The Portland Phoenix

Mazer wins luck-of-the-draw Portland council seat; Rodriguez seeks recount

Portland voters were expected to elect three new city councilors Tuesday.

Instead, they elected two and the city clerk picked the third on Thursday.

Following an unprecedented ranked-choice tie between Brandon Mazer and Roberto Rodriguez, the winner of the at-large City Council election was chosen by lot: City Clerk Katherine Jones selected Mazer’s name from a wooden bowl containing slips of paper in a brief public drawing held outside City Hall.

“We made history today,” Mazer, the Planning Board chairman, said.

Because none of the four candidates running for the seat received more than 50 percent of the vote, an instant runoff was required. It resulted in Mazer and Rodriguez each receiving 8,529 votes.

Mazer said he never imagined he’d win by having his name essentially picked from a hat, and said his “heart was racing” when Jones made the selection.

“Every vote matters,” he said.

Rodriguez, who is a member of the School Board, requested a recount that will be held Tuesday, Nov. 9, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at Ocean Gateway. If necessary, the city said, the recount will continue on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Despite the outcome and even though having the decision come down to a random selection was disappointing, he said he believes ranked-choice voting worked the way it was supposed to.

“I was grateful we have a Charter Commission looking into this,” Rodriguez said.

Voters on Tuesday also rejected a referendum that would have amended the city code to limit the size of new homeless shelters to no more than 50 beds. It would also have possibly derailed the city’s plan for a 208-bed homeless services center at 654 Riverside St.

Although official results of the municipal election were released around midnight Tuesday, the city initially said ranked-choice voting tabulations in the four-candidate at-large election would not be available until after 8 a.m. Wednesday.

It was early Wednesday afternoon when the city finally announced that even with ranked-choice voting the at-large race had ended in a tie after the other two candidates, Stuart Tisdale and Travis Curran, were eliminated and their supporters’ votes were redistributed.

The city clerk’s selection of a winner by lot in that circumstance is governed by the City Charter. The drawing was scheduled for 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Anna Trevorrow

When the initial results were announced Tuesday night, Rodriguez had 5,553 votes or just over 26 percent; Mazer had 5,280 votes or about 25 percent; Curran had 4,776 votes, about 22 percent, and Tisdale had 3,480 votes, just over 16 percent.

Mazer had enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage over his opponents during the campaign.

The at-large election to replace Councilor Nicholas Mavodones was the only race that required a ranked-choice runoff.

In the District 1 council race, School Board member Anna Trevorrow defeated Bayside Neighborhood Association President Sarah Michniewicz, 1,985 to 1,642. Trevorrow will replace outgoing Councilor Belinda Ray.

Victoria Pelletier (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)

In District 2, Victoria Pelletier defeated former City Councilor and former state legislator Jon Hinck 2,168 to 1,477 to replace former Councilor Spencer Thibodeau.

Shelters referendum

Voters had three choices on the ballot in the shelters question: The initiative backed by Smaller Shelters for Portland, a countermeasure proposed by the City Council that would have increased the size limit to 150 beds, or no change in the city code – which would allow the Riverside plan to proceed. They backed the third option.

The Smaller Shelters initiative received 6,183 votes (31 percent), the city’s opposing measure received 5,428 votes (nearly 28 percent), and the third option received 8,092 votes (41 percent). Either of the first two options needed more than 50 percent of the vote to succeed.

In a statement Tuesday night, Smaller Shelters organizers said they continue to believe the city’s approach is wrong, “and we will continue to advocate for permanent and dignified solutions for our unhoused neighbors.” They said they hope city leaders will “refocus their efforts on addressing the housing crisis so that people experiencing homelessness have a permanent place to call home.”

Nyalat Biliew

School Board

In the School Board election, where no seats were actively contested, an announcement from the city last week threw a last-minute element of uncertainty into the race.

Incumbent Sarah Thompson announced she was withdrawing from consideration in early October. But the city said her name would still appear on the ballot per the City Charter and her votes would be counted. Had she won, Thompson would have had to resign the seat if she didn’t intend to serve.

That scenario was avoided when Nyalat Biliew ultimately won the seat with 9,169 votes to Thompson’s 8,318.

In District 1, School Board incumbent Abusana “Micky” Bondo was the only candidate, and board Chair Emily Figdor was the unchallenged incumbent in District 2.

Trevorrow’s election leaves the School Board with another seat to fill in addition to the one already vacated in October by Jeff Irish. The city has said their successors will not be elected until June 2022.

According to the city’s unofficial results Tuesday night, nearly 19,500 people voted in the election, a turnout of more than 30 percent. City Hall spokesperson Jessica Grondin said approximately 6,900 absentee ballots were requested, and 6,245 were returned.

This story was updated on Nov. 4, 2021.

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