Ted Wheeler, the newly minted mayor of Portland, declared victory in his bid for a second term Thursday, one day after an early voting count showed an overwhelming lead for him over challenger Kate Sears.

A victory by Wheeler over Sears, the city’s former finance director, would likely put a stop to some of the city’s ongoing controversies and give the city more control over where jobs are planned or built.

Sears, the Portland attorney and former financial officer, had a slim lead in ballots cast over four days in early voting. The late count showed, however, a narrow margin for Wheeler in what appeared to be a tight race.

Wheeler said he will seek re-election Friday morning to a four-year term as Portland’s first openly gay mayor.

Sears took to the steps of the City Hall in a faux-hawk, flanked by Gov. Kate Brown, who pledged not to do so while talking about saving the future of Portland from the uncertainties surrounding a new rail line from Boring to Seaside and the $1.8 billion Bolsa Chica Wetlands restoration.

“You are the future, we are the future,” Sears told the crowd of Portlanders assembled for her first address to a special City Council meeting. “You want Portland to be a city that is proud of its diversity, proud of the creators, not people in their place of origin. This is what this is about.”

Wheeler, citing the need to deliver more education in public schools, said he was “very impressed” with Sears’ platform but was going to work with her.

“This isn’t about me. This is about the Portland that I came from,” he said, drawing applause for his remarks. “There are people in Oregon who are going to feel you coming out of that building is going to do the job.”

In a separate interview Thursday afternoon, Wheeler said he still believes that two out of every three Oregonians want his job. He said that the mayor’s race “is close” and that he intends to pursue the office the next four years.

“There is no push-back whatsoever from the people of Oregon,” he said. “They’re happy to have me.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s late election count showed that Wheeler had regained more than 18,000 votes over Sears after a lost election five years ago.

Statewide, Wheeler won the hotly contested battle for legislative seats, posting a 66.2 percent to 14.3 percent victory, in part by mobilizing more voter registration.

In Statehouse races, Willamette County also was pivotal to keeping Charlie Hales, the top Democrat in the House, and Roger Merrill from unseating incumbent Republican Laura Curran in Salem. And in Portland, Richard Gibson captured the party’s nomination for District 1 City Council vacancy to replace Chris Dunn in Eagle River.

The State Supreme Court also set aside a Public Service Commission ruling which previously forced the commission to delay proposed a 750-megawatt power plant in Northeast Portland.

A final count likely will be released by early next week. The open seat on the commission will be vacated by the resignation of former chairman Lance Reynolds. Reynolds stepped down earlier this year as a result of a sexual misconduct lawsuit and was charged with domestic violence and disorderly conduct.

— Maxine Bernstein

mbernstein@oregonian.com

503-221-8212

@maxoregonian