In this Year of the Woman, politically and culturally-speaking, I find it surprising that Jacqueline (Jackie) Leung's Ward 4 City Council race against incumbent Steve McCoid isn't getting more attention.
Five seats on the Salem City Council are on the May 15 ballot, the Mayor's seat and the seats of the councilors occupying the four even-numbered wards: 2, 4, 6, 8.
Only two of these races are contested: Jackie Leung vs. Steve McCoid in Ward 4, and Micki Varney vs. Jim Lewis in Ward 8. Mayor Bennett is unopposed, as are councilors Tom Andersen (Ward 2) and Chris Hoy (Ward 6).
Leung and Varney are the most progressive candidates in their races. So as I noted last month in "Jackie Leung should get Progressive Salem support for her City Council campaign," it's strange that Progressive Salem, which works to elect local liberal candidates, hasn't made an endorsement in the Ward 4 race.
I also found it peculiar that Salem Weekly, this town's alternative paper that leans decidedly leftward, also failed to make a Ward 4 endorsement in the issue that hit the streets last Wednesday.
The Salem Weekly editorial board endorsed Micki Varney over Jim Lewis, but didn't mention the Leung-McCoid race.
Given Salem Weekly's local perspective, I don't understand why the editorial board decided it was more important to make an endorsement in the statewide race for the Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner than in one of the two contested seats for the Salem City Council.
To its credit, a month ago Salem Weekly did run a story about Leung, "Progressive Salem in a kerfuffle over Ward 4 election." Aside from using "kerfuffle," a great word which definitely needs more exposure, I liked this excerpt from reporter Helen Caswell's piece (and not just because it mentions me):
Progressive Salem (PS), a local liberal political organization which focuses on Salem area races, has experienced some controversy this spring over the upcoming Ward 4 contest for Salem City Council.
The election is between incumbent Steve McCoid, generally considered a centrist moderate, and newcomer Jackie Leung, a progressive Democrat.
The matter erupted after Brian Hines, a local blogger and PS member, called for PS to endorse Ms Leung who he described as a “liberal dream candidate.” Hines has a point; Leung is a graduate of Willamette University Law School. She has a Masters in Public Health from the University of Iowa. She served as a member and Vice Chair of Salem’s Human Rights and Relations Commission and as a Commissioner on the Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.
Leung is, in short a bright, educated woman with a minority background who might be a natural for PS, a group which has in recent years succeeded in putting progressive candidates in office.
The Statesman Journal, which pretends to be a newspaper that covers local issues, but really doesn't (at least not very well), ran opinion pieces by Micki Varney and Jim Lewis side by side a week ago in which the candidates made their case for why they should be elected by Ward 8 voters.
But so far our one and only daily newspaper has failed to do the same for the Ward 4 race. The only coverage of the Leung - McCoid race was in a news story, "Homelessness, traffic congestion at center of Salem City Council election."
Which wasn't an entirely accurate headline, since the story mentioned that one of Leung's campaign issues is curbing the outside influence developers have in Salem.
Leung, who holds a law degree from Willamette University, is positioning herself as a reform candidate and emphasizes adding more women to the council.
"Let's embrace the diversity of our communities. Let's reach out and be inclusive," she told the Statesman Journal in an email. "We have only two women on the nine-member City Council, in 2018 — the Year of the Women."
Leung also expressed concern about developers holding an outsize amount of sway in City Hall. "The development community has more than it's share of influence on city decisions and I want to be a voice to add balance."
My suspicion is that one reason why the Leung-McCoid race isn't getting more media attention is an assumption that Jackie Leung stands little chance of winning.
Well, I don't agree.
Residents of the Creekside development make up a large share of Ward 4 voters, and many, if not most, aren't happy with how developer Larry Tokarski has been treating them. The Statesman Journal reported that the Creekside Homeowner's Association owes the owners of the Creekside Golf Course (Tokarski and Terry Kelly) $422,789 following an adverse legal decision.
And the saga of the Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District continues to be a sore spot for Ward 4 residents. So I believe Leung has a decent chance of defeating McCoid, since McCoid has been supportive of the Reimbursement District and has gotten $2,500 from the Oregon Realtors PAC, which points to his pro-developer leanings.
The fact that McCoid has contributed $5,000 to his own campaign indicates that he doesn't think his re-election is a slam dunk.
Sure, McCoid has the advantages of incumbency and a considerably larger campaign war chest than Leung. But it wouldn't be a shocker if she's the winner of the Ward 4 City Council race on May 15.