My thoughts: Reasons for 2020 Loss
Over the past 2 decades I have remained silent about the issue of external monetary influence to Albany elections, but remained silent so not to further inflame such influence against my re-election! However, following the egregious tactics applied against me during this past election, I feel compelled to expose such behavior in the hope of deterring future application and acceptance!
I lost, as a consequence of, two campaign political action committees (detailed as follows), a research firm and a campaign consultant who directed my opponent’s campaign which enabled my removal from office. Whereas the 50% votes casted in my favor were not a consequence of any external political action committee actions, but instead a consequence of my prior years of service!
The Chamber of Commerce’s Good Government Council (GGC):
The majority of the voters do not know about this ‘good ‘ol boys club’ which has had significant influence over our city and county campaigns for 20 years now. (Whereas I have NEVER been endorsed by the Chamber’s GGC!) The Chamber formed a political action committee (PAC) in the late 90’s and I have always been their target, all because I refused to be their puppet. The Chamber’s President Ms.Steele is the controller of the Chamber and PAC, and I have stated for years, “Even if I was St. Mother Theresa, I would never be accepted in my elected role by Ms.Steele”. And though I have been routinely disrespected by this group, I have remained cordial and smile when we cross paths. Though now that I am not holding elected office, I feel it is time the public be made aware of the GGC’s influence and their membership exposed:
Ms. Steele, the Chamber President and she lives in North Albany.
Mr. F. Collins, who currently does consultant work for Lepman Properties, lives in North Albany. (Yet I thought he was a friend).
Mr. Cutsforth, retired owner of Nissen Motors and he lives in West Albany.
Mr. M. Martin, retired owner of Security Alarm and he lives in Millersburg.
Mr. D. Reece, owner of the Montgomery Place building downtown, owns an engineering firm, and he resides outside of Albany.
Ms. Dufour, owner of Aasum Funeral Home and she lives in North Albany.
Mr. J. Kloor, employed by NW Natural Gas and he lives in another town.
Mr. J. Rasmeyer, employed by Consumer Power and he lives in another town.
(Hmmm…half of the members are not voters in Albany, yet funnel money to influence our elections)
The GGC Chamber also took advantage this past election to partner with the Oregon Realtors Association PAC out of Salem and with the goal to remove me from office! The Oregon Realtors spent $1.6 million on campaigns throughout Oregon last November and they targeted any current elected official who did not support ADU’s, new middle housing laws to eliminate single family home development and oppose fees on new development. (Keep in mind, if new development does not pay the cost of growth, then you pay in higher taxes and fees! So basically, because I look out for Albany resident’s pocketbook and our community’s livability and I get targeted!
Now how much of their $1.6 million dollars of campaign funds came from Albany realtors and which ones? Well, that remains hidden! I will state there were some Albany realtors who supported me, though only one placed a sign supporting my re-election in their yard. Kudos to Robyn. She put Albany’s welfare above special interest group’s interests, and because she is very passionate for historic preservation.
The Chamber and realtors also hired a research firm to conduct phone polls and strategize about my removal. Well, it worked, and out of almost 27,000 votes casted in the mayoral race, I only lost by 246 votes. (Thank you to the voters who saw through their strategy and remained steadfast in their support!) However, there were also other big players in my loss of votes and these are described as follows:
The Albany Democrat Herald:
The editorial board endorsed my opponent, and their reasons were, “He had charisma”. I did not know that was a ‘criterion’ to be a mayor? I guess me being a caring, hard-working, knowledgeable in city government mayor is not enough for their criteria!
The DH stated he was “pro-business and pro-people”. Wow, that insinuates even with the remarkable improvements to our environment, aesthetics, infrastructure and growth over the past two decades, I am not!
I was very taken back over my hometown paper turning against me and felt much degraded –especially since our city’s litter volunteers have registered frequent complaints about DH’s dumpster like perimeter!
This was also the first time the DH did endorsements. Plus, they have a new publisher now, which I had not met before my interview with them and she lives in Eugene. They allowed 25 minutes for the interview and I guess that was enough for her and Mr. Odegard to make their decision. I am not a salesman! I am just honest as can be person and explain city government as it is. I do not state ideas to garner support, and that I know are not tenable.
There were 5000 more voters who casted their vote in the mayoral race compared to those cast in the 2018 and 2016 elections. There was a big push to get the vote out and Albany has a lot of new residents, which resulted in more voters who are not familiar with Albany’s history and progress. I received my usual number of votes; and suspect it may have been the newer voters who are not knowledgeable of our community that hindered my re-election.
So, basically the Democrat Herald did an editorial of all of their endorsements for mayor, county and state – based on 25-minute interviews and both local and external business interests. How convenient for a new voter of Albany, and not familiar with the candidates, (at least one of which did not provide a mayoral profile in the Benton County voter pamphlet) in not knowing who to vote for and they had a convenient slate of candidates to choose from in their hometown paper. I believe the Democrat Herald opinion lost me way more than 246 votes.
