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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's the Mercury's Primary Election Live Blog!

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 7:44 PM

Welcome to the Blogtown Election Vulture's Lair! In this post? Everything you need to know—and a bunch of stuff you didn't—about tonight's May primary election results. Will the Portland Public Water District become a thing we actually have to deal with? Will Jim Francesconi and Deborah Kafoury find themselves in a fall runoff for Multnomah County Chair? Will Doctor Monica Wehby win the Republican Senate nod? Stay tuned! The latest updates start at the top of the page! For up to the second news and results follow us on the Twitter @portlandmercury or look for our friends at #mercelex. RESULTS ARE HERE!

Signed,
Mercury 1st Election Battalion (nickname: Nightmare Warriors)

10:19 PM: Also at Caleb's campaign party tonight: Local activist Jesse Sponberg, who mounted a surprise write-in campaign for Multnomah County Sheriff just 17 days ago. Latest results show Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton getting more than 37,500 votes, and "write-in" taking 1,130.

Sponberg, sitting next to me sipping a craft beer, wants it to be known that he refuses to concede. DVH

9:37 PM The party for city council position 2 candidate Nick Caleb is pretty much what you'd expect from Caleb's campaign: We're at Rontom's. It's a lot like Rontom's always is.

By the time I arrived, it was clear Caleb will not be facing Commissioner Dan Saltzman in a November run off. Latest tallies show Saltzman with over 64 percent of votes cast, Caleb at about 17 percent and KBOO reporter Joe Meyer (who was working the water district campaign HQ earlier) with more than 10 percent.

Neither Meyer nor Caleb can be too disappointed in those results. Saltzman is the city council's longest-sitting commissioner—with gobs of name recognition and money. (His campaign committee spent nearly $80,000 this year alone. Caleb's spend about $3,800.) Meyer barely ran a campaign, and Caleb's was largely confined to the internet, with some rallies and sign-waving mixed in.

"It's pretty exciting," Caleb said of the results. "We went into it with two months to go, and capped donations. Within a few weeks we accomplished the main goal, pretty much."

That main goal: Forcing a conversation about raising the minimum wage. Caleb's entrance into the race prompted Saltzman to voice his own support for a wage increase, something he hadn't talked about much publicly. Caleb will continue the fight, he says, and he's one of the main backers of a(nother) campaign to reform Portland's water stewardship, which could go before voters in November.

In attendance here tonight is Ramy Khalil, who directed the successful campaign of Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant last year. Sawant is the city's first Socialist councilmember, and Caleb used her campaign as a blueprint for his own.

"It's a very good start," said Khalil, who is peddling political pamphlets (credit cards accepted) and appears to be a bit buzzed. "We didn't get Kshama elected the first time around. This is a very important first step." DVH

9:32 PM: "This could be the last press interview of my career," says Francesconi.

The former commissioner and mayoral candidate's sleeves are rolled up, his tie is loose, and he's sipping a whiskey, neat.

"We talked about the gap between he rich and poor," he says. "I'm happy about that... I'm getting messages that maybe I'm better on the outside."

When asked about what he plans to do next, Francesconi is unspecific. He mentions his family and issues such as education and employment, but does not go into specifics. He says of Kafoury that he never plans to criticize her.

When asked what he'd do differently Francesconi laughs. "The first question is whether I'd run," he says, and laughs. Before he gets up from our interview, Francesconi takes a moment to talk about diversity. "We can take a better job of incorporating [minorties] into this community... Portland and Multnomah County are finally becoming more diverse. Let's seize that opportunity. Maybe I should have talked about that more." JS

9:30 PM: "I also want to acknowledge the two people I ran with," Fish said earlier tonight. "It is enormously hard to win your first race, as I well know." (He lost twice before succeeding Erik Sten in an open race in 2008.)

The meringue at Fish's party is amazing. I'm talking to a woman about how Fish always seems to have gluten free options at his parties and we are supposing that he must have gluten free staff. INTRIGUE.

Things are winding down and I doubt much more will happen. I'm pretty sure that is my old landlord. She is skirting the room and refusing to make eye contact. SS

9:12 PM: Novick was ready to bend my ear with a joke. Noting the resounding defeat of the water district, and the implied support for water bureau chief David Shaff, he offered this: "Voters sent a loud and clear message tonight. Shaff. Can you dig it?"

Deborah Kafoury, at the pleasantly smoky Jimmy Maks, with Steve Novick and Charlie Hales.
  • denis c. theriault
  • Deborah Kafoury, at the pleasantly smoky Jimmy Mak's, with Steve Novick and Charlie Hales.

