The establishment had a good night last night in Portland politics and the outlook for serious transportation reform took a hit as voters opted for a shift to the center.
Metro’s $5 billion funding measure lost by 14 points, earning just 43% support. Incumbent City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly was unseated handily by newcomer Mingus Mapps, Ted Wheeler beat Sarah Iannarone by under 20,000 votes, and the race for Metro Council District 5 wasn’t even close with veteran Democrat establishment politician Mary Nolan beating policy wonk Chris Smith 62% to 37%.
Here’s a bit more about the key races we were watching…
Local transportation advocacy insiders spent well over three years debating and crafting a regional funding measure that would be bold enough to move the needle, yet be palatable enough to actually pass. The “Get Moving 2020” package was ultimately developed by a very large and diverse coalition of interest groups. Unfortunately it failed to generate widespread enthusiasm — with people on the right and left of the political spectrum finding reasons to vote against it. Many transportation activists were disappointed the package didn’t do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and were skeptical of spending $1 billion on a new MAX line that doesn’t do enough to discourage driving. At the same time, business interests (falsely) claimed the tax would hurt businesses already struggling due to the pandemic. Nike and Intel spent record amounts to defeat the measure.
This is a big blow to Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. In a statement last night she said she was “disappointed”. “An incredible amount of community work, over the course of years, went into shaping the projects and programs in this measure… We are not giving up on it. We need to move forward as a region. We’re going to keep growing. Safe, reliable transportation remains a regional challenge that we must address together – doing nothing is not an option.”
On Twitter last night, PBOT said work on the measure won’t be for nothing: “The project list and outreach through this effort set us up to compete well in the event of federal investment in economic stimulus.”
Wheeler gets second term
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler squeaked out a win with less than 50% of the vote, beating Sarah Iannarone by 5 points. With just over 80% of all votes tallied, Wheeler has just less than 20,000 more votes than Iannarone. Write-in candidates — a majority of which likely went to racial justice activist Teressa Raiford — received 13%, or about 46,000 votes.
Wheeler’s re-election makes him the first two-term Mayor in twenty years. He fought off months of severe criticisms over his handling of the nightly protests and an impressive grassroots campaign from Iannarone, a relative newcomer who has never held public office. Iannarone, who gets around primarily on an electric bike, is a member of the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee, and who enjoyed major support from biking, walking and transit activists, wasn’t able to expand her support in precincts west of the Willamette River or in outer east Portland.
Metro District 5 (N/NE Portland)
Few local leaders and policymakers are as well-liked in transportation circles as Chris Smith. He ran an inspiring campaign but in the end failed to win any precincts and garnered only 37% of the vote. Smith ran a campaign fueled by small donors and promised to make climate change his raison d’etre. “We got to run exactly the type of campaign we wanted to run,” Smith said last night during a Facebook Live campaign event. “I wanted to test the idea that climate could be a winning local issue and the second big thing was that we didn’t want to take big money to make it work.”
Mary Nolan is an experienced politician with a network of high-dollar donors. She received funding from realtor and fracked gas lobbyists, has supported freeway expansions, and said during a debate last month that it’s time to “reconsider” the urban growth boundary.
What are your takeaways from last night?
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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