PORTLAND, Maine — A one-of-a-kind city council race concluded after more than a week of wait and debate.
Brandon Mazer stood in the event space at Portland’s Ocean Gateway pier Wednesday afternoon and announced he would concede to fellow Democrat Roberto Rodriguez.
“Roberto and I made history,” Mazer said to reporters. “It was an incredibly proud moment; it was a humbling moment.”
Back on election night, the pair found out their race had ended in a tie; a feat never before seen under Maine’s ranked-choice voting system.
That Thursday, following city law, Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones blindly drew Mazer’s name out of a bowl to break the tie. Rodriguez requested a recount and, on Wednesday, election workers hand-counted each ballot that had been passed through voting machines.
The hand-count turned up a 35-vote margin in favor of Rodriguez. However, 37 ballots were still disputed. These were ballots the machines could not accurately tabulate, and workers were indecisive as to the voters’ intention as well.
Enter the attorneys.
Lawyers for both candidates spent Wednesday night and much of Thursday poring over the disputed ballots, debating differences in the total count of the ballots, all while Jones and city officials worked to find a solution that would uphold Portland’s election system and satisfy both candidates.
That afternoon, after numerous sidebar conversations that exhausted possible actions, Mazer decided it was best for the election, and for his current role on the city’s planning board, to concede with grace, rather than force a potential court battle.
“I look forward to working with Roberto,” Mazer smiled. “I’m gonna continue on the planning board and he’ll continue to see me coming in front of him.”
After his remarks, Mazer stepped aside, shook Rodriguez’s hand, and gave the floor to the newly announced winner. Rodriguez said he was eager to get to work.
“I’ll be one of three new members in this council,” he said. “It’s a time of change in our city. I’m excited to be part of that change. “
Victoria Pelletier won her race for Portland City Council on election night and came to watch the recount. After such a close race, she said voters should be inspired, not discouraged.
“I think this, if anything, starts a conversation about how much voting matters," she said. “This is a perfect example of the fact that every single vote counts.”