Some History of the Eugene Mayoral Race

Today’s the day the votes are due and the results start coming in for Eugene’s mayoral race. History can provide a guide and context to the results.

One observation is that experience has mattered. City councilors have an overwhelming advantage when running for mayor. Of the eleven open elections for mayor, city councilors have won eight, or 73%. Combining the incumbency and city councilor advantages, fully 15 out of 18 races, or 83%, have been won by a city councilor or mayor since 1944. Along with this, no incumbent mayor has lost a bid for re-election since Eugene had the council-manager form of government was established in May 1944. Piercy’s 2008 run was by far the closest to losing.

Another observation is that, during the past quarter century the results have seen a wide spread. The 2000 and 2012 contests, where an incumbent faced no significant opposition were landslides. Among the other four contests where there were at least two major competitors, three (1992, 2004, and 2008) were close and one (1996: Torrey v. Weaver) a landslide. This implies a landslide is possible, though unlikely.

Looking at the two major candidates for mayor, Mike Clark and Lucy Vinis, we can see what history implies. Clark is an incumbent city councilor. Vinis, on the other hand, should she win, would be the only mayor with neither significant experience with the city (nothing elected or appointed) nor high-level political experience (Piercy was a former House Minority Leader). This would imply that, based on history, Clark possesses an advantage. On the other hand, the rarity of landslides implies that this will be a close race.

Our polling has shown that the race has tightened, as we predicted and fully expected (as probably everyone did), since our last public poll in February:

Remember that anything can happen.

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