On January 1, Sam Adams, Portland's first gay mayor, will be sworn into office, after waiting in the wings since he won the primary in May.

That's a long time to wait, but it's only possible because City Commissioner Sam Adams won a majority vote (59%) over several opponents in a mail-only primary. In Portland, a candidate with a majority vote is immediately deemed the winner.

Adams becomes the first openly gay mayor to run one of the 30 largest cities in the United States.

Adams, a Democrat, was endorsed in his bid by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a group committed to increasing the number of openly GLBT elected officials at all levels of government.

A first-term city commissioner, Adams said he was shocked by the results. In a morning press conference where he discussed his victory call from former mayor Vera Katz, under whom he served 11 years as Chief of Staff, he said, “I talked to her at about 7:30, and she's like, 'WOW 58 percent. Can you believe it?' I'm like, no I can't believe it. She's like, 'congratulations mayor-elect'. And I said, that sounds so bizarre coming from you, but thank you.”

Sexual orientation appeared to be a non-issue in local media coverage.

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund President & CEO Chuck Wolfe said, “In Oregon, fairness has won the day. [The election of Sam Adams as mayor] means that people who are openly gay lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can also be seen as capable, committed leaders whose sexual orientation or gender identity is less important than what they plan to do for their communities. That's a step towards full equality we want to replicate across America.”

Wolfe called 2008 a “watershed election” for gay candidates. Openly gay state representatives and senators increased by forty seats nationwide in November's election. In Colorado, Democrat Jared Polis won his Congressional House bid to become the first openly gay male representative to Congress. (Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank confirmed he's gay while serving his second term.)

“Our government became more representative and our democracy became stronger,” Wolfe said. “As we near the 30th anniversary of the death of Harvey Milk, it's enormously gratifying to see this dream realized in so many brave men and women heeding the call to run for office, and doing so openly, honestly and unafraid.”

Several high-profile cities are currently headed by gay mayors, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe included. Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Neil Giuliano is the former mayor of Tempe, Arizona.

The Oregonian describes Adams as a self-described wonk who “has a thing about numbers.”