Tuesday was a very big night for Portland.
On a night when Republicans and conservative causes overall did much worse than most pundits expected, incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is almost sure to lose her seat on Portland City Council to newcomer Rene Gonzalez and the charter reform measure breezed to victory.
Here’s how things shaked out (so far):
Portland City Council: Hardesty supporters breathed a big sigh of relief in the primary back in May when she did better than expected. But her campaign failed to increase its support since then and voters sent a clear signal last night that it’s time for change. As of this morning, Rene Gonzalez holds a commanding lead of nearly 11 points. During his campaign, Gonzalez promised to be much tougher on crime — including enforcing laws against people who live on the street — and he successfully painted Hardesty as an “ideologically driven,” polarizing force in City Hall.
A business owner and lawyer with no political experience, Gonzalez built a broad coalition of support that included endorsements from the Portland Police Association, Smart Growth America, and the Willamette Week. This was the only city council race on the ballot; and with homelessness, crime, and a sense that the City of Portland has been ineffective in tackling big problems, votes against Hardesty can be largely be seen as a referendum on the status quo.
Charter Reform (Measure 26-228): Another sign that Portlanders want big changes was that the hotly debated charter reform measure passed easily with 56% of the vote. If you’ve missed our extensive coverage, here’s a brief summary of what this means: Portland will ditch its century-old form of government for something totally new. We will expand the number of city councilors from five to 12, with three representatives from four geographic districts. A new city administrator position will be created and that person will handle day-to-day operations of the city and will oversee the various bureaus. The mayor will oversee the administrator, will be able to introduce laws, and will have a tie-breaking on council. Ranked choice voting will replace our current single vote system.
The first election with these changes in place will happen in November 2024. For more context on what this change means, check out this article from Rose City Reform author and charter reform proponent Maja Harris.
The win for charter reform came despite a vast effort to defeat it — an effort strongly supported by Rene Gonzalez and Commissioner Mingus Mapps. Mapps had said he’d introduce an alternative version, but said before last night’s vote that he’d respect the outcome. With such a clear mandate for change, Mapps and councilor-elect Gonzalez might feel like they have to reconsider their views on this and other policies because they’ll face fresh elections in just two years.
Governor: Democrat Tina Kotek holds just a 1 point lead over Republican Christine Drazan. This one is going to be a nail-biter, but I’ve seen some reliable pundits say the remaining votes favor Kotek. UPDATE: Race has been called by The Oregonian for Kotek.
Multnomah County Chair: Incumbent Jessica Vega Pederson has received 52% of the vote and has a six point lead over challenger Sharon Meieran.
How are you feeling after last night?