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How write-in votes could impact the Portland mayoral race

Undecided voters who plan on writing someone other than Teressa Raiford in for mayor could decide course of election, according to pollster

PORTLAND, Ore. — The latest poll conducted by DHM Research and OPB released last week found a three-way tie in the Portland mayoral race between undecided voters (28%), incumbent Ted Wheeler (33%) and his progressive challenger Sarah Iannarone (34%).

The poll also found 6% plan to write in Teressa Raiford, the activist and founder of Don't Shoot PDX. Raiford finished third in the May primary, and has done no official campaigning for her write-in candidacy.

Pollsters agree those Raiford voters could be taking support away from Iannarone, as she and Raiford have similar ideologies, in comparison to Raiford and Wheeler.

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However, it's 14% of undecided voters who are going to write in someone other than Raiford who may determine the course of the mayoral election.

According to John Horvick, Director of Client Relations and Political Research at DHM Research, many of these undecided voters are either registered Republicans or non-affiliated. Because many of them may be conservative or right-leaning, they would choose Wheeler over Iannarone in any given year.

But 2020 hasn't been just any year in Portland. Downtown protests and civil unrest are weighing heavily on this election, and many of these undecided voters may not be happy with Wheeler. So they may write in a conservative name or not vote at all, ultimately hurting Wheeler's chances at re-election. 

The reason seems to be that all sides feel alienated by Wheeler's handling of the protests this summer. 

Another possible deciding factor is Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. Hardesty, who has worked alongside Wheeler for the past couple of years on various progressive reforms including police reform, has been lobbying to become police commissioner.

Iannarone has said if she is elected, she will immediately name Hardesty commissioner of the Portland Police Bureau. 

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Wheeler, who has served as police commissioner for the past 4 years, has said he will re-consider bureau assignments in January if he's elected, but it's highly unlikely he would give up the position to Hardesty.

"My take is I'll work with whoever shows up in January and I'm going to keep doing the work that I'm doing to transform placing in a city of Portland," Hardesty said. "I don't think you can point to any person on the city council who's done more to change policing than me."

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