The runoff election for the Eugene City Council Ward 7 seat, vacated by a recall election in October 2022, is Tuesday, Nov. 7, and ballots are in the mail.
Incumbent Lyndsie Leech and Barbie Walker are facing off again. After the May election, Leech had a 16 percent lead over Walker, with 48 percent of the votes going to Leech and 32 percent to Walker. A third candidate, Janet Ayers, took home 18 percent of votes. The election ultimately went to a runoff because Leech needed more than 50 percent of the total votes to win the election.
Leech’s planned interview with Eugene Weekly was canceled after she caught the flu, but she was able to answer questions via email. In response to an interview request, Walker says that she didn’t have time for an interview this week because of “calendered events and a Q&A,” but also offered to answer questions via email.
However, Walker never responded to the interview questions or follow up messages. She did write in her initial correspondence that “transparency is the only way a true vote from the People of Ward 7 can happen.”
Former Ward 7 Councilor Claire Syrett was recalled by only 17 percent of possible voters after a controversial campaign that targeted her vote to explore a Lane Transit District project, MovingAhead, on River Road. MovingAhead addresses community goals on efficient transportation options, reducing greenhouse gasses, road safety and active transportation options such as cycling.
Leech, who was appointed to fill Syrett’s position until someone could be elected to replace her, says that while she is excited for the chance to run for City Council, she expressed some concern about how local politicians are being targeted with recalls in Eugene.
She writes in an email to EW, “If we continue to use recall in this way, it will greatly deter qualified people from seeking office and will make elected officials scared to support or enact policy that might be controversial/divisive.” State Rep. Paul Holvey, a Eugene Democrat, defeated a recent recall attempt. Like the recall against Syrett, the Holvey recall campaign was accused of twisting facts.
Leech says that despite the MovingAhead controversy, she plans on supporting increased public transportation in Ward 7. She writes, “As someone that lives on River Road, I was excited to see what plans could look like to improve the safety and walking/biking in my neighborhood, and I am looking forward to future conversations that can achieve that without compromising on our traffic flow in the corridor.”
She has worked in a variety of social services for the last 15 years and is currently the director of WellMama, a nonprofit that provides mental health services for parents and caregivers. Leech says she felt called to run for City Council “to help get to the root of a lot of the quality of life issues affecting our city,” she writes. These issues include but aren’t limited to climate change, houselessness, renters rights and transportation accessibility.
According to Eugene city government data, there are currently more than 3,000 people in Eugene experiencing homelessness. Leech says she plans on addressing the housing crisis in Eugene with a more holistic approach. “Housing and helping our unhoused gain adequate shelter is not something that we can approach with just one tool,” Leech writes. “We must look at all of the ways that people are likely to become unhoused, and why they stay unhoused, and address barriers.”
Leech says that, if elected, she plans on continuing to vote for more housing units at every level. She notes the city has invested millions of dollars into downtown and Riverfront Neighborhood housing projects in addition to passing renter protections for those who face no-cause evictions, and she wants to continue supporting nonprofits who provide emergency shelter options. “Of course, none of this is sufficient and there are many challenges, especially in Ward 7,” she writes. “I think we need to get really creative and improve our community engagement so that we can all work together to improve this situation.”
One of the ways Leech says she plans to continue voting for solutions to the housing crisis is by making the multi-unit property tax exemption work for all kinds of housing, not just market-rate apartment complexes. “With an estimated shortage of 10,000 housing units in our community, we need all forms of housing,” Leech writes. “I think MUPTE is one of several tools that we can use to help promote all forms of housing development.” Leech also mentions LIRHPTE — or low-income rental housing property tax exemption — as another tool that exempts development for affordable housing for 20 years.
Voters in Ward 7 must mail their ballots or or drop them off at Lane County Elections office by 8 pm Nov. 7.