In the aftermath of the November 6 election, its important to remember how much stays the same.
Political observers in Lane County had better remember one thing about Lane County’s non-partisan politics: The county ain’t the city.
It’s fair to point out that nonpartisan candidates in recent years have had unofficial labels. The contest have been between progressive candidates (Piercy, Fleenor, Rust, Riggs, and Handy) and pro-business candidates (Torrey, Morrison, Bozievich, Leiken, Green and Farr).
The election results are reasonably consistent along these lines. Pro-business candidates will hold four of the five county commission spots come January.
Eugene-style progressive candidates have a much tougher time in the county. Jay Bozievich’s victory over Jerry Rust, Sid Leiken’s win over Pat Riggs, and Faye Stewart’s lack of any strong challenger at all are testimony to this advantage. The county board and Springfield’s city council are both much more business friendly than Eugene’s city council and mayor.
Nevertheless, Eugene is not monolithic. Polling consistently shows about half of Eugeneans approve of and like Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy’s. That reflects the evenly divided city council. South Eugene, not North Eugene, is Kitty Piercy’s and the progressives’ base. The 2008 Eugene Mayoral results demonstrate this.
In recent years, progressive county board candidates running outside of South Eugene, when they win like Fleenor and Handy did, have only been able to hold their seats for one term.
One way to see the gap between Eugene and the rest of the county is to take a Eugene matchup and move it into the county as a whole. Polling consistently shows a huge countywide gap between Kitty Piercy and Jim Torrey. Torrey has an absolutely massive lead countywide despite having a much lower Name ID.
Though the rest of the nation might or might not be undergoing a political realignment, Lane County is unlikely to be affected. Candidates running under the “progressive” banner outside of Eugene are going to have a tough time against candidates running under the “pro-business” banner.
In 2014, the East Lane (Stewart), Springfield (Leiken), and West Lane (Bozievich) county commission districts will be up for election.