of homeless camp sweeps and hand over the police bureau to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who had been asking Wheeler for control for months. In the final week of the race, Hardesty decided to back Iannarone, whom she called “the people-powered candidate,” after having endorsed Wheeler in the primary.
The two candidates had launched starkly different campaigns. Iannarone had campaigned aggressively against Wheeler for over a year, fueled by money from the city’s new public campaign financing program, in which small-dollar donations are matched 6-to-1 by city money. She ultimately maxed out of the program after receiving nearly 7,000 small donations.
Wheeler, meanwhile, had hardly campaigned until the final stretch of the race. In the last two months, the mayor brought on a new campaign manager and decided to put $150,000 of his own money into the campaign. A group of business, labor and environmental groups formed a coalition to pour more money into the race on his behalf as Election Day neared, releasing attack ads against Iannarone that focused on her penchant for tweeting and her statements that she was an “everyday antifascist.”
Some voters Tuesday chose to write in a third candidate: Teressa Raiford. Supporters of Raiford, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and founder of nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland, had launched a robust campaign to get her elected — though Raiford often said she, herself, wasn’t actively campaigning. Like Iannarone, Raiford’s platform was far to the left of Wheeler’s.