Editor's note: This story has been updated.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has been elected to a second term as Portland's mayor.
Wheeler maintained a lead of 6 percent over his opponent, urban policy consultant Sarah Iannarone, long into Tuesday evening. In total, Wheeler has collected 46 percent of Portlander's votes, with Iannarone trailing at 40 percent. Nearly 13 percent of Portland voters (41,000 people) backed a write-in candidate for mayor.
In a brief press call Tuesday evening, Wheeler thanked Portlanders for propelling him into a second term in office and asked for unity moving forward.
"When all the votes are counted, we must work together," said Wheeler.
Wheeler, a moderate Democrat, has a long background in elected office. Wheeler served as the chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and as Oregon State Treasurer before entering the mayor's office in 2017. Wheeler has consistently campaigned to the right of Iannarone, who ran a campaign rooted in progressive reforms. In recent months, Wheeler has criticized Iannarone for identifying as an antifascist and not condemning recent protest activity that has resulted in property damage.
During the May 2020 primary election, Iannarone won 24 percent of the vote, while Wheeler collected just under 50 percent. Since a candidate in Portland must collect more than 50 percent to win a primary race outright, the results forced Iannarone and Wheeler into a runoff election.
This isn't the first time Wheeler's claimed victory over Iannarone in a mayoral race. In 2016, Iannarone finished third in the race that elected Wheeler to the mayor's office.
Iannarone has yet to concede to Wheeler. At 10:15 pm, she issued a statement saying her campaign was going to wait until Wednesday morning before making a determination about the race.
"This campaign was always about tactical optimism —the belief that in our darkest hours, we have to believe in and see the path to making the world better," Iannarone said. "I’m exercising my tactical optimism now, in the hopes that soon the votes will be counted and I’ll be elected as your next Mayor."
Wheeler's win means Portland's long record of one-term mayors is over. Wheeler's three predecessors in the mayor's office only served one 4-year term before leaving office. On the campaign trail, Wheeler promised that a second term would give him the opportunity to fully flesh out some of his first-term goals, like responding to the city's homelessness crisis, passing critical police reforms, and limiting the city's carbon emissions.
Wheeler spent little time campaigning this election cycle—mostly because he was busy responding to the nonstop news of 2020. These responses, however, left Wheeler facing criticism from all sides leading up to November 3.
While business leaders argue he hasn't done enough to combat property damage caused by protests, progressive Portlanders have dubbed him "Teargas Ted" for his hesitancy to ban the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) from using CS gas on nonviolent protesters. Under Wheeler's leadership, the PPB has been the focus of numerous lawsuits alleging civil rights and constitutional violations filed by members of the public who participated in the city's racial justice protests.
These critiques appeared to narrow the gap between Wheeler and Iannarone's races. In early October, a poll commissioned by OPB found that both mayoral candidates were virtually tied , while 28 percent of voters remain undecided.
It's not know how many of the 41,000 write-in votes went toward former mayoral candidate Teressa Raiford. Raiford, founder of Don't Shoot PDX, came in third during the May primary election for mayor, which officially cut her from the race. But after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked protests across Portland, a group of local racial justice activists ignited a write-in campaign for Raiford. Iannarone supporters feared that Raiford votes would divide the "anyone by Wheeler" vote, improving Wheeler's chances for reelection.
Wheeler will be leading a City Council made up of relative newcomers: City Commissioner Dan Ryan, who joined Portland City Council in September; Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who joined Council in 2019; Carmen Rubio, who will replace retiring Commissioner Amanda Fritz; and Mingus Mapps, who beat incumbent Commissioner Chloe Eudaly in today's race. Both Rubio and Mapps will join council in January.