PORTLAND, Ore. – Former City Commissioner Charlie Hales easily cruised to victory Tuesday night over state Rep. Jefferson Smith in a mayor's race that was, at times, as weird as Portland.
Results late Tuesday night had Hales with 62 percent of the vote while Smith had just 30 percent; however, there were a large number of write-ins for the race - over 13,000 or almost 8 percent.
The high number of write-ins may have been an indication that voters had some reservations about both Hales and Smith after a series of mistakes and embarrassing admissions from both men were revealed throughout the election year.
Polls leading up to Election Night had Hales leading Smith. In a poll conducted for KATU News by SurveyUSA near the end of October, Hales led Smith by 13 points. At the time, however, there were still 24 percent of likely voters who said they were undecided.
A marked decline in the polls for Smith came after it was revealed that he hit a young woman during a 1993 party while he was a student at the University of Oregon.
Both men, however, were plagued by character flaws and mistakes, which left many Portland voters uncertain to whom to cast their vote.
Hales faced questions about why he didn’t serve out his full term as city commissioner as well as why he plagiarized portions of a letter to the editor in a community newspaper. In addition to the college incident, Smith faced scrutiny over his bad driving record and punching someone in the groin during a pickup basketball game.
In front of a festive throng of supporters at the Holocene in Southeast Portland Tuesday night, Hales declared that he would work to make the people of Portland proud of their city and to “minimize the drama and maximize the results.”
"We're going to refocus the city on basic services, we're going to build a strong base for a prosperous future for all Portlanders. We're not going to rest until there's quality schools in every neighborhood," he said.
He thanked Smith and said his opponent graciously called him to offer his congratulations.
“I appreciate Jefferson’s strong advocacy for important issues of our community and how he’s eloquently highlighted the need to be mindful of and take care of the whole city,” Hales said.
Hales also thanked the two’s primary opponent, Eileen Brady, who vigorously squared off with them during debates but finished third and was eliminated.
Hales said Brady made the local economy a priority in the race and made “customer service in city government a value.”
Hales promised to refocus the city on basic services before taking on big visionary projects.
Smith’s campaign hoped that its grassroots efforts of knocking on doors and holding more house parties would push him to victory. But it was not to be so.
Shortly after Hales' victory speech at about 8:20 p.m., Smith made an emotional concession speech at the Melody Ballroom, also in Southeast Portland, in front of a much more subdued crowd than the party at the Hales camp.
“I didn’t do everything I needed to do,” he said, alluding to his many shortcomings as a candidate and as a person.
He congratulated Hales and promised to support him as he led the city.
“Moving forward, I will do anything I can to help him get the city working better for more people,” he said.
Current mayor Sam Adams decided not to run for re-election.
In Portland's City Council race, it appeared that incumbent Amanda Fritz was holding off her challenger state Rep. Mary Nolan. Fritz had 59 percent of the vote to Nolan's 41 percent late Tuesday.
Contributing KATU News reporters to this story: Anna Canzano and Dan Tilkin.