Last-Minute Endorsements Trickle In, Too Late for Many Voters

Meanwhile, union money is flowing into the independent expenditure campaign for Mayor Ted Wheeler.

A "walk the vote" event, with bubbles, in East Portland on Oct. 26. (Chris Nesseth)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed a slate of local candidates led by mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone and incumbent City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly today, following a flurry of late endorsements yesterday that included Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty for Iannarone and former Mayor Sam Adams and onetime City Commissioner Erik Sten for Mayor Ted Wheeler.

The last-minute endorsements in the mayoral race show that both mayoral campaigns are looking for any edge. Normally, candidates solicit endorsements prior to preparing campaign ads and submitting official Voters' Pamphlet statements, i.e., in September, if not earlier.

The 11th-hour nods come as more than 62% of Multnomah County voters' ballots have already been received at the county elections office.

The high-water mark for percentage of registered voters returning their ballots in Multnomah County came in 2008—the first time Barack Obama ran for president. A little over 86% of registered county voters turned in ballots that year. Returns dipped to 82.5% in 2012 and 80% in 2016.

Part of the reason the percentage declined was the implementation of Oregon's Motor Voter Law in January 2016. That law automatically registered Oregonians to vote when they got a new driver's license or renewed an old one. A disproportionate number of the new voters are unaffiliated with either major party and they tend to vote far less often than affiliated voters.

In the 2016 general election, for example, voter turnout for Oregon Republicans was about 89%; for Democrats, 88%; and for nonaffiliated voters, 61%. And nonaffiliated voters are increasing as a percentage of the total number of registered voters, from 26.7% in 2016 to more than 32% today.

All of that is to say the late endorsements came well after most people likely to cast a ballot have voted.

In the city races, United for Portland, the independent expenditure committee formed in early October to support Wheeler, has finally shown sizable contributions from organized labor—$20,000 from Service Employees International Union Local 49 and $10,000 from Portland Metro Fire Fighters PAC—as well as added several contributions from women, led by Vanessa Sturgeon ($10,000) of TMT Development, to what had been an all-male cast of individual contributors. That PAC has now raised $440,000.

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