This year has brought many opportunities, obstacles, losses, and gains, some of which our chapter did not collectively anticipate. On the electoral front, our members came into 2020 with a plan to focus our electoral efforts on supporting Bernie Sanders and Mark Gamba. In late January, I learned Jose Gonzalez was running for City Council in the ward that I live, so I reached out to my political circle to learn more about him. After a few weeks of discussions about Jose and who could run as a candidate for the working class, another organizer suggested that I run for the position, and after a lot more discussion with DSA comrades and other allies, in late February, I announced my candidacy.
Given the March 10th deadline to gather the required signatures, our campaign was immediately at a disadvantage, but we were confident that we had the capacity to run a successful campaign. Some early campaign accomplishments were being recognized by the Marion County Democrats and endorsed by Our Revolution Central Willamette.
By mid-March, after meeting the signature, filing date, and Voter Pamphlet deadlines, we began to make plans for canvassing Ward 5 to reach more of the community and gain more potential voters. Around this same time the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis was becoming apparent, and on March 17th I learned that I would be teaching my face-to-face courses remotely for at least the first half of spring term. Oregon went into lock-down shortly thereafter, and we knew that door-knocking in Ward 5 was not going to be a campaign option for the foreseeable future. The crises also caused my workload to increase by threefold, so I had to put most of my focus on that; as a result, the campaign floundered for several weeks.
Ultimately our team managed some wins, such as gaining union support from the Marion, Polk, Yamhill Labor Chapter of the Oregon AFL-CIO, and getting our message out to the community via campaign interviews with local news outlets, the campaign website, social media, and a limited amount of phone-banking from chapter members. In the end, we ran a very competitive campaign on a shoestring budget against a better-known candidate, who was well funded by home builders, realtors, and the Chamber of Commerce. This shows that our message resonated with about 50% of the Ward 5 community who voted in this election. The city council election results also demonstrate that it doesn’t matter how well funded a candidate is, who is supporting them and what their message is, is much more important to Salem voters.
I want to thank everyone who supported the campaign in big and small ways! It was impressive that nearly a third of our members contributed to the campaign in some capacity. Considering the challenges we faced collectively and individually, we still ran a very competitive race. No matter how this election ends, we can count this as an electoral win for our chapter because we gained; political connections, local media exposure for some of our messaging, knowledge of local political processes, and proved that we have the ability to win local elections!