Bend councilors’ political leaning

Republicans

• Councilor Bill Moseley

