IT WAS A PRIMARY ELECTION season marked, from the Democratic presidential contest on down, by excruciatingly close races—at least according to the pre-election day polls and punditry.
According to poll numbers, Sho Dozono was holding Sam Adams under the 50 percent mark in the race for Portland mayor, and Steve Novick was consistently neck and neck (and usually just ahead) of Jeff Merkley in the Democratic race for US Senate. Two candidates for secretary of state, Kate Brown and Rick Metsger, had recently polled as a dead heat. Nick Fish—a man who had never gotten more than 48 percent of the vote in his previous three runs—was polling lower than that, and a runoff with his nearest competitor, Jim Middaugh, looked likely.
In the end, though, the voters forged an entirely different path.
By 8:20 pm, just minutes after the polls closed, Adams had already taken the stage at the Jupiter Hotel on E Burnside—where his supporters chomped on pulled pork sandwiches under a white tent in the courtyard—to say "the numbers look good." He had a solid lead on Dozono, with roughly two-thirds of the ballots counted.
Less than an hour later, and less than a mile down the road, Dozono conceded at Los Baez—even as Mayor Tom Potter worked the room, saying, "There's still hope," and telling folks that "if Sho hadn't have run, it would have been more like 80 percent for Sam." Telling his supporters he didn't have enough time to get his message out, Dozono added he was looking forward to getting his life back.
At 9 pm, Adams claimed victory before a roaring crowd. "As mayor, I will be working hard with all of you—and believe me, you're going to be working hard as well—to unite behind a common vision, and to unite behind common actions that will move this city forward. Together we can make Portland cleaner, greener, more sustainable... we've done it before, and we can do it again!"
In the city council races, Fish landed nearly 62 percent of the vote—putting him considerably ahead of Middaugh, at 22 percent. At the Kennedy School, Fish's fans snacked on Goldfish crackers (Get it?) before Fish thanked the crowd. In a moment of adorableness, his toddler son, Chapin, kept interrupting to tell Fish what to say. We see political consultancy in the kid's future.
In Southeast Portland at the Lucky Lab, Middaugh's crowd still celebrated: "We didn't win. But it was a victory nonetheless," Middaugh told his supporters. "People were so positive, so thoughtful, and so committed to the future of this place... the civic fabric here is so strong." (The other contenders in that race laid low on election night, with Harold Williams Two watching basketball with a few friends at Huddle sports bar on N Killingsworth, and Fred Stewart hanging out at Café Emanon in Northwest Portland.)
The open race to fill the seat Adams vacated to run for mayor was anybody's guess going into election night. But as widely expected, Amanda Fritz—the only woman in the race, and the only person who'd run before—was leading with 43 percent of the vote. "That's kind of what I was hoping to see two years ago," Fritz laughed, as her supporters cheered and ate cake that had "sweet victory" written in icing.
The race for second place—to determine who would face Fritz in the November runoff—was close. As we went to press, Charles Lewis—hanging out at his Northeast Killingsworth campaign headquarters where volunteers watched Dancing with the Stars on TV—had a comfortable 630 vote lead over competitor John Branam. "We're exactly where we knew we would be... in second place," Lewis told the Mercury.
Jeff Bissonnette followed, about 211 votes behind Branam, as he held court over a small party at Carboni's Pizza on NE MLK. In Northwest Portland, at Café Reese, Chris Smith—trailing the pack with less than 10 percent of the vote—laid low, sipping a Diet Coke and playing with his iPhone and laptop. In St. Johns, Mike Fahey, the only privately financed candidate in the race (he raised about $20,000), was in fifth place—news that largely cleared the room. "I won't be throwing myself off the St. John's Bridge," he told the Mercury. Phew.
Surprising no one, incumbent City Commissioner Randy Leonard—who partied at Adams' shindig instead of hosting his own—took home 72 percent of the vote against his three low-key challengers.
In local legislative races, Jackie Dingfelder had a solid lead over Sean Cruz in the 23rd district senate race. In the 42nd district representative race, Jules Kopel-Bailey was ahead with 40 percent of the vote, and Michael Dembrow led the 45th district race with nearly 41 percent.
At the state level, Steve Novick and Jeff Merkley scrapped for the right to take on incumbent Republican US Senator Gordon Smith. Novick, who relied heavily on viral ads showcasing his no-holds-barred style (and his steel hook hand), led early, much to the delight of his fans partying at the Benson Hotel—but the returns quickly flipped in Merkley's favor. As we went to press, Merkley led 45-41 percent, several thousand votes ahead of Novick.
At Madison's in Southeast Portland, Merkley's crowd kept a close eye on the numbers, but celebrated nonetheless—and Merkley declared victory shortly after 10 pm. The two Democrats vying for the attorney general seat (no Republican filed for the office) broke apart early, with Lewis & Clark College law professor John Kroger, taking the lead. In a 14th floor penthouse suite at the Benson Hotel, Kroger sat in an armchair to watch the results, while friends and campaign staffers lounged, eating salami and chips and working on a cooler full of Session lager. Across the river at Maiden in the Mist, State Representative Greg Macpherson's supporters were heading for the exits by 8:15 pm.
In the race for secretary of state, Kate Brown, Vicki Walker, and Rick Metsger—all three state senators—Brown quickly took the lead with 52 percent, and appeared likely to face Republican Rick Dancer in November. Also hosting a party at the Benson, Brown said she was "cautiously optimistic" about those numbers.
Oh—and some guy named Senator Barack Obama totally creamed a gal named Senator Hillary Clinton, by a 16-point margin. (And as we went to press—and at the after party—Obama was pulling in roughly 62,000 more votes than his potential November challenger, Republican Senator John McCain.)