2018 Election Preview for Eugene-Springfield Voters

by Alan F. Zundel

How are the races for the 2018 elections shaping up? Let’s take a look at the top offices Eugene-Springfield voters will be casting their ballots for.

The primary election will be on May 15, 2018. Voters registered with each of the major parties—Democratic, Republican, or Independent Party—will choose their respective party’s nominees in the primary. Candidates for nonpartisan offices will also be on the primary ballot, vying to be one of the top two candidates (or in some cases the only candidate) to appear on the November ballot.

Filing to run as a candidate in the primary election closes on March 6, 2018. Let’s take a look at who has filed as of October 10. (Candidates for minor parties will be chosen at their conventions held at various times in 2018, generally after the primary election.)

Federal Elections

On the federal level, 2018 is not a Presidential election year nor are either of Oregon’s two U.S. Senators up for election. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Eugene-Springfield area is covered by U.S. Congressional District 4, which extends north to Corvallis and Lebanon, south to the California border, west to the Pacific coastline, and east into the Cascade Mountain Range.

Democrat Peter DeFazio has held the seat since 1987 and is expected to seek the nomination of his party again, although he has not yet filed as a candidate.

Two candidates for the Republican nomination have filed so far, Stefan Strek and Jo Rae Perkins. In 2016 Strek was a candidate in the primary election for Eugene mayor. Perkins lives in Albany and was a primary candidate for U.S. House District 4 in 2016 and the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Statewide Elections

There are two statewide seats up for election in 2018, Governor and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).

The incumbent Governor, Democrat Kate Brown, has filed for reelection. On the Republican side, Knute Buehler, Keenan Bohach, and Bruce Cuff have filed. Buehler, who lives in Bend, is the best known of the Republicans, currently serving as a representative for Oregon House District 54. Bohack is a farmer and U.S. Army veteran living in Keizer, and Cuff is a real estate broker in Lyons and also a veteran.

The BOLI Commissioner is a nonpartisan office. The current incumbent, Brad Avakian, has stated that he will not be running for reelection. So far Val Hoyle and Jack Howard have filed for the office. Hoyle ran for Oregon Secretary of State in the 2016 primary. She previously represented Oregon House District 14 and was majority leader in the state house. Howard, from La Grande, is an attorney and County Commissioner in Union County.

Oregon State Senate

Three state senate districts cover areas of Eugene and Springfield: districts 4, 6 and 7. The terms of state senators last for four years and all three of these are up for election in 2018.

To date no one has filed for District 4 (south Lane County into Douglas County). The current incumbent is Democrat Floyd Prozanski, who has held the seat since 2003. Prozanski is expected to run again.

Democrat Lee Beyer, the current incumbent of District 6 (north central Lane County into Linn County), has filed to run again. Beyer has held the seat since 1999 and so far no challenger has filed.

Democratic James Manning was appointed to District 7 (west Eugene area) in December of 2016 and has filed to run for the seat. As a new legislator he is expected to draw challengers, but no one else has filed yet.

Oregon State House

Every seat in the Oregon State House is up for election every two years. Six seats cover the Eugene-Springfield area.

No one has filed yet for District 7 (east Lane County into north Douglas County). The seat has been held by Republican Cedric Hayden since 2015, and he is expected to run again.

Democrat Paul Holvey, the incumbent in District 8 (southwest Eugene area), has filed to run again. He has held the seat since 2004. Democrat Phil Barnhart, the incumbent in District 11 (west Lane County) since 2003, has also filed to run again. No one has yet filed to challenge either of them.

To date no one has filed for District 12 (Springfield) or 13 (north central Eugene). Democrat John Lively has held the District 12 seat since 2013 and is expected to run again. Democrat Nancy Nathanson has held the District 13 seat since 2007 and is also expected to run again.

Democrat Julie Fahey is in her first term as representative of District 14 (northwest Eugene). She has filed to run again and Rich Cunningham has filed for the Republican nomination. Fahey is a business consultant and Cunningham a retired insurance broker.

Lane County Commission

The terms for Lane County Commissioners are four years and three of the five seats are up for election in 2018. These seats are nonpartisan.

In District 1 (west Lane County), incumbent Jay Bozievich is running for reelection. So far I am not aware of anyone else running for this seat.

In District 2 (Springfield), incumbent Sid Leiken is running for reelection. Former Lane Education Service District board member Joe Berney of Springfield is challenging Leiken for the seat.

And in District 5 (east Lane County) incumbent Gary Williams is running. Williams was appointed to the board in April of this year to fill out the term of Commissioner Faye Stewart. This seat has attracted a number of competitors. Eugene property manager Heather Buch, former county commissioner candidate Kevin Matthews, and real estate broker James Barber are all actively engaged in campaign activities.

