Almost two weeks after election day, the closest race has finally been decided. Bob Stacey conceeded to Tom Hughes on Friday afternoon, acknowledging that Hughes would indeed win the election by just over 1,000 votes. (This is not the time to crow about my math skills, but it's rare I don't screw up a calculation. So. Crow.)

We endorsed Stacey in the race, but Hughes was gracious enough to take a few moments to talk with me this afternoon about why he won and what he'll do his first day in office.

Hello Mr. President!
  • Hello Mr. President!

MERC: So were you biting your nails up to the last minute?
TOM HUGHES: I actually got into kind of a really mellow space because I realized there was nothing more I could do about it, so it wasn’t worth stressing out. But it also helped that I was surrounded by people all stressing out, so I didn’t have to. It’s called delegating.

Why do you think 1,000 more people voted for you than Stacey?
When an election is that close, it’s hard to put your finger on any one thing. What we knew from polling early on is folks who knew my background as a former mayor, former schoolteacher, resonated with that. I significantly won most of the precincts in the suburban part of the region. I think we’ve frankly underestimated the growth of those regions and that has now maybe shifted the balance from the central city. Not by a huge amount, but still significantly.

Five more questions below the cut!

What's going to be your top priority when you start work in January?
There’s a couple of things, one of which we never really talked about. I think they’re going to be early on in the budget process and finding out about the spending and finding places to alter the budget if I think it’s appropriate is going to have a learning curve. There’s obviously going to be ongoing discussions with the CRC, we have to figure out where we’re moving that. Most immediately is going to be discussions on the urban and rural reserves. How are we going to bring the three counties along?

Would you change anything about the current urban and rural reserves plan?
I would support what Michael [Jordan, Metro's Chief Operating Officer] recommended, but we might need to look at what we need to do to pass the plan, if it hasn't passed already when I take office. [Details on Jordan's plan here.]

What should Metro do immediately to improve the region's economy?

There’s a follow-through on my promise that Metro would get involved with discussions about the regional economic development strategy. I do think that there needs to be better coordination between the kinds of decisions Metro makes and the kind of strategy we make as a region for how to go forward. There’s the opportunity for the president to play a leadership role with the soft side of economic development, not the work the professional staff does, but who leads the region and speaks for the region.

What is the region saying?
The region says we need more jobs. The difficulty we have to overcome is that to a good deal of the business community around the country, we are seen as a quirky place that just isn’t very good to do business. And that’s just not true. We need to organize the business community in Portland to go around the country and say, ‘This is a good place to do business.’ One of the things I bring to the table is I have good connections on both the business side and the government side, so I can make some bridges on both sides of that equation.

What do you see Metro doing on the CRC in the next few months?
Well again, I think there’s an ongoing discussion that needs to take place over governance. If we’re going to move this project forward, who’s going to manage it? I think that’s an entity that doesn’t yet exist, so we need to work out with both states how that governance is going to exist. There needs to be a bistate commission of some kind that’s empowered to oversee the project.