Oregon’s May Primary Produces Runoff Elections

By David Krogh

Thanks to Oregon’s mail-in ballot procedure, the May 19 Primary was relatively uneventful compared with other states.

This year’s Primary Election was unique – not only did it include presidential candidates, it had the largest field of candidates for Portland City Commission ever. The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office reported that approximately 46 percent of registered voters statewide and 50.5 percent in Multnomah County submitted ballots.

There were 54 candidates for the May 19 ballot when position filing closed March 10: 19 for mayor (Wheeler), nine for position #1 (Fritz), eight for position #4 (Eudaly) and 18 for the remainder of the term for position #2 (Fish).

On January 8, City Council determined a special elections schedule to fill the remaining term of position #2 with that election coinciding with the City’s regular May 19 Primary Election.

Additionally, a run-off election would be held, if necessary, on Tuesday, August 11 should no candidate receive a majority of the vote.

For the other City Commissioner positions and the Mayor’s position on the ballot, if no candidate received a majority of votes during the May 19 election, the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes for that particular position will appear on the November 3 General Election ballot for a runoff.

The Southeast Examiner spoke with Deborah Scoggins, the City Elections Officer about this type of voting system and whether this was consistent with other jurisdictions.

She responded, “I cannot speak to other local government operations, but yes, every local government has its differences in terms of how their elections operate and none are quite like the City of Portland.”

State election law states that nonpartisan positions include: Judges, Multnomah County positions, City of Portland positions, Metro candidates and Ballot Measures. Local jurisdictions have the ability to determine how voting occurs for those positions.

Because so many candidates were running for Portland City Commission positions, it was highly expected that no one candidate per position would obtain a majority of the votes. That expectation was close to what transpired.

In election results posted by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office and Multnomah County Elections Division, although results are still considered unofficial as of this writing, definite trends have been established and comments were received from several of those candidates affected.


Ted Wheeler will face a runoff with Sarah Iannarone, in second place on November 3.

The Southeast Examiner published campaign profiles of both these candidates and their election goals in March. Wheeler stated he was running on his accomplishments thus far and hoped to continue efforts in areas including affordable housing and homelessness. Iannarone stated she felt the City needed a new direction and posted a substantial list of issues and goals to be dealt with.

Commission Position #1 

Carmen Rubio was winning this position with over 67 percent of the total votes cast. No other candidate was even close. Therefore, no runoff is anticipated for this position.

Rubio is an activist and the first Latina to be elected to Portland City Commission and is looking forward to making the Commission more responsive and inclusive to the public.

Commission Position #2 

Loretta Smith (18 percent of the votes) will likely be in a runoff with second place Dan Ryan (16 percent of the votes) on a special election date of August 11 with the winner completing the term of former Commissioner Nick Fish.

Smith is a former County Commissioner and wants to bring her experience to the City Council. Ryan is a former school board member with negotiation skills he wishes to share.

Commission Position #4

Chloe Eudaly (31 percent of the votes) will likely be facing a runoff on November 3 with Mingus Mapps (28.5 percent of the votes).

Sam Adams was running third place with 27.5 percent of the votes and publicly conceded the election before the number of votes was finalized.

See The Southeast Examiner, February 2020 for an article on Mapps. Eudaly is a former bookstore owner and current renter advocate. She has been controversial on City Commission as a result of Vision Zero program disappointments and efforts to minimize neighborhood and business associations activities.

Tax Measures

Related to the above are two tax measures which will impact residents in SE Portland.

Measure 26-209 is a four-year renewal of the current motor vehicle gas tax ($.10/gallon) for street repair, maintenance and safety. This tax was first applied in 2016 and is anticipated to bring in over $74 million in tax revenues. The measure was expected to be approved with 77 percent voting “yes.”

Measure 26-10 will support homeless services through a tax on “higher earner” and business profits. This measure will impose a one percent tax on “higher earner” households–those earning above $200,000/year–on individuals with incomes over $150,000/year.

Businesses with commercial gross income profits over $5 million starting in 2021 and sunsetting in 2030, will be subject to the tax. The tax revenues will be shared between the three Metro counties (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas). The measure was expected to be approved as it had received “yes” votes from 65 percent of those voting.

For final voting tallies and related information, visit the Oregon Secretary of State website at bit.ly/MayPrimaryFinalResults.

Oregon’s May Primary Produces Runoff Elections

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