Roberto Rodriguez will fill the at-large seat on the Portland City Council after a tied runoff between him and Brandon Mazer led to a hand recount of votes.

Mazer conceded around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, after more than three hours of questioning city officials about vote totals and repeatedly huddling with his attorneys.

Mazer’s team met with Rodriguez and his team, as well as city officials, out of view of the media before Mazer made his announcement.

Mazer said he still has questions about discrepancies in the vote totals between election day and the hand recount, but it was not worth pursuing any further.

“To know it was a pretty high hill to climb, it makes the most sense to me (to concede),” he said. “It wasn’t an easy decision.”

The outcome solidifies a larger progressive majority on the nine-member City Council, after three more moderate incumbents decided against seeking re-election during a time of transition for the city.

Councilors are searching for a new city manager and police chief, among other department heads. And a charter commission is considering substantial reforms to city government – including giving more power to the elected mayor – to put before voters as soon as next fall.

Rodriguez was backed by progressive groups, including Progressive Portland and Equity in Portland Schools, as were the other two newly elected councilors, Anna Trevorrow in District 1 and Victoria Pelletier in District 2. They replace Nick Mavodones, Belinda Ray and Spencer Thibodeau, more centrist councilors.

Rodriguez said he was looking forward to becoming one of three new members on the City Council, where he plans to work to place equity at the center of decision-making.

“It’s a time of change in our city and I am excited to be a part of that change,” he said. “We built a lot of movement – a lot of energy – in this campaign to bring voices in that have been marginalized for many years. So we hope this community building effort that the campaign was moves us forward as a city and we are able to achieve equitable outcomes.”

Wednesday began with Mazer’s attorneys peppering the city clerk and attorney with questions about the difference between the election day and recount totals. Eventually, lawyers for both sides began examining the 37 disputed ballots, periodically breaking away to huddle with their candidates before returning to the ballots and speaking with city officials.

The city announced Wednesday afternoon that two of the disputed ballots went to Mazer, two went to Rodriguez and the remaining 33 were determined to be exhausted. The final tally was 8,549 to 8,514 for Rodriguez.

Campaign officials representing the two at-large candidates had returned Wednesday morning to sort through issues that emerged during a nearly 12-hour recount on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s recount, conducted at Ocean Gateway on the Eastern Waterfront, ended with Rodriguez having a 35-vote lead over Mazer, with 37 disputed ballots remaining. The recount also ended with 36 fewer votes than the total number of votes counted on Election Day. Clarifying how that happened was the first order of business on Wednesday.

City officials said Tuesday night that they believed all of the ballots cast on Election Day were recounted that day. They speculated that the difference between the totals could be machine overcounts, which might happen when ballots are run through a machine but the actual votes cannot be read.

Jennifer Thompson, the city’s interim corporation counsel, said Wednesday that the city’s ranked-choice voting consultant confirmed that it’s not unusual for machine counts to differ from paper counts – and that a paper count is considered more accurate.

By about 11 a.m., attention seemed to have shifted to the 37 disputed ballots, which the teams for the two candidates were examining on a table.

Mazer’s concession came after the two campaigns took a break from examining those ballots.

Last week’s election is believed to be the first time in U.S. history that a ranked-choice election ended in a tie.

When the votes were first counted on Election Day, Rodriguez, a 42-year-old school board member and urban farming business owner, received 273 more first-round votes than Mazer, a 35-year-old attorney and planning board chairman who was backed by Mayor Kate Snyder. The instant runoff that followed ended in an exact tie, with Rodriguez and Mazer each receiving 8,529 votes.

A recount could not be requested until a winner was chosen by drawing lots. After Mazer won, Rodriguez promptly requested a recount.

There was no option for a recount of the recount, the city attorney explained Wednesday, because the recount process requires attorneys to sign off on the tally sheets before it is over.

Mazer said he could not justify any further challenges, including an expensive court battle, over the result, saying it was time for the city to move on. He thanked city staff for their work.

“I don’t think this could have gone any smoother,” he said.

Mazer said he would stay involved as a planning board member to work on issues he spoke about during the campaign: affordable housing, family housing, transportation and education.

Rodriguez said he appreciated the effort put into the recount and Mazer’s concession.

“I’m (grateful) that Mr. Mazer was able to concede and allow us all to move forward,” he said.

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