ELECTION NIGHT is either an electric, nail-chomping phenomenon filled with cold sweat and jangly nerves—or, like this fall's political denouement on Tuesday, November 6, it can feel a bit more like a ho-hum night in bed: about what you expected, over pretty quickly, and mostly pretty good.
By the Mercury's press time, we knew that Charlie Hales had walloped Jefferson Smith—by a margin of 30-plus points in early returns—making good on a mayoral race promise that everyone called almost a month ago. We also knew pretty early, a development that qualified as a minor surprise, that incumbent City Commissioner Amanda Fritz had shaken off a historically tough challenge from State Representative Mary Nolan.
In another stunner, at least based on absentee results, every single local measure also was ahead. The Portland Public Schools bond and Multnomah County library taxing district were expected to pass—but the arts-education tax, flogged hard by Mayor Sam Adams even as polls had it in trouble, was somehow joining them on that list.
Around the state, there was more good news. Democratic candidates for state office didn't start out trailing. The Dems also looked like they'd break the 30-30 deadlock in the State House of Representatives. Pot was losing, but we seemed to be keeping the estate tax and were on the verge of sending the state's corporate budget "kicker" over to our strapped school districts.
Oh, and that Barack Obama fellow? Even Fox News was calling his reelection a sure thing around 8 pm our time. Forget Ohio. Try "oh, well," instead.
But let's be honest. That's not why you're reading this. You want to know about the parties. We won't disappoint. We sent reporters out all across Portland in search of the odd, the inspiring, and the sad. Here's what we found.
"Thank you all," Mayor-elect Charlie Hales told well-wishers, beaming, after his big lead was announced. "The elections are finally over! Now it's time to get to the main job of running the city... my goal is to minimize drama and maximize results!"
Hales brought out a tool belt as a prop, and said he heard from Jefferson Smith, who said kind things. Hales reciprocated, and even gave a shoutout to Eileen Brady.
Shortly off stage, Hales said he felt "great. A little dazzled, but great."
And what about the national picture? "Is Obama still ahead?" Hales asks, his hands clasped in prayer. "Oh, I hope he gets it."
"I'm Jefferson Smith, and until about 20 minutes ago I was running for mayor." Smith's concession speech, probably wisely, emphasized his appreciation for his volunteers and how he intended to stay involved (somehow) with Portland policy.
His party at the Melody Ballroom—with face-licking puppies, a bouncy castle, and a photo booth with silly props—until that moment, had a kind of school carnival air about it.
Afterward, Smith milled around. Asked what he would have done differently, he said, "I've known for a long time that we want the emphasis to be on the future of the city... but I would better address who I am, my strengths and weaknesses." Smith did shrug off any talk of fleeing Portland post-election (something he hinted at during a soul-baring interview on the cortandfatboy podcast). "Nah," he said, "This is my hometown."
At the Measure 80 pot party, in the stifling heat and smell of SE 82nd's World Famous Cannabis Café, a cheer went up as Pennsylvania was called for Obama. Pot users and advocates watched the returns on a TV decorated with a pot-themed American flag, and bartenders brought out chicken wings, cream cheese jalapeño poppers, and plates of Rice Krispies treats made with pot butter.
Despite the measure's dismal polling, the crowd was upbeat and laidback. "Am I crazy for thinking it will pass?" said activist Anna Diaz. It wasn't going to.
Mary Nolan conceded to Amanda Fritz less than hour after results first were posted. She told volunteers it was unlikely she'd be victorious—barring a miracle. Nolan's finance director reassured the crowd by telling them what was important: "The bar is still here. The food is still here."
The mood picked up considerably after CBS News called Obama's victory.
Amanda Fritz, cautious as ever, struggled to get comfortable with the early results. So how will a second term differ from her first? For starters, Fritz says she wants a bureau with trucks. (As in the fire bureau. Or water; sorry, Randy Leonard!)
Fritz reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of her own cash to prop up her campaign.
She used up all of her remaining savings on this campaign. "We have a property tax payment due next month, and I'm not sure how we are going to pay it."
The last voter in line at the Multnomah County Elections Office was a guy named Mark. He really wanted to vote against Charlie Hales, never mind Hales' opponent—someone named "Christopher"? Told Hales already pretty much won, he said, "It doesn't matter. Every vote counts."
—Mercury writers Nathan Gilles, Bill Lascher, Sarah Mirk, Joe Streckert, Denis C. Theriault, and Alex Zielinski contributed to this report.