It’s election season, and for the city of Eugene, only two candidates will face-off in a contested race on the November ballot — Emily Semple and Eliza Kashinsky. They are vying for the Ward 1 position, which covers most of downtown.
As the incumbent, Semple is seeking election to a second term; Kashinsky is running for political office for the first time. In the May primary, Semple led with 38 percent of the vote, while Kashinsky followed close behind with 33 percent. Though both are coming from the same ward, each candidate has her own philosophy on what is best for Eugene. Kashinsky’s campaign is currently under investigation by the Oregon Secretary of State about the reporting of a contribution.
Semple, who is recovering from a car crash and dealing with a concussion, told Eugene Weekly that she originally ran for City Council in 2016 to address homelessness. She says it is still one of the biggest issues facing the city.
“We tend to look at the symptoms, and we need to look at the causes,” she says, adding that the city can start with just having a place where people can sleep legally. “It’s the most embarrassing thing that you cannot sleep in Eugene.”
With creating more housing, Semple says she is looking forward to how the state wants cities to implement House Bill 2001, which allows for denser and more diverse forms of housing in neighborhoods.
Semple and the City Council have been criticized in the past for their passing of the payroll tax without consulting voters. The tax provides more money for police response downtown. “Council can change their minds,” she says, and the tax money can be moved around within the realm of public safety; for example, the tax can give more money to programs like CAHOOTS.
All the energy from Black Lives Matter, Semple says, as well as other exposure of racial injustices, is spurring the energy to make changes regarding equality.
“We would be remiss to not take advantage of it. We have the energy in Eugene. We have a mayor, manager and council who want and are willing to make the innovative changes we need and desire right now,” she says, adding that fairness is how she approaches topics on the council.
When asked about how Semple’s constituents can trust that she will follow through, she says that she is an honest person and will keep people informed, especially if something has changed.
“When I tell you I want to reform our police, our caring and our outlook for each other, I’m going to do it.”
Kashinsky says she believes Eugene is pretty progressive, but its leadership can be stagnant. If elected, she says she wants to focus on getting the city unstuck. The city should measure its effectiveness, she says, by what people think the city’s job is — rather than pointing fingers. For example, she says that on climate change and homelessness, the city tends to defer to the county, instead of taking its own steps.
Kashinsky has previously had experience working on the city’s budget committee and the Climate Action Plan. She tends to look at how problems are interconnected, she says. With the climate, she says eliminating plastics is a smaller piece of the big picture.
Kashinsky, who notes in each interview with EW that she reads Eugene zoning code for fun, also has thoughts about how the city can improve its housing. She says she is against expanding the urban growth boundary into forest land, unless all other options are exhausted. “The zoning code right now is very exclusionary,” Kashinsky explains. “Even if that’s not our intention now, it’s still in the roots of the code.” In implementing HB 2001, she says the city has an opportunity to make the zoning code more inclusive and create more affordable housing.
On Aug. 19, a complaint was filed with the Oregon Secretary of State against Kashinsky’s campaign, alleging a donation was made in a false name. The allegation, which is currently being investigated, claims that the National Association of Realtors NAR Fund in Chicago made a $10,423.20 cash contribution to Eugene Realtors for Community PAC. In April, the Eugene Realtors PAC transferred that exact amount to Access Marking in Denver, Colorado, for the purpose of an independent expenditure in support of Kashinsky. However, the contribution was never reported by the Elect Eliza Kashinsky committee.
The complaint alleges that the National Association of Realtors violated ORS 260.402(1) because they directly reimbursed the Eugene Realtors PAC for making a contribution in their name, rather than the National Association of Realtors name, who technically provided the contribution.
Kashinsky says she does not know anything about the complaint.
“I’m confident that my treasurer has been diligent in that we have done everything according to Oregon law and filing with OreStar,” she says.