PORTLAND, Ore. — Mayor Ted Wheeler beat challenger Sarah Iannarone in the race for Portland mayor, becoming the first Portland mayor to win reelection since Vera Katz, who served from 1993 to 2004.
Wheeler received 46% of the vote with 163,009 votes. Iannarone finished second with 143,631 votes (41%) and 13% of voters wrote in a candidate.
"I want to thank the voters of Portland for the opportunity to continue serving as your mayor," Wheeler told KGW on Tuesday night. "This has not been an easy year for many of us. I know many of you are frustrated with the direction of our city as we address the challenges of a pandemic, an economic recession and protests that have inspired both overdue change and unacceptable violence.
"We have work to do to help struggling small businesses, assist vulnerable families and continue stepping up to help those without homes and those who are at a greater risk of losing housing with expanded shelter, rent assistance and other needed services."
On Wednesday morning, KGW spoke with community activist Teressa Raiford, who along with conservative candidate Joseph Whitcomb likely received a sizable portion of the write-in vote, about the strong support for write-in candidates this year.
"When I saw those numbers this morning ... it was astounding," Raiford said.
Raiford was quick to reject the notion that votes she or any other write-in candidate received may have cost Iannarone the election.
"I think the people that voted for Ted actually helped Ted win the election," she said. "I don't think that anyone that voted for me would have actually voted for Sarah Iannarone. We have different values."
It's unlikely that Portland voters will ever know exactly how many people voted for Raiford, Whitcomb or any other write-in candidates. Tim Scott, the Multnomah County Director of Elections, said that write in votes for specific candidates are only tallied if there are no candidates on file, or if they outnumber the numbers of votes for candidates on the ballot.
During his conversation with KGW, Wheeler praised Iannarone, saying she and her supporters "pushed forward important ideas and worked to advance progressive values." He said the city needs to come together to address the issues facing Portland.
"When all the votes are counted, we must all work together to overcome challenges facing both our city and our nation," Wheeler said. "In the coming days, we are going to have to come together like never before to address short-term issues and the long-term changes and investments needed to rebuild our economy rebuild confidence in law enforcement and restore hope for our future. I look forward to working with my colleagues in city hall and all of the people of Portland as we approach these challenges and opportunities together."
Wheeler became mayor of Portland on Jan. 1, 2017, defeating a crowded field of 14 challengers in the 2016 primary election by capturing nearly 55% of the vote. Iannarone and former county commissioner Jules Bailey were the top finishers behind Wheeler.
Wheeler had served as Oregon’s State Treasurer since 2010, having been appointed to the role, and then elected to a full term in 2012.
A native Portlander, Wheeler attended Portland public schools and earned degrees from Stanford, Columbia and Harvard universities before entering the private sector.
Before becoming the state’s treasurer, he served a four-year term as chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
Iannarone has never held elected office but has served on numerous Portland committees, including ones around transportation, bicycling and land-use.
Wheeler also serves as commissioner of the Portland Police Bureau, a position that has come under fire recently. Fellow Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty took to Twitter, telling Mayor Wheeler to give her control of PPB if he could not control officers.
Hardesty was referring to the protests and the perceived violence against protesters, with the use of CS gas and "less-lethal" ammunition like rubber bullets. She later endorsed Iannarone.
Wheeler banned the use of CS gas against protesters after attending a night of protests.