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Winner declared in tied Portland council race that came down to luck — but opponent requests recount

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public
Brandon Mazer (left) and Roberto Rodriguez (middle) preparing to place their cards in a wooden bowl on Nov. 4, 2021 to settle a tie in their race for Portland City Council.

Brandon Mazer was officially declared the winner of Portland's at-large city council race on Thursday morning. Mazer initially tied with opponent Roberto Rodriguez after all the votes were counted and processed. Cards with both candidates' names were put into a wooden bowl outside City Hall, and Mazer's name was pulled out, making him the winner.

The tightly contested campaign for Portland's at-large city council seat initially had four candidates running for office. Roberto Rodriguez pulled ahead after the first votes were tallied on Tuesday night, but he and Mazer wound up tied after the votes from the third and fourth-place candidates were distributed in two rounds of ranked-choice runoffs. Local officials said it was the first time they'd seen such a result, particularly in the city's decade-old ranked choice voting system.

So, on Thursday morning, more than 100 Portland residents gathered to watch the process agreed to by the candidates to decide the winner. City Clerk Katherine Jones told the onlookers that two cards — one with each candidate's name — would be placed inside an antique wooden salad bowl that Jones had brought from home.

"City staff - this is Paul Riley, he's the elections administrator for the city of Portland — he will hold the bowl, mix the names up. I will then turn around, pull the name out, and will declare the winner," she said.

So, once the cards were folded and mixed, Jones reached in and picked one.

"We have pulled Mazer, Brandon J," she told the crowd, with cheers quickly erupting.

"We made history today, and it was incredibly exciting, and we'll follow the process as needed," Mazer said in the moments following the drawing. Mazer said that he was excited about the outcome, despite the uncertainty of the past 48 hours.

"This truly shows that every vote matters — especially at the municipal level," he said.

Roberto Rodriguez, meanwhile, said it was a shock for a long campaign to ultimately boil down to a few cards in a wooden bowl. Rodriguez said that while the ranked-choice process was administered smoothly and as required in local statues, he has still requested a recount.

"We're going to make sure every vote is counted," Rodriguez said. "I had a lead after the first round. I believe that once we have a recount, we'll solidify that lead. And I'll come out victorious."

A city spokesperson said that administrators plan to begin that recount process as soon as possible.