In a stunning upset, bookseller and housing activist Chloe Eudaly has won a seat on Portland’s city council, defeating incumbent city commissioner Steve Novick.
Eudaly was among nine people who challenged Novick in the May primary. She won just over 15 percent of the vote, advancing to the general election.
Eudaly raised just $85,000, a small fraction of the $422,000 Novick raised.
But Eudaly built a strong grassroots campaign tapping into the fear and frustration of Portland residents displaced by rapidly rising rents and home prices. She earned endorsements from Willamette Week, the Portland Mercury, and former Mayor Tom Potter.
"I'm scrappy and resourceful. I come from a very grassroots do it yourself background, so we were able to make those dollars stretch farther than a candidate running a typical campaign," she said. "We were out connecting with individuals, and not courting a relative few big money donors."
She has vowed to call for an immediate rent freeze and an end to no-cause evictions.
She is also an advocate for rent control, a policy the city could pursue if the state Legislature lifts a prohibition on the practice in its upcoming session.
“I think a combination of 3 percent or more, plus some kind of metric like the consumer price index would be a reasonable place to start,” she told Think Out Loud host Dave Miller in an interview in October.
Eudaly's campaign manager, Marshall Runkel, pointed to several factors to explain her success. He called the campaign a testament to the power of social media, and facebook in particular.
Edualy became a political figure in Portland in part through a Facebook group she created, known as "The Shed," as a place for people to share stories about their struggles in the rental market.
Runkel also pointed to Eudaly's sincerity and authentic voice, and to their effort to reach voters in East Portland. "There's people who want to be heard out there, and want to be part of the city. That's a big part of what we've signed up to do," Runkel said.
Eudaly, 46, grew up in Portland. She’s owned and run an independent bookstore, Reading Frenzy, for more than 20 years. This was her first time seeking elected office.
Eudaly will be the eighth woman to serve on Portland’s city council. She is the first challenger to unseat an incumbent on the council in more than 20 years.
Commissioner Steve Novick conceded he'd lost the race just a few minutes after 8 pm, as the first returns came in. He thanked his staff, and congradulated Eudaly for a "fiesty" campaign.
"I have to tell you, when the Cubs won, I worried," he said. "If the cubs can win after 108 years, the idea of breaking a streak since 1992, when no city commissioner has lost re-election, that pales in comparison," he said.
In his time on the city council, Novick faced criticism for flippant comments and for appearing disengaged at times.
After he failed to win the 50 percent he needed in May to avoid a run-off, Novick raised close to $400,000 to defend his seat. He ran a campaign that was equal parts apology tour and celebration of his record as transportation commissioner.
"My loosing is a classic example of the old saw, you never get a second chance to make a first impression," Novick said.
Novick thanked voters for passing a gas tax to fund street repairs, one of his priorities, in the May primary. Then, the commissioner, who has previously served as a political advisor to a wide range of democratic causes, said his mind was on the presidential race.
"It's hard to care very much what's happening to me, given what might be happening to the country," he said.