Eugene Weekly : News : 12.04.08

President landslide helped Piercy
by Alan Pittman

Barack Obama won by a 72 percent landslide in Eugene in a big student turnout that also helped push Mayor Kitty Piercy to victory. 

Obama Vote by Eugene Ward

Obama won in all 34 of Eugene’s election precincts, according to an EW analysis of election results. In 14 precincts, including in the UO, Whiteaker, Fairmount, Crest, fairgrounds and Amazon neighborhoods, his support topped 80 percent. 

John McCain did best in precincts in the Bethel, Delta Highway, Willakenzie, and Santa Clara areas where 40-45 percent voted for the Republican. 

The strong Democratic vote makes staunch Republicans on the City Council Mike Clark and Jennifer Solomon look unrepresentative. In their north Eugene and Bethel wards, nearly 60 percent voted Democratic for president. Clark and Solomon have run largely unopposed for their council seats. City council races are technically nonpartisan.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy faced a strong challenge from former Republican Mayor Jim Torrey. Piercy beat Torrey by 2 percent des-
pite development interests pouring an unprecedented half million dollars into Torrey’s campaign.

The excitement of the Obama campaign apparently helped Piercy, particularly among student voters. A key to Piercy’s victory after Torrey forced a runoff in the primary may have been a big jump in student voters.

In the UO dorm precinct, the number of voters more than doubled from the May primary. About 1,200 more people voted in a precinct that went 76 percent for Piercy. 

The student voter effect may best seen in the precinct near Autzen Stadium that includes large student housing complexes and a neighborhood. In May Piercy had only 46 percent of the vote in the precinct. But in November, 78 percent more people voted in the precinct, and Piercy won 53 percent of the area’s vote. 

The number of additional voters from May to November in the UO dorm and Autzen precincts roughly equals Piercy’s 1,600 vote margin over Torrey.

Many students apparently did not go much past Obama in filling out their ballots. Citywide, the undervote percentage was 6 percent in the mayor’s race. The UO dorm precinct had a 20 percent undervote, a South University precinct 10 percent and the Autzen precinct 13 percent.

But students helped make up for the undervote in sheer numbers. Compared to November 2004, the voter turnout in the UO dorm precinct was up 5 points. 

Voter turnout was 89 percent citywide compared to 92 percent in 2004. But voter registrations were up 2 percent. It doesn’t appear that the unpopularity of President George Bush suppressed the Republican turnout much. Turnout in Santa Clara, the most Republican area of town, was similar to the rest of the city.

Aside from the student precincts, Piercy’s support generally showed a similar pattern to the May primary. Piercy had her strongest support in the UO, downtown and south Eugene areas while Torrey had his strongest support in the north and west Eugene suburbs. Piercy won more than 70 percent of the vote in Whiteaker, College Hill, UO, South Crest and Fairmount precincts. Torrey had more than 70 percent in the Delta Highway, Santa Clara, Bethel, and Willakenzie precincts.  

Rob Handy won the key north Eugene Lane County commissioner race by 257 votes, less than 1 percentage point. Handy won in seven of 16 precincts. Support of greater than 60 percent in Whiteaker and unincorporated River Road precincts helped push him over the top.

The narrow Handy victory could provide a key vote to swing county government to progressives. But almost 5,000 undervoters did not pick a candidate in the tight race, 13 percent of the ballots cast.