The Secret Winners and Losers of Last Week’s Oregon Elections

Not every success or failure appeared on the ballot.

May 17′s primary election results contained several unexpected triumphs—and some big flops. But not every success or failure appeared on the ballot. We’ve identified three winners and three losers from last week. Read the full list—including Betsy Johnson and campaign finance limits—at Here’s a sampler:

Winner: Oregon’s Democratic Establishment

It was supposed to be a change election. But the candidates that best represent the Democratic establishment won key races, starting with state Rep. Andrea Salinas’ victory by 20 points over Carrick Flynn, on whom super PACs spent $14 million, in the 6th Congressional District. Former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) won the Democratic Party nomination for governor by 25 points. In the nonpartisan primary for Multnomah County Chair, Jessica Vega Pederson, backed by unions and other key Democratic groups, didn’t avoid a November runoff, but won by 20 points. To be sure, these victories create the possibility that disgruntled voters hand Democrats a bigger loss to Republicans in November. But for now, the local Democratic establishment can rest easy. RACHEL MONAHAN.

Loser: Betsy Johnson

Seeking to become only the second non-affiliated candidate in Oregon history, Johnson wants maximum contrast with her general election opponents. She got that in the Democratic primary with former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), the more liberal of the two leading candidates. But Johnson’s hope for a hard-right Trump-supporter such as Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam emerging from the GOP primary did not materialize. The GOP winner, former House minority leader Rep. Christine Drazan (R-Canby), who will raise money from some of the same business contributors Johnson is targeting. NIGEL JAQUISS.

Winner: Police Reform

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty won election to City Hall four years ago in large part based on her record of advocating for police reform. Hardesty delivered, going to the ballot to reform police oversight and creating Portland Street Response, an alternative to calling in police for citizens in crisis. She received 44% of the vote last week, nearly besting the total of her two leading challengers, Rene Gonzalez and Vadim Mozyrsky, combined. That still means she lost 56% of the vote, and when she faces a police union-backed candidate in November, anything is possible. But for now, the cause has won. RACHEL MONAHAN.

Loser: Downtown Property Owners

Two months before the primary, downtown property owners poured money into “Portland United,” an independent expenditure campaign to oust Hardesty and get Vadim Mozyrsky into City Hall. Despite spending $200,000 on ads for Mozyrsky, their efforts flopped: He was edged out of the November runoff by Rene Gonzalez, who ran a blunter campaign fueled by Portlanders’ rage over tents, trash and gun violence. Mozyrsky didn’t hide his disdain for the independent cash spent on his behalf when he conceded to Gonzalez on Monday, saying the expenditure “didn’t help” his chances. SOPHIE PEEL.

Winner: Campaign Finance Advocates.

While downtown developers poured money into a campaign that offered little help, and some speculate may have even hurt their chosen candidate, campaign finance advocates proved their point: that big money in politics in this city elections provides little help, and perhaps is even a detriment. Gonzalez and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty both outdid Mozyrsky in matching funds with the city’s public financing model, which caps individual donations at $250. Gonzalez topped $200,000 in matching funds with 1,272 donors. Hardesty reached almost $250,000 with 1,560 donors. Mozyrsky raised $171,00 with 940 donors. SOPHIE PEEL.

Loser: Pollsters

Two weeks before ballots dropped, State Treasurer Tobias Read circulated polling showing him within five points of Kotek. Read lost by 25 points. An older poll, from January, showed that only 18% of Portland voters said they planned to support City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty for re-election. Hardesty got nearly 44%. DHM pollster John Horvick says the January poll didn’t include any specific option to Hardesty and it polled the entire electorate, rather than likely voters. Horvick says. “Elections aren’t referendums; they are choices,” Horvick says. “Candidates matter.” NIGEL JAQUISS.