I'm a proud member of Progressive Salem. It's great that the group has helped elect five progressives to the City Council, a majority. But here's some constructive criticism about how Progressive Salem decides who to endorse.
So far, Progressive Salem is sitting on its hands when it comes to the Ward 4 race in south Salem. This seems ridiculous, since the two candidates are...
Steve McCoid, the incumbent, who was narrowly elected in 2014 by about 200 votes. He defeated Scott Bassett, who was a Salem United candidate, which was a sort of precursor to Progressive Salem.
McCoid leans conservative. He favors building the Third Bridge, or Salem River Crossing, as evidenced by his being part of a four member City Council minority that voted in favor of an agreement that would have helped the project move forward. This puts him at odds with the five progressives on the council: Tom Andersen, Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Chris Hoy, and Matt Ausec.
To date McCoid's largest contribution for his 2018 re-election campaign is $2,500 from the Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee.
Jackie Leung is challenging McCoid. She's a graduate of the Willamette University College of Law and University of Iowa School of Public Health. She's the Chair of the Micronesian Island Community organization. Her bio reads like a liberal dream candidate.
She works as a Community Organizer with the COFA Alliance National Network. In addition to serving as Chairperson of the Micronesian Islander Community, Ms. Leung is also a Community Health Worker Supervisor, focusing on meeting the community health needs of the Micronesian community. Ms. Leung is an active member and supporter of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. She also is active in multiple organizations, including the Hunger-Free Leadership Institute, Developing Equity Leadership through Training and Action. Her legal and public health background provide her with valuable insight into health policy, advocacy, and legislation.
So why isn't Progressive Salem supporting a liberal woman of color over a conservative white man?
After all, Progressive Salem is supporting another woman, Micki Varney, in her campaign against Ward 8 incumbent Jim Lewis. Lewis is described on the Progressive Salem web site as "a conservative Republican who draws the majority of his support from homebuilders, developers and realtors."
Well, Steve McCoid also is a conservative who draws the majority of his support from the same homebuilders, developers, and realtors, judging by the contributions to his 2018 campaign so far.
Why, then, is Jackie Leung currently getting so little love from Progressive Salem? Here's some theories, along with my critique of each, based on what I've been able to surmise about the Progressive Salem endorsement process.
(1) Progressive Salem only backs candidates they feel they can go all in for. Door to door canvassing is a big part of the Progressive Salem success story. This takes a bunch of volunteers plus organizing time. OK, maybe Progressive Salem can't run a full bore canvassing campaign for both Micki Varney and Jackie Leung. But this doesn't stop the group from simply endorsing Leung as the most progressive Ward 4 candidate and urging a vote for her. That costs nothing, yet gives Leung increased credibility as a liberal alternative to the conservative Steve McCoid.
(2) Jackie Leung announced her candidacy after Progressive Salem arrived at its political game plan for the 2018 City Council elections. Well, plans can be changed. Progressive Salem should remain flexible until after the deadline for filing for City Council seats, which occurred recently. Incumbent progressive councilors Tom Andersen and Chris Hoy don't have challengers, so this frees up time, money, and energy for the Ward 4 and 8 contests being waged by Jackie Leung and Micki Varney. Failing to back Leung makes no sense, since she clearly is the most progressive Ward 4 candidate.
(3) Progressive Salem wants to win so bad, they won't back potential losers. Hopefully this theory isn't true, even though I've heard fellow local political junkies suggest it. Hey, every candidate is a potential loser. Elections are unpredictable. Nationally, Democrats are showing their strength by running candidates (who often are women) in 2018 races that in previous years would have been ceded to Republicans. Progressive Salem should endorse every progressive candidate who steps up to run in a City Council race. Repeat, every candidate. If they win, great. If they lose, at least progressives tried. Ward 4 is a "purple" ward, about evenly divided between left- and right-leaning people. Clinton beat Trump by just 20 votes in Ward 4 in the 2016 presidential election.
(4) Steve McCoid is a tolerable city councilor, so progressives should work with him, not against him. This is the worst reason I've heard about why Progressive Salem isn't endorsing Jackie Leung. It drives me nuts when liberals aren't willing to be as committed as conservatives are to getting a hold of the reins of political power. Conservatives controlled the Salem City Council for many years because they went all out to elect right-wing candidates.
Now progressives have a narrow 5-4 majority on the council and I hear talk of "Let's just all get along; McCoid and other conservatives can be worked with." That's the sort of mentality that will bring an end to the current progressive majority. Sure, it's good to be collegial. But collegiality should end when election time comes around and there's a clear choice between a progressive and a conservative.
Bottom line: there are many good reasons for Progressive Salem to endorse Jackie Leung for her Ward 4 campaign. Hopefully this will happen. It makes no sense for Progressive Salem to be neutral on the race between Leung and Steve McCoid. The group needs to endorse Jackie Leung, even if it doesn't feel it can help her with canvassing.
Especially in 2018, the year of the woman candidate.