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Low voter turnout could have big impact on Tuesday elections

Update • By Monday morning, only 20 percent had returned ballots in Multnomah County

The day before the May 15 primary election, candidates for the two most contested Portland City Council races were campaigning in races that could be influenced by a relatively low voter response.

on Monday morning, Multnomah County elections officials reported that only 20 percent of the ballot had been returned. By then it was too late to put them in the mail and trust they would arrive on time to be counted, meaning that all other voters must take their ballots to designated drop sites.

Although the number of ballots cast by voters will undoubtedly increase by the time the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, if the percent remains relatively small, candidates with the best get-out-the-vote drives could have an advantage, even if they did not raise the most money.

All of the major candidates for Portland mayor and Council Position 1 had several public appearances planned through election day. They also ran TV ads during the weekend and are expected to continue the advertising right up to Tuesday.

As of Friday, businesswoman Eileen Brady had reported

spending the most money on media buys, slightly more than $481,000. That compares to more than $315,000 for former City Commissioner Charlie Hales and a little more than $209,000 for state Rep. Jefferson Smith.

In the Position 1 race, incumbent Commissioner Amanda Fritz reported spending more than $104,000 on media buys by Friday. Her leading opponent, state Rep. Mary Nolan, spent almost $80,000.

The totals are likely to be larger - perhaps even far larger - when final campaign finance reports are issued.

The majority of independent polls released in recent days show both races too close to call. If no candidate in either race receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two votegetters will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

State health administrator and political activist Steve Novick is widely expected to win the race for Council Position 4 in the primary.

In terms of overall fundraising, Brady led in the mayor's race Friday with more than $1.1 million in cash and in-kind contributions, including $125,000 in personal loans. Hales was second at more than $719,000, including a recent $50,000 personal loan. And Smith was at third at more than $526,000.

In the Council Position 1 race, Nolan reported raising more than $311,000 and spending nearly $80,000 on media buys Friday. Fritz reported raising more that $196,000 and spending more than $104,000 of her own money on media buys, in addition to loaning her campaign $50,000.

On the statewide level, Oregon election officials reported that around 19 percent of ballots had been returned by Thursday. Because the presidential primary elections have essentially been settled, the only high-profile statewide race is the one between former state appellate court judge Ellen Rosenblum and former interim Oregon U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton for Oregon attorney general.