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Early returns show Commissioner Nick Fish besting challenger Julia DeGraw by a two-to-one margin.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Commissioner Nick Fish takes a selfie with supporters after seeing early returns on Tuesday, May 15 at Carmella's Lounge on Southeast Water Avenue. Portland voters have returned Commissioner Nick Fish to City Hall, according to early returns.

Fish leads the polls with 62 percent of the vote as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15 — a sign that the electorate still values the continuity created by a seasoned politician, at least in this race.

"I feel such gratitude for the vote of confidence Portland has given me," said Fish during an election night party at Carmella's Lounge on Southeast Water Avenue. "I ran on my experience and on my record of working with the community to solve problems."

"This has been the hardest year of my life," Fish continued, referencing his ongoing battle with cancer.

Challenger Julie DeGraw netted 30 percent of the vote, while third-place candidate Philip J. Wolfe earned about 3 percent, according to unofficial returns from the Multnomah County Elections Division.

DeGraw made criticism of Portland's oddball commission form of government a centerpiece of her grassroots campaign. When reached by phone, she told a Tribune reporter she was glad to have highlighted the problems with appointing individual commissioners to lead certain city departments.

"We're just getting started," she said in a phone interview. "This campaign was about having a really honest conversation with Portland voters about the structure of their city government."

"That right there feels like winning to me," she continued.

Fish was endorsed by a number of Portland area newspapers, including the editorial board of the Portland Tribune, which hailed his "ability to navigate complex issues and… consistent voice."

Mayor Ted Wheeler and former Gov. Barbara Roberts were among the supporters in attendance at Fish's election night shindig.

Fish — who was first elected to Position 2 on the City Council in 2010 — is usually tasked with leading the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services.

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