There is more:
Mr. Lepman, Lepman Properties:
I had never seen so little campaign signs throughout the community as this election season. It is understandable considering the presidential election seemed to go on for multiple years. But what this allowed was the biggest landowner (Mr. Lepman, Lepman Properties, and who I believe must be one of the wealthiest individuals in Albany) to place his choice of candidate’s signs on his properties throughout the city. All of his candidates won. His properties are rental houses, apartment complexes and many vacant lots. How convenient for a candidate to just get a long list of locations to place signs at, instead of finding individual property owners to place a sign in their yard, as I did.
I have supported everyone of Lepman’s urban renewal projects the past 20 years. But his latest one last fall, I did not support one of the projects in his application. He wanted funds to improve the alley behind the apartment complex. I stated this was unfair, because of the other property owners in the district have wanted their alleys improved. So, he came back with a modified proposal and I supported it. During this online meeting, who was in the room with Lepman was Mr. Collins from the Chamber’s GGC.
This campaign brought me to reality that people in our community have no loyalty or appreciation of one’s service. Who you might think was a friend, is not! These folks do not care what you have done in the past or even for them, it is all about what can you do for me tomorrow. I am so dismayed from the people who betrayed me or let me down.
So how many votes did I lose by Mr. Lepman loading up his properties with my opponent’s lawn signs? I bet you way more than the 246 I lost by!
Now here is the list of contributors, which is all public record off the State’s Orestar system:
Mr. B. Coburn and Mr. R. Kellum, plus Mr. M. Sykes who owns Mike’s Heating and Air Conditioning.
These three former city councilors did not seek re-election and have been divisive and a hindrance in my opinion to certain progress in Albany for years. They have caused dissention among citizens, and deterred blame to me and other council members for their actions. I’m certain their ongoing resentment against my views to improve and advance Albany continued through the 2020 election and until today!
Mr. M. Quinn who owns Quin Construction. This man has despised my refusal to accommodate his business interests for decades. He only wants free city development fees and has opposed every fee we have imposed on construction over the years, along with his sidekick Mr. J. Robinson who owns Quality Remodeling. Robinson has denigrated me multiple times in the newspaper’s mailbag.
Another contributor to my opponent’s campaign is J. Conser and Sons, a family of realtor and builders. Ms. K. Winans from Salem who works for a mortgage company. (Who want to remove my resistance against their desire to impugn Albany taxpayers with their facility improvement costs!)
I think you can see now who were behind the force to get me out of office. All what I call “pro-pavement people”! Just pave over the valley, but make sure Albany residents subsidize every new house they build, so they can pad their pockets. This has been happening for years and I have challenged the subsidizing of new development, but with my expulsion they can now operate without impunity or any consideration for the expense levied upon Albany taxpayers!
Now the groups named above will justify their efforts by arguing that I got some financial support for defending my mayoral seat. Here was my support:
First of all– my own funds. With COVID I knew friends and businesses were hurting, so I did not seek campaign funds. I was willing to fork out the money on my own, yet I only receive $216 a month in my mayor stipend. My caring husband subsidizes my volunteering, because as a life-long Albany resident also, he cares about our community.
In my past campaigns I have been endorsed by local labor unions, as that is my husband’s job and passion, and we are proud to be supporters of unions. I received some funds from two unions. These two represent local grocery workers, truck drivers and production workers. These workers do not financially benefit from new development. Then some past supporters insisted on donating to my campaign, as they saw the push to get me out and were worried for me and Albany’s future. I was so humbled for their support. Also, after the Democrat Herald made their endorsement of my opponent, I got a call from one of the most generous businessmen in Albany, the largest locally owned retailer, who generously donated to my campaign. He appreciated my long-time service and dedication to revitalizing Albany and was troubled by my treatment by the DH newspaper.
Now if you read through this long-winded summary of the main factors leading to my re-election loss, you are probably wondering what is next for me? Well, I did try to get appointed to the vacant council seat for Ward 2, but it was obvious there was influence from the above groups to not appoint me. Yet these above groups do not live in Ward 2. You can bet these people who have despised me for years, and finally win with their outside of Albany money, were not about to have me be a “voting member” of the council. And I was thus snubbed by this new city council, but at least I got the “good ‘ol boys” to squirm and have enlightened the Albany voter!!
Is this message all-sour grapes? Perhaps, but I feel highly obligated to let the public know where the money and control is coming from, when it comes to city politics. So you have a choice, either you can let our town continue to be controlled by out-side interests, or stand up and “clean-house” next campaign time. But, mostly follow the money with campaign contributions!
Now what? The “good ol boys” and this new council will be seeing me advocating against this “pro-pavement” control. I will be drafting up, with some other like-minded advocates, some educational material for our great citizens of Albany to have a better understanding of where their tax dollars go.
Thank you for listening!