Last night, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith was undaunted by news of a big deficit to make up in her campaign for Portland City Hall.

"We've been here before, in 2010, down 18 points," said Smith. "This journey we've been on can be summed up in three words: Never give up."

But the gap this time is bigger than her race for Multnomah County commission in 2010—and it keeps widening.

Portland City Council candidate Jo Ann Hardesty, a former legislator and former president of the Portland NAACP chapter, is picking up more votes as the count continues.

Hardesty now has 45.8 percent of the vote—that's double the 21.4 percent Smith has in the vote tally as of 6 pm on Wednesday.

That's still a significant distance from the 50 percent plus one required to avoid a runoff. Hitting that target isn't possible for Hardesty with less than 1 percent of the ballots still uncounted.

But it also means Smith has a significant gap—more than 24 points—to close in the general election.

Jo Ann Hardesty on election night. (WW staff)
Jo Ann Hardesty on election night. (WW staff)

Whoever wins will become just the ninth woman to serve on Portland's City Council—and the first woman who isn't white. Both women are black.

Smith made the case on election night that she has experience pulling off such an upset: she finished second by nearly 18 points to Karol Collymore in the 2010 primary when she first ran for county commission. She went on to win in November of that year.

But the conventional wisdom is that the November electorate is more left-leaning than the May electorate. That would favor Hardesty holding her lead, or even increasing it.

There's reason to think those rules might not have applied this year. After all, in the other City Council race, candidate Julia DeGraw, a challenger to City Commissioner Nick Fish who arguably ran to his left, won more votes than Smith did in her race. Fish won handily with 62 percent of the vote, but DeGraw received 32 percent.