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Lane County, Eugene Elections Heating Up, Emily Semple Joins Race

The May election might be a primary, but how a local candidate does in that election — only a couple short months away — can determine the final winner for the position.

In the nonpartisan elections for both the Eugene City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners, if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes in the primary, then that person’s name is the only one that shows up on the November ballot. 

The newest candidate to throw her hat in the ring for City Council is Emily Semple. She is joining Chad Anderson, Kelly Boyd, Josh Skov and Chris Wig in the race for the Ward 1 downtown position that City Councilor George Brown is vacating. 

Semple called herself “Brave Beatrice” when she successfully took on the federal government. In 2014 U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled in Semple’s favor against the General Services Administration in her 2012 arrest for demonstrating for free speech rights at the Federal Plaza downtown. The judge wrote, “The First Amendment does not go to sleep at 5 pm on Friday afternoon and wake up at 8 am on Monday morning.”

Brown, who has chosen not to run again for the Ward 1 seat, says of Semple, “I’m endorsing her wholeheartedly, without reservation. She’s going to be a very good city councilor.”

Other City Council races are less crowded. Despite controversies in the Whit over issues such as gentrification and parking, Claire Syrett’s Ward 7 seat, which encompasses the Whiteaker area, is unopposed, as is Chris Pryor’s Ward 8 seat. 

Longtime City Councilor Betty Taylor’s South Eugene Ward 2 seat is also unopposed. Taylor also says she will be endorsing Semple in the election. 

The County Commission races just a got a little more heated when Lane Community College Board of Education Chair Tony McCown announced he is running against Pat Farr for the North Eugene commission seat. Pete Sorenson, currently the lone progressive voice on the commission, joined McCown at his campaign kick-off event and is endorsing him.

The County Commission, which like other county commissions nationwide, tends to lean to the right, and deals with issues outside the city’s urban growth boundaries that can affect sprawl, land use and water quality. 

City Councilors vote on everything from what happens to the city-owned Kesey Square to who gets tax exemptions and how the city addresses, or doesn’t address, homeless issues.

The filing deadline for the City Council is March 2, and it’s March 8 for the County Commission.