A Runoff For Portland Mayor's Seat Looking Likely With Latest Returns

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB) and Lauren Dake (OPB)
Portland, Ore. May 20, 2020 8:54 p.m.

UPDATE (6:50 p.m. PT) — It's looking like Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler may be forced into a runoff against his leading opponent, Sarah Iannarone.


At 5 p.m., the Oregonian/OregonLive officially declared Iannarone, a community organizer, will be in a runoff against the mayor for the general election.

That was after the latest return from the Multnomah County Elections Division, which has been continuing to count votes the day after the primary. According to the division, they finished reporting the bulk of their votes around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

To avoid a runoff, Wheeler needed to claim just over 50% of the vote. He started Tuesday night at 8 p.m. with 51.47% of the vote. But the lead gradually dropped with each update from the Elections Division. The last returns from the county election office issued Wednesday had Wheeler at 49.38% and Iannarone at 23.85%.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Iannarone's campaign released a statement, saying she believed she'd officially forced a runoff.

"We are confident that we have everything we need to succeed in November when voter turnout will likely be much higher, the incumbent is forced to adhere to campaign finance laws, and many of the benefits he gained from pandemic begin to fade," the campaign statement said.

Iannarone told OPB she would be celebrating the apparent runoff by sleeping, something she said she struggled to do the night before with the mayor hanging so close to 50% threshold.

The mayor's campaign released a statement of its own Wednesday evening, expressing disappointment at falling just short of the majority, but pointing out the mayor enjoyed the largest vote total by far.

"We will finish this primary with a significant margin over any other candidate and will continue to monitor the returns as they are finalized in the next few days," Wheeler's campaign said.

While the mayor sat through a stacked day at City Hall as results were being tallied, Iannarone said she was choosing to spend the day with her daughter, declining to constantly refresh the state’s election page.

When Iannarone ran against Wheeler in 2016, she captured 12% of the vote. This time, with an earlier start and a more aggressive campaign, she saw a bump of about 11 percentage points. But Iannarone said she’s pleased with the results as they stand so far.

“Despite the narrow margin, we accomplished something really big here, which is forcing a runoff when all the conditions favor an incumbent,” she said.

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Iannarone said she suspects she’ll have more advantages campaigning for the November general election compared with the primary: more name recognition, fewer candidates and the ability to immediately qualify for public campaign financing. Plus, she said she’s hoping to appeal to supporters of her opponents who are now out of the running.


Sustainability consultant Ozzie Gonzalez, community activist Teressa Raiford and businessman Bruce Broussard took more than 15% percent of the vote combined. Wheeler told OPB Tuesday night he had expected a runoff was a very possible outcome.

“With 19 candidates in the race, one would expect there would be a runoff,” he said.

With Wheeler hovering close to the 50% threshold, there’s a possibility the county will ask for a recount. According to the city auditor’s office, the county would issue an automatic recount if Wheeler comes above or below the 50% threshold by less than one-fifth of 1%. If the margin is greater, a candidate could potentially demand a full or partial recount, though they would have to pay for at least part of it.

Council races head to runoffs 

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly will face political scientist Mingus Mapps in a November runoff.

Eudaly captured 31.3% of the vote as of Wednesday, with former city employee and political scientist Mapps at 28.5% and former Mayor Sam Adams trailing both of them with 27.7%.

When Eudaly first ran for office four years ago, she became the first challenger to defeat an incumbent on the Portland City Council in 24 years by promising to champion tenants and limit rent hikes. But Eudaly proved to be a divisive figure, often feuding with colleagues and the public.

Both Adams, who was hoping to mount a political comeback, and Mapps, who briefly worked for the city in an agency overseen by Eudaly, have deep ties with the city.

Mapps, citing his work with neighborhood associations, has promised to be a more diplomatic presence on the Council.

In the race to occupy the seat formerly held by Portland Commissioner Nick Fish, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith will face former educational nonprofit executive Dan Ryan in an August runoff.

The field of 18 candidates vying to fill the remainder of Fish’s term was narrowed to Smith and Ryan on Wednesday. A runoff will be held Aug. 11 and the winner will hold the seat until 2022.

Both Smith, who captured 18.8% of the vote as of Wednesday evening, and Ryan, with 16.6%, are familiar names in the region.

Smith worked for Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden for more than two decades. She served on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners starting in 2010 and served until she was forced to leave her position due to term limits at the end of 2018. She also ran for City Council in 2018, but lost to Jo Ann Hardesty.

Ryan oversaw the educational nonprofit All Hands Raised for 11 years and is a former Portland Public Schools Board member. He is also a Portland native and the first openly HIV-positive candidate for council.

Tera Hurst, former chief of staff to former Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and executive of Renew Oregon, came in third with 14.8% of the vote.

Fish, who served under four Portland mayors, died of stomach cancer in January, one day after stepping down from office. He was considered an empathetic, consensus-building public servant.

One race on the City Council was won outright on Tuesday night: Carmen Rubio will occupy the seat currently held by Commissioner Amanda Fritz. Rubio, who has long served as the director of the Latino Network nonprofit, and as an aide to a mayor and a city commissioner, is the first Latina to win a seat on the Council.