Next week we'll have election results in a number of competitive races. Oregon primary ballots are due on the 15th. Voters in many parts of the state are thinking about the economy. Eugene is no exception.
April Baer reports on how the economy is shaping the Eugene Mayor's race.
The Great Recession brought such dark days to Lane County that you can almost feel the relief when the sun breaks through over Eugene's Saturday Market.
Jenni Calef "Hi there! Take lids off if you want to touch anything."
Jenni Calef is chatting up customers for Eyes of the World jewelry. She says she already knows who she's voting for: incumbent Mayor Kitty Piercy.
"I really, really like her. I've liked her for her last two terms and I still like her. She's just awesome. She's an educator, she's a booster for the community. I've seen her here at the Saturday market, and I've seen her at all kinds of business events," Calef says.
Unemployment rates for the Eugene metro area have fallen somewhat, tracking at 8.3% in March, down more than one percent from a year ago. Calef says she's certainly not out of the woods yet.
"I've been laid off from my regular job. I worked at a store in town called Harlequin beads, I was their inventory manager."
Calef is now on unemployment. She and her husband are scraping by. Market traffic is up a little. But she notices people are still more likely to reach for a $12 pair of earrings than a $50 necklace.
Mayor Kitty Piercy, who's seeking a third term, says she's asking voters to consider some indicators that better times are ahead.
"We've got about seven major developments going on downtown right now."
Piercy helped smooth the way for two major housing developments for the University of Oregon and Lane Community College. While some neighboring residents chaffed at the changes, Piercy's won over some critics for her skills getting consensus on these and other projects.
"A lot of my background is how to get people together to get things done. From the sustainable business initiative I did in my first few years, we have a regional prosperity plan that has a whole Metro area involved," Piercy says.
While Piercy stakes her reputation on bringing people together, her main challenger this year isn't convinced local partnerships have benefitted everybody.
Kevin Prociw says he's more involved in politics this year because of the way the city handled the Occupy protests.
"I'm all about revolution, but I don't think it's quite alright to chain yourself to bank doors," Proclw says.
Prociw has lived in Lane County for most of his life. He now lives and works in Eugene, as a systems manager for the city government.
The group he co-founded, Lane County Citizens for Responsible Government, has called out Piercy and other city leaders on a variety of issues. He says Piercy made bad choices on the redevelopment of Civic Stadium. He's among the city residents who question her advocacy on the West EmX bus route - he says it's not the best kind of transit system for a community Eugene's size.
But Prociw says what prompted him to run for office was Piercy's decision to let Occupy Eugene camp in the city's Washington Jefferson park.
"We have to be fair about how we grant exemptions to the campin]g laws. We can't just do it for groups that we support."
Piercy, who has defended the city's handling of the encampment, points to the 50-person community task force she appointed to address homelessness and other issues that Occupy brought to the front burner.
A third candidate in the race, Jon Walrod, has neither a website nor any campaign contributions. He describes himself as a conservative on economic and social issues.
Piercy says she welcomes the primary challenge as she runs for a third term.
"I feel a great determination to leave us in a healthy position where someone can just step in and go. And I don't think we're quite there yet."
She says she imagines she would not run for a fourth term, but won't rule it out completely.
Voters must get their ballots in to the county elections office by Tuesday's deadline.