It was a happy night for Salem progressives yesterday. Chris Hoy won the special election for the Ward 6 City Council seat left vacant by Daniel Benjamin's resignation last year.
Hoy's large margin of victory over the other candidates -- including Greggery Peterson, the "establishment" pick endorsed by current Mayor Chuck Bennett and previous Mayor Anna Peterson -- was aided by the enthusiastic support of volunteers from Progressive Salem, who put in a lot of time canvassing for Hoy.
Here's a photo of the Hoy election night party at La Margarita Express, courtesy of a Facebook post by Geoff James.
The jubilant upstretched arms belong to Councilor Tom Andersen, a fellow progressive who obviously is happy that his liberal "tribe" now will command five of the nine seats on the Salem City Council. Here's what James said in his post:
CHRIS HOY CELEBRATION ... It was packed at La Margarita Express tonight. The Progressive Salem team of dozens of members, who worked hard on Chris's successful campaign to become Ward 6 Salem City Councilor, were there for delicious Salvadorian and Mexican dishes, wine and beer, and when the election results were posted online just after 8 p.m. there were huge cheers and standing ovations. Organized People once again beats Organized Money.
By once again, James is referring to a recent string of City Council victories by progressives.
Prior to the May 2016 election, Andersen was the lone progressive on the nine-member City Council (eight councilors representing wards, plus the Mayor). Then Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, and Matt Ausec were elected, with Cook pulling off a victory over a conservative sitting councilor, Warren Bednarz.
Benjamin's resignation gave the four progressives an early chance to become a majority, since his term otherwise ran until 2018. With Hoy's win, the balance of power on the City Council has shifted.
Well, more accurately, it will shift if Andersen, Kaser, Cook, Ausec, and Hoy band together in votes on issues of major concern to progressives in this town. Hopefully they will.
Because if they don't, the many people who have supported their election campaigns with money, time, and effort will begin to wonder, What was the point? Along this line, the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger had this to say in a post about Hoy's victory:
Hoy is on the Board of the Salem Bicycle Club, works in law enforcement, and seems well positioned to have a balanced approach towards a transportation mix in which walking, biking, busing are realistic options for people. With a fifth vote on Council, there may also be opportunities to apply some brakes to the waste of the Salem River Crossing project. The current bloc of four Councilors hasn't seem inclined to block anything by a 4-4 tie, but maybe with the fifth vote they'll be more assertive.
I've been worrying a bit about this also.
Almost certainly Mayor Bennett and the other three remaining conservatives on the City Council (Nanke, McCoid, Lewis) will do their best to drive a wedge between the five progressives on key issues such as the Salem River Crossing, a.k.a. the Third Bridge.
But a comment by Councilor Andersen on the Breakfast on Bikes post is encouraging:
Rejecting the Memorandum of Understanding will be an important first step in efforts by the new City Council progressive majority to repeal approval of this Billion Dollar Third Bridge Boondoggle and replace it with much more cost-effective improvements to the two existing bridges.
(See this post for details about the MOU and falsehoods about tolling being spread by City officials.)
It's going to be fascinating to watch how dynamics on the City Council change after Chris Hoy takes his Ward 6 seat in early April.
Salem is a liberal-majority town that has been controlled by conservatives at City Hall for quite a few years. As Geoff James noted, People Power has finally been able to overcome the Money Power wielded by the Chamber of Commerce and other special interest groups in previous local elections.
So the tension that has existed between a left-leaning citizenry being led by a right-leaning City Council should begin to lessen. Of course, this likely will mean that increased tensions will be evident between the five progressives and the four remaining conservatives on the Council.
When the Powers That Be find their influence slipping away, we can expect some resistance. Maybe even a few temper tantrums.
But such is the way of politics. Andersen and Co. need to stand firm and represent the interests of the people who elected them, who happen to be a majority of people in Salem. The Chamber of Commerce types will wail and moan.
Which is fine. Let them cry themselves out while the five progressives do what is right for this town.