Patte Sullivan Takes Early Lead in Portland School Board Contest Following Opponent’s Implosion

The 80-year-old schoolteacher was seen as an also-ran until the front-runner in the race was connected to a Christian nationalist church.

kellogg First day at Kellogg Middle School. (Portland Public Schools)

UPDATE, Sunday, May 21: Patte Sullivan has built an ironclad lead over Derrick Peterson as the last ballots trickle in. Late voters—who were more likely to have read about Peterson’s ties to a Christian nationalist church—gave Sullivan a 58% to 40% lead over Peterson as of 5:30 pm Friday.

ORIGINAL POST, Tuesday, May 16: Patte Sullivan took an early lead Tuesday evening in her bid for a seat on the Portland Public Schools board—a contest that wasn’t competitive until the clear front-runner, Derrick Peterson, spent two weeks dipping his toes in and out of the race after media outlets reported on his church’s ties to Christian nationalism.

It’s too soon to say if Sullivan will maintain her lead as more ballots are counted throughout the evening and tomorrow morning, but it’s likely that more than half the votes cast have been counted. It’s an early signal that recent controversy over Peterson—and his lack of transparency about whether he would resign if elected to the School Board—swayed voters at the ballot box. (Late voters are more likely to have seen reports alleging Peterson’s extremist ties.)

Sullivan leads Peterson by a little more than 2,000 votes.

After The Oregonian and Rolling Stone published stories about Peterson and his links to Christian nationalism on May 1, Peterson said two days later that he had pulled out of the race and would resign if elected. Then, a week later, he appeared to quietly reenter the race but refused to talk to media outlets in the days following his reversal. Finally, last week, Peterson said he was out for good, citing “the state of my family’s health, and concern for my endorsers and supporters.”

His lone opponent is Sullivan, an 80-year-old former schoolteacher. She had received no endorsements until Peterson’s campaign imploded.

WW initially endorsed Peterson in the race, but after he refused to answer questions about his intentions if elected to the School Board, the newspaper made an unusual reversal and endorsed Sullivan.

Peterson was a longtime Multnomah County corrections deputy who moved quickly through the ranks of the sheriff’s office. Last year, he launched an unsuccessful bid to become sheriff. This year, he turned his sights to the board for the largest school district in the state.

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