Stay Tuned!

We’ll be looking at each of these races in more detail as the election season progresses. Check back with us or sign up for our email list on our website to keep in touch.

Politics and the Clash of Economic Stories

by Alan F. Zundel

Politics in the U.S. has always been organized primary around competing stories about the economy. These stories help people make sense of what’s going on in the larger society, what it is that threatens them, and what the government should do about it.

The stories typically start with a “once upon a time” beginning, go on to explain how a problem arose, identify heroes and villains, and end with a call to action. In the last Presidential election four stories were in play, and they are still in play today. Which story someone accepts defines their political orientation and shapes their political actions, most importantly how they vote.

The New Deal Progressive Story

The New Deal Progressive Story was most famously framed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became the organizing story of the Democratic Party for about a half a century. It goes like this:

Once upon a time America was a land of economic opportunity for ordinary people, but then big corporations, greedy for power and profits, took over the economy and led us into a horrible depression. Roosevelt brought people together to restrain the economic elite by putting limits on the actions of big corporations and creating a social safety net for people in times of need.

The story dominated U.S. politics for several decades but began to lose its hold on the Democratic Party by the 1980s. It has returned to prominence with the Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders and is also popular among progressive Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren. The new version goes like this:

Once upon a time FDR’s New Deal policies resulted in 25 years of prosperity and rising incomes for all, but then big business leaders conspired with extreme conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan and undid our progress. Now we have to rebuild and extend Roosevelt’s coalition to defend and extend the social safety net and again regulate the actions of big business.

The Libertarian Conservative Story

The reason the New Deal Progressive Story lost ground, however, is not addressed by its new story tellers. Ronald Reagan was not just a creature of big business, he was a widely popular President because he told a compelling story that explained the economic problems of the 1970s. His story was the Libertarian Conservative Story, and it goes like this:

Once upon a time we had economic freedom and opportunity in this country, but then ambitious politicians created big government programs that promised too much to too many people in the 1960s and ruined the economy in the 1970s. President Reagan brought people back to traditional values and revived the economy by lowering taxes and freeing the economy from excessive regulation.

This has been the defining story of the Republican Party since the Reagan administration, and was told by virtually all of the 2016 Presidential candidates except Donald Trump.

The Neo-Liberal New Democrat Story

When leaders of the Democratic Party found themselves losing voters to the Republicans’ Libertarian Conservative Story, some of them came up with a new story, the Neo-Liberal New Democrat Story. It goes like this:

Once upon a time the Democrats’ New Deal led us into rising prosperity for all, but then the economy changed and we didn’t change with it. As a result we lost voters to the Reagan Republicans, who led people in the wrong direction. President Bill Clinton saw that we needed to adapt to the globalization of the economy with new trade agreements and provide education and training to bring workers into the new economy. We need to fight for this against the forces of the Reagan Republicans.

This has been the story told by most Democratic politicians since the Clinton administration, and was best represented in the 2016 Presidential election by Hillary Clinton. (Of course!) But because the Clinton era policies did not bring their promised benefits to working people, the New Democrats were challenged by Bernie Sanders’ revival of the party’s New Deal Progressive wing. The two wings are now fighting over the future of the Democratic Party and which story will represent it.

The Alien Undermining Story

The Alien Undermining Story is an old one, but did not have as much influence as the other three stories until it was picked up by Donald Trump in his 2016 Presidential campaign. It goes like this:

Once upon a time we were a united people and things were good, but then we were betrayed by a political elite pandering to alien forces who don’t accept our values. We need a strong leader to sweep this elite from power and drive out or suppress these alien forces.

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I have to point out that the historic precedent for this story is that it was told during the Great Depression by fascists like Adolph Hitler. The Alien Undermining Story has its greatest power in times of confusion in which multiple stories clash and none seem to be able to pull people together well enough to move the country forward. People then look to a strong leader to unify us against the alleged perpetrators of our chaotic situation.

What Now?

Our political stories unite us with those who share them, but divide us from those who adopt divergent stories. When no story is capable of gaining majority support, there are only two paths open to us. One is persistent divisiveness that allows the rise of fascist forces and ultimately leads to greater chaos. The other is to find a new story capable of winning majority acceptance.

This new story might be a variation of one of the old stories that allows it to incorporate the persuasive elements of a competing story, or it might be something radically different from any of the older stories.

But to persist in clinging to one of the old stories without identifying why many people find it unpersuasive, or without finding a way to adapt it so as to bring two stories together into a better story, is a recipe for disaster.