9:07 PM The Kafoury party at Jimmy Mak's, in the Pearl, is a delightfully swanky affair—a jazz band is on the stage, playing smoky music in dark light, and I've seen way more politicos all genuflecting in the presence of the next county chair. When I walked in, Mark Wiener was on the phone outside and Hales and Steve Novick were chatting up Kafoury in the back.

"It's all because of the Mercury endorsement," Kafoury joked during a pause in the music.

She won't take over for interim chair Marissa Madrigal until June—after ballots are certified, she says. Kafoury was clearly the inside candidate, having served almost five years on the county commission before stepping down to run after Cogen's affair and scandal forced him out of office.

She'll be joined by Jules Bailey, the soon to be former state representative, on the county commission. Bailey crushed the likable and very dedicated businessman Brian Wilson to take over Kafoury's old seat, outpacing Kafoury's big lead over Francesconi. (He also had, I'm told, better food over at his party, in NE's Hatch.) DCT

8:47 PM: "I just saw the first round of numbers, and they are not good," said a visibly sad Jim Francesconi to a crowd at the East Bank Saloon.

Just after 8, the former city councilman thanked his supporters for their efforts, particularly the SEIU. The crowd East Bank punctuated his speech with applause and shouts of encouragement, and Francesconi used his time to focus on two issues: income inequality and climate change, which he characterized as a social justice issue.

He gave his congratulations to Kafoury, and soon it became clear to the crowd that they were listening to a full-on concession speech. The mood in the room fell. Francesconi thanked his supporters again, and ended with an exhortation.

"Now let's drink," he said. JS

8:38 PM A certain pall floated over Sharon Maxwell's election night party, and for good reason. Maxwell, an outsider candidate, was attempting to unseat an incumbent, something that almost never happens in Portland city politics.

Maxwell and her supporters were fairly free with their rhetoric, and accused Nick Fish of representing "the 1%ers." Much of the speech focused on disenfranchised populations such as minorities, low-income people, an residents of East County.

Maxwell frequently invoked Portland's "95 neighborhoods" and proposed single-member districts (as opposed to at-large council members) as a way to give marginalized populations a voice. Despite the aspirational rhetoric, though, it was apparent that most everyone knew the score. Just before eight Maxwell stopped speaking, had a DJ fire up some music, and took to a dance floor with several supporters. JOE STRECKERT

8:35 PM: Just like that, the tone in Portland's water fight has softened.

Craford's described city council in strident terms since last summer— his calling Commissioner Nick Fish a "carpetbagger" stands out—but now says he hopes he and others will be able to work with city leaders.

"We didn't come from anywhere, we're not going anywhere," Craford says. "Now we can go back to work, cooperating with the city council if we can. We did it for 11 years."

Suddenly the "blue-ribbon committee" (suggested by Hales and Fish) that Craford and co-petitioner Floy Jones tore apart during meetings with newspaper editorial boards throughout the city has become a beacon of hope they're looking to.

"The voters gave Mayor Hales a second chance," Craford said. "He's not gonna get a third chance."

"The money grabbers win," said Jones, turning rhetoric many lobbed at the water campaign—that it was a big-money takeover—back on the victors. "We're gonna see, on Thursday, the water rates rise again."

Jones expected a better result, she said. The measure is still trailing about 72-28.

"Based on canvassing and phone-banking, I did expect more would support our cause, yes," she said.

Meanwhile Keenan, the Portland Bottling president, just took off (he'd brought the cases of Rockstars earlier, he explained, in case it was a late night). Keenan's next move? He's going to demand a retraction from Mayor Hales, who during the heat of the campaign called water district backers "political terrorists.” DVH

8:33 PM: We never got a call back telling us where Dan Saltzman's party was, but we heard it was at Produce Row, and that Hales was there before he showed up at the Bull Run Takeover bash. Reports, however, tell us his team is celebrating his victory, to a fifth term, with generic mayonnaise on saltine crackers and peanut butter and jelly and sardines on Ritz crackers. They're drinking chilled Crystal Geyser poured into Garfield mugs. It sounds delightful.

With 64 percent of the vote (10 percent for Joe Meyer and 17 percent for Nick Caleb, the guy we endorsed and the reason Saltzman started talking about the $15 minimum wage we loved so much), he's actually done a bit better than four years ago, when he faced a better funded range of opponents and won only 58 percent of the vote. Imagine if Caleb had money, instead of raising just a few thousand bucks to Saltzman's tens of thousands and filed last fall. DCT

8:26 PM: DOCTOR Monica Wehby seems to have won the right to face US Senator Jeff Merkley in a general election this fall, knocking aside Republican rival Jason Conger. The O, however, notes that both candidates were considered "deeply flawed" by Merkley's team and too far to the right. DOCTOR Wehby has had a run of bad news apparently leaked by the state's Democratic party in recent days, with police reports showing her facing a stalking accusation from an ex-boyfriend and current financier and relationship drama with her ex-husband. DCT

8:16 PM Nick Fish's party has a ton of snacks, full hot bar. Wine and beer. Angry children are playing football in an outside courtyard and spilling food on one another. I think I see my old landlord. The mood is relaxed due to Fish's very likely victory. Fish is up with more than 70 percent of the vote in the early returns—sailing into a four-year term after six years on the council.

Fish is wearing a pin from his father's first campaign. (Fish's father was a decorated US congressman.) It's a simple white with blue type, dignified. He comes over and tells me a sweet story about caring for his ailing father before moving to join his wife in Portland. SUZETTE SMITH

8:13 PM It seems this has been a good night, so far, for Deborah Kafoury—she's won election to fill out the remainder of Jeff Cogen's term as Multnomah County chair, and she seems well on the way—66 percent of the vote in early returns—to sending former city commissioner Jim Francesconi into political retirement by winning a four-year term of her own outright. DCT

8:09 PM "It was literally from A to Z, from Audubon to AFSCME to Zenger Farms," Hales is saying in a speech, calling the "no" side's win a victory for grassroots democracy. "The voters believe in good government... They want us to mind their dollars carefully and we will do all these things. We will affirm their faith in our city since they affirmed their willingness to stick with us."

FWIW, I'm enjoying my IPA. And I was totally wrong about the spread, figuring it would be a few points apart instead of 40-plus. DCT

8:05 PM: This pro-water district party is incredibly...uncampaigny. Portlanders for Water Reform hasn't rented the bar out or anything, so water reforming partisans are sipping cocktails side by side with the joes who flock to Club 21 in the evening for its excellent pub fare. Everyone's watching the Heat-Pacers game on tv, and a lot of the conversation—at least around where I'm writing this—seems to be about basketball.

Still the bar's large projection screen is running the tabloid show Extra, which presumably will give way to live election results any minute.

"It's really hard to quantify," says Keenan, the Portland Bottling president. "To me it's just a sad night that we have to be doing this. City council could have avoided this by doing the right thing."

Aaaand, the early results are in. The water district measure is trailing by a wide margin: 25,000 votes, 71 percent to 29.

I ask Craford if it's insurmountable. "Yes," he says, chuckling.

"Time to get a beer," someone else says.

It's been a long fight, but the Portland Public Water District appears dead. DVH

7:52 PM Hales has arrived at the "no" party. "It's a congenial enough place to find out if we're alive or dead," the mayor says.

7:50 PM It's just as low-key at the Stop the Bull Run Takeover party, the group looking to fend off the Portland Public Water District. But a few notable muckety-mucks are here. Gail Shibley, Mayor Charlie Hales' chief of staff, is at a table with me and Jim Redden of the Portland Tribune. I've also seen Bob Sallinger of the Audubon Society of Portland wandering around, giving me lip for not calling him back enough, and several labor officials.

Hales teamed up with labor and the environmental community to raise and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, so this is an unsurprising bunch to see.

We're on the deck of the On Deck sports bar in the Pearl, and it's not clear if they'll turn the TV stations over from the NBA's eastern conference finals. TV stations may not even be covering this stuff live, we're hearing. DENIS C. THERIAULT

7:40 PM: A half-hour until results begin to trickle in, and Club 21, site of Portlanders For Water Reform's campaign party is low-key.

"Dirk VanderHart, bond attorney," Kent Craford, one of the campaign's leaders, says as I walk in. He is referring to this story. And he is being sarcastic. The campaign never agreed with the notion that a new water district might affect the city's bond rating, though the Mercury isn't the only organization to suggest such a possibility. The City Club of Portland and Portland Business Alliance shared the concern.

Tom Keenan, president of Portland Bottling Company, arrives carrying two cases of Rockstar Energy Drink. Orders same. Portland Bottling was one of the water district campaign’s most faithful funders, putting tens of thousands into the effort. The wi-fi is sketchy here. DIRK VANDERHART

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