On Election Night (our favorite night of the year), the Mercury's Voter-Owned Editorial Board (VOE) spread its tentacles out across the city like an octopus with no respect for personal space, just to bring you—our dear and loyal readers—a solid second-hand glimpse at the excitement of democracy in action.
We spent the unseasonably hot day writhing in anticipation—trolling for predictions from the local punditry, cursing the 68 percent of you who failed to drop off your goddamn ballot, checking and double-checking the county's website for voter-participation updates. But as soon as the sun began its descent behind the piles of West Hills money that funded Ginny Burdick's campaign, we set out to get our emeffin' Election Night party on. From yuppie enclaves in the NW to a frat bar on NE MLK to a bizarre and family friendly affair at the Kennedy School, we let no party go unmolested.
By the time the results poured in—some great, some not so great—the Mercury's VOE Board wasn't exactly jumping up and down with excitement. Publicly financed city council candidate Amanda Fritz was soundly defeated by incumbent Dan Saltzman, and Erik Sten—also publicly financed—didn't break the 50 percent barrier, and was facing a (sure to be thrilling!) November run-off against Burdick. On an up note, the voters decisively elected a new Multnomah County leader, Ted Wheeler.
At the Kennedy School in Northeast Portland, county chair candidate Wheeler and his fans—a family friendly crowd of nearly 200, who spilled out onto a patio—were dancing to a calypso band as the first results rolled in shortly after 8 pm. Wheeler was "trouncing" Linn, pulling in over 70 percent of the vote right off the bat.
"I was eating a cheese burger, watching the results come in," Wheeler says. "I have to tell you, it feels awesome."
Wheeler, in a tweed coat sans tie, quickly gave a victory speech, pledging a "culture of transparency, innovation, and creativity in county government," under his leadership.
"And nobody's leaving until the calypso band passes out from exhaustion!" Wheeler cheered.
Across town, in a small conference room at the Jupiter Hotel, Diane Linn's party was clearing out fast. By 8:30 pm, it was clear the incumbent Linn—saddled with a terrible reputation for leadership because of in-fighting on the county council—was headed for defeat as her numbers hovered in the low 20s. By 8:45 pm, there was hardly anyone left to hear the inevitable concession speech. Linn—looking unfazed, and smiling faintly—retreated to an upstairs room to be by herself as an aide closed the blinds. One reporter—denied entry—stormed off in a huff. At 9:15 pm, Linn descended to the hotel's outdoor patio, to make a quick, sad announcement to the two dozen people remaining: "Thanks for coming! It's time to party!"
In the city council races, Dan Saltzman was sailing to victory over his publicly financed opponent, Amanda Fritz. At Billy Reed's on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Northeast Portland, Saltzman's supporters—listening to a live '70s funk band and watching the results on TV—let out a whoop when the first numbers rolled in: Saltzman led with a strong 57 percent.
Mayor Tom Potter was on hand, looking happy and relieved that incumbent Saltzman—whom the mayor had supported throughout the campaign—would be returning for another term, despite his recent, controversial flip-flop on funding for the OHSU tram.
"I think Dan showed political courage on the tram issue, and chose principle over politics," Potter said. "I look forward to continuing working with him."
Saltzman himself—a man of few words, one campaign staffer remarked—was hesitant to give a victory speech as the party neared 9 pm. The crowd—munching on crudités, mini-shrimp, and spinach that a Bus Project groupie said, "looked like it'd been drowned in grease," didn't seem to mind.
Fritz, quartered at the Ecotrust building in the Pearl District, remained optimistic throughout the night, reminding her 50-plus supporters—who'd devoured a pizza earlier in the evening—that not every vote had been counted (many Fritz supporters, one campaign volunteer noted, were expected to turn in their votes on Tuesday). As a Bon Jovi CD played "It's My Life," notes for a Fritz victory speech languished on a podium, abandoned by the first candidate to qualify for public funds in the city's new Voter-Owned Election system.
The Bus Project caravan—which began the night at Governor Ted Kulongoski's party at his campaign headquarters on NE 7th Street near Couch (open bar!)—skipped from Saltzman's party to state legislative candidate Tina Kotek's party (she was leading her race, with 47 percent), before capping off the night at Erik Sten's party in NW Portland.
As the night wore on, Erik Sten appeared headed for a run-off with Oregon State Senator Ginny Burdick. At the Lucky Lab on NW 19th and Quimby, kids danced among black and yellow balloons, as campaign volunteers kept an eye on the returns. Sten was pulling in 46 percent to Burdick's 30 percent. Just before 9 pm, a fire truck drove by—Sten's the fire bureau commissioner—with its lights flashing, and a crowd of firefighters waved at the partygoers.
Ginny Burdick hung out at her campaign headquarters on NE Broadway, where volunteers sipped Widmer beer. The well-dressed, small crowd was initially anxious to hear the results; once it was clear Burdick was still in the race, the crew ignored the tiny TV and focused on partying (except when a TV commentator made a remark about Burdick and "big money," a quip that elicited boos from Burdick's camp). "Looks good, like we're going to get a run-off. We have to pray for it," Burdick told the Mercury.
Dave Lister—who pulled in a little over 14 percent of the vote in the Sten-Burdick race—was camped out at BC's Saloon, a '50s nostalgia dive on SE Powell. Lister, who switched from wine to well whiskey as the night wore on, was surrounded by older supporters noshing on fried food. As it became clear that their candidate was out of the game—the room went silent when Lister's dismal numbers surfaced—the crowd turned to heckling other races, yelling, "Buh-bye Diane!" at the returns for county chair came in.