Corvallis Now Bluer than Eugene

Jun 2, 2016

Credit Corvallis City Club

The City of Corvallis now has proportionately more Democrats than the City of Eugene, recently edging out the larger city. It's been a big, although gradual change.

Political analyst and long-time Corvallis resident Bill Lunch explains something that a lot of newcomers to town may not realize:

"This was a classic moderate Republican town."

But in the nineties, with the Oregon Citizens' Alliance pushing anti-gay rights measures, Lunch says that started to change.  Then, Lunch adds, people at science-oriented Oregon State University rebelled against what they saw as an anti-science Republican party. Now 55-percent of Corvallis voters are registered Democrats with just 19% of them Republicans, and the same amount of non-affiliated. 

At the popular café Coffee Culture, patrons told us that between the university, dozens of high tech companies, and health care, it's no wonder that Corvallis registers blue:

"In all of those fields," says Corvallis resident Simon Odense, "you have people of higher educational attainment, and there are statistics that correlate higher educational attainment with a more liberal mindset."

Demi Belshe adds that, "Equal rights, whether it's transgendered restrooms, just everything in this generation is leaning towards equal everything."

And David Burnell says that, "The state itself has been sorting itself out in terms of people moving to places where they find a political environment that suits them quite well and I think this is part of a national trend."

However Benton County Republican Party Chairman Jerry Jackson says some of the economic changes that brought the political changes are not positive:

"The industries that brought in the Republicans and kept the businesses alive have gone away because of the rules the federal government put on. We used to have five sawmills in this town."

Jackson says some of the Democrats in Corvallis may not be as blue as they seem:

"It's not uncommon for somebody who wants to get a job to change over to Democrat, get the job, and then change back to Republican."

Bill Lunch says nationally, wealthy people traditionally registered Republican.  That too has been changing. Corvallis is relatively prosperous and there has been a switch to the Democratic Party by some wealthier residents.  Take doctors:

"Doctors used to be an absolutely rock-ribbed Republican constituency because they were small business people in a certain sense.  They had their own practices. But physicians have moved out of their own practices and gone to work for these much larger organizations."

Meanwhile Eugene has been no slacker in adding Democrats. Due to the recent primary and easier voter registration, the city has added 10-thousand new registered voters this year, the overwhelming majority of the newcomers being Democrats.

Corvallis is now the second bluest city in Oregon with more than 50-thousand residents. Portland is first and Eugene ranks third. Ashland, with  20-thousand residents, is the bluest overall.