Today brought some interesting, though not hugely surprising, local political news. The Salem Reporter broke the story that Sally Cook has decided to resign her Ward 7 City Council seat following the death of her husband, Jason.
Sally Cook plans to resign her seat on Salem City Council soon, she informed City Manager Steve Powers on Thursday.
The 39-year-old councilor said the sudden death of her husband three months ago and reality of being a single mother of two led to her decision.
“I need to be able to spend time with my family. It really is a large commitment, being a city councilor,” she told Salem Reporter. “I love the work. I am interested in doing more, but right now my family needs me more.”
With election season’s official start Thursday, Cook’s resignation adds another wrinkle to Salem City Council. The council will appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of her term, which expires Dec. 31, 2020.
Jason was only 42. I got to know him through our participation in self-defense classes at Pacific Martial Arts. It was a shock for me and my fellow classmates to hear of his untimely death. My heart goes out to Sally, who is a wonderfully kind and caring woman.
Given the current makeup of the City Council, six progressives and three conservatives, seemingly Cook's appointed replacement will be a progressive like her.
I'd guess that this person will be chosen with an eye toward them running for the Ward 7 seat in the May 2020 primary election (if a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the primary, they become the city councilor, which usually happens). But political guesses often turn out to be wrong.
Also today, the Statesman Journal has a story about Brad Nanke, the Ward 3 councilor, deciding not to run again after 19 years on the City Council.
Salem City Councilor Brad Nanke will not seek reelection in 2020, planning to cap a nearly two-decade run representing southeast Salem after his term concludes.
Nanke, in his fifth term on the council, has more than a year left to influence policy: His current term ends Dec. 31, 2020.
"Five is enough," he told the Statesman Journal on Thursday.
...Nanke is regarded as a more conservative voice on the council. His wife was one member of the conservative talk radio duo that hosted "The Gator & Denise Show," which used to broadcast locally on KYKN.
Given Nanke's rightward political leaning, I'm not a fan of him in that regard. However, anyone who soldiers on as an unpaid city councilor for as long as Nanke has deserves a standing ovation, no matter what side of the aisle they favor (actually, there are no aisles for city councilors, since they sit on two edges of a box-shaped area).
Nanke's Ward 3 district went for Clinton over Trump in 2016 by a 48-41 margin, so this City Council seat appears to be a good chance for a progressive pick-up. Cook's Ward 7 seat went for Clinton by 50-36, so it also leans leftward.
Sure, the Mayor and City Council races are nominally non-partisan. But these days there is very little about politics that isn't partisan on some level, even though much of what the City Council does is nuts and bolts stuff involving keeping the machinery of city government working smoothly.
Recently I heard a city councilor say that about 80% of what they do is in that mostly non-controversial category, while about 20% has liberal/conservative overtones where the political heat is turned up higher. That seems about right to me.
Progressive Salem will be involved in the four City Council seats up for election in 2020. The other two seats are Cara Kaser's Ward 1 seat and Matt Ausec's Ward 5 seat. Kaser and Ausec are both progressives.
It's always an open question to what extent a City Council candidate should focus on their general political leaning, versus talking about specific goals for Salem and their neighborhood. Of course, it's possible to do both -- something that makes sense to me, especially in 2020, a presidential election year.
Both progressives and conservatives are going to be fired up about the national election. Since Salem leans decidedly liberal, I'm hoping that the progressive City Council candidates will do a lot of talking about the positive things that their council majority has accomplished locally.
After all, there's a lot to like about the Progressive Salem vision statement.