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Politics & Government

2020 May Primary Finds Six Candidates Vying For Eugene Mayor's Office

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Incumbent Mayor Lucy Vinis is running for a second term as the Mayor for the City of Eugene.  Vinis says it's important to continue the work she's done in her first term.  However, she faces five challengers with their own ideas where the city should go.

For KLCC News, I’m Rachael McDonald.

It’s a crowded race for Eugene Mayor. Five candidates are challenging incumbent Lucy Vinis in the May primary. Joining me to talk about this contest is KLCC’s Brian Bull.

BB: Good day, Rachael!

RM: So Brian, in a nutshell, how would you characterize this race?

BB: If this were a painting, it’d be six relatively similar hues of blue. All candidates are left of center in varying degrees, all are progressive minded, and all see the City of Eugene as a partner in tackling some very common problems.

RM: Which is to be expected in this corner of Oregon. What’s the challenge for the ah, challengers?

BB: So in what I call the 2020 Pandemic Primary, there’s not a lot of available forums for the candidates to stand on stage and engage each other in a real-time debate. Social distancing has all but ended door-to-door campaigning and voter drives. Limits on crowds means rallies aren’t coming back soon, at least not before this primary. So those “breakout moments” for candidates this time isn’t really happening…at least not in the boots-on-the ground, press-the-flesh, sense.

RM: Which can make things easier for the incumbent, Mayor Lucy Vinis….or will it?

BB: Vinis has the advantage of name recognition, some key endorsements from groups like the Democratic Party of Lane County and NARAL-Pro Choice Oregon, and venerable Congressman Peter DeFazio. And she has a record to point to.  The disadvantage being, her record, depending on how you choose to look at it.

RM: Some challengers have stated that Eugene is going in a good direction. Who’re the biggest detractors of Vinis’s first term as mayor?

BB: I’d say it’s Solidarity candidates Ben Ricker and Zondie Zinke. Ricker is a stay-at-home parent, artist, with a background in journalism. He’s nailed the city hard on the downtown dog ban, and also the decision to enforce bans on homeless sleeping on

planting strips within the city. He and Zinke are big proponents of public housing, and both have said that homelessness needs to be decriminalized. And both are disappointed on the current mayor’s progress on climate change mitigation, saying it doesn’t go far enough.

RM: Housing and homelessness are huge issues for the City of Eugene, according to all of the candidates. Another challenger, Thomas Hiura, has come at Mayor Vinis on that issue, right?

BB: Correct, Rachael. Hiura says he slept many a night in his Nissan Leaf after his mom threw him out of the house after he came out with an LGBTQ identity. He says Eugene’s recent ranking as first nationally for homelessness per capita is nothing to be proud of, yet he also wants public spaces to be safe for children, women, and those wanting to just enjoy them. He’s also a big proponent for accountability and transparency, which was part of his closing statement to the City Club interview…which he did as a rap song.

[CLIP OF HIURA HERE RAPPING]

RM: Another mayoral hopeful has offered a unique take on Eugene’s future: Stacey Westover.

BB: Yes. She’s also talking about homelessness, but wants the city of Eugene to develop without succumbing to gentrification and urban renewal. She thinks affordable housing is important, and has also talked of permaculture and regenerative agriculture as ways to nurture the environment. Westover sees it as more feasible than trying to get the entire city to go solar. And she also touted the idea of food forests around the city to help during this pandemic.

RM: Finally, there’s Matthew Yook, data analyst. In his own words, he’s been “heated about housing.” Not just on the high cost of living across Eugene, but on weatherized windows.

BB: He sees those as a way to cut down environmental control costs, the same as solar panels. Yook says he’s all for reducing the city’s carbon footprint, and would like to see more and more Eugeneans owning a public internet. He’d also like to increase food sovereignty and promote more mortgage and rent forgiveness, an issue that’s gotten a lot more attention as this pandemic continues.

RM: And turning back to the incumbent, Mayor Lucy Vinis…what’s her case for another term?

BB: Vinis says it’s important to extend on her record, pointing to the city’s adoption of the TAC report and its 10 recommendations for combating homelessness, including the creation of a permanent, low-barrier homeless shelter, and developing more affordable housing. She’s pleased with her efforts to battle climate change, including the City of Eugene’s Climate Action Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. And apparently having time to try it out, suggested in a City Club interview that telecommuting could be an environmentally conscious practice for the city and its residents. Like we are.

RM: An informative talk about the mayor’s race, Brian, though not all-encompassing.

BB: No, there’s plenty more information to be gleaned in the voter’s pamphlet, and each candidate’s website and social media. And of course, KLCC will be following the returns on primary night.

RM: Indeed we will. Brian, thanks for your time.

BB: Thank you, Rachael.

RM: KLCC’s Brian Bull, talking to us about the crowded primary race for the Eugene Mayor’s race.

Note: Since the publication of the City of Eugene Voters' Pamphlet, one mayoral candidate - Robert Patterson - has dropped out of the race.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

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