Lawyer and software company owner Rene Gonzalez is poised to make the November runoff against incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
As of Friday morning, 48-year-old Gonzalez had a nearly 1,400-vote lead over administrative law judge Vadim Mozyrsky—a gap that has widened since initial returns Tuesday evening. Hardesty had received more than 43% of votes. Gonzalez had 23% and Mozyrsky 22%.
Mozyrsky has not yet conceded the race. His campaign told WW in a statement that “he looks forward to taking a weekend to reflect after a busy week and will make a statement early next week on his campaign.”
Gonzalez did not respond to WW’s questions this week.
If Gonzalez makes the runoff, which appears likely, he and Hardesty will run on diametrically opposed platforms on the two issues Portlanders care most about: homelessness and police.
Hardesty has been a consistent critic of the Portland Police Bureau, even as that stance went out of vogue with many Portlanders during a year of rising gun violence. Gonzalez, on the other hand, wants to beef up the police force and told WW last month that the city doesn’t treat police officers fairly.
Gonzalez supports enforcing existing anti-camping laws and erecting large emergency shelters, while Hardesty has historically been opposed to most camp sweeps.
Gonzalez told WW in an endorsement interview last month that he would consider rolling back certain renter protections, and possibly scaling back some inclusionary zoning policies in order to spur more housing development.
While Mozyrsky mirrors many of Gonzalez’s policy stances, Mozyrsky tried to strike a middle ground in public appearances, forums and interviews. It appears that didn’t get him far, despite an independent expenditure campaign that formed behind him and raised $370,000 to date. (It’s spent about $300,000 of that, with a majority going toward promoting Mozyrsky.)
The jury is out on whether the expenditure—and news reports about his backing by downtown property owners—hurt or helped him.
Ads commissioned by Mozyrsky’s campaign regularly dotted Hulu, social media platforms and local television stations.
Gonzalez had one ad, made in house, according to his campaign, that pictures Gonzalez in a tracksuit on a soccer field, making a goal and speaking to the camera with furrowed eyebrows.
Mozyrsky received far more media coverage during the primary campaign, including from WW, which closely examined his policy approaches. Gonzalez, meanwhile, mostly ran a grassroots campaign in neighborhoods deeply frustrated by crime and camping.
If Gonzalez does oust Mozyrsky from the general, several questions loom large: First, whether business interests and real estate moguls will back Gonzalez, even though he was not their first choice. Second, whether any of the unions that put their support behind Mozyrsky will switch to Gonzalez’s camp.
And third: whether an independent expenditure campaign will form behind Gonzalez as it did behind Mozyrsky in the primary, and whether that will hurt or help. (Gonzalez demanded Mozyrsky give back the money he raised through the city’s small donor elections program after the independent expenditure campaign became public.)
WW spoke to two ardent supporters of Mozyrsky, Pearl District Neighborhood Association president Stan Penkin and former City Commissioner Mike Lindberg. Both said they’re undecided as to whom they will support in the general election in November.
Penkin says he thinks Mozyrsky’s pragmatic and “intellectual” approach to policy may have hindered his popularity compared with the “emotional level” that Gonzalez brought.
“I think Rene tapped into some feelings that people have about the state of the city in a different way than Vadim did,” Penkin says. “Vadim approached it with pragmatic solutions, true policies, true understandings of what the city needs, and I think Rene just hit broad generalities that people just associated with.”
Lindberg says Hardesty used the incumbency to her advantage by showing up at events and broadcasting her accomplishments. He says while Mozyrsky and Gonzalez were fighting for the same voter base, it’s not as simple as just adding their tallies together to predict the outcome of the general election in November.
“I’m not taking a simplistic stance,” Lindberg says. “You could add up the votes for Rene and Vadim and say there were slightly more votes for them, but politics doesn’t work that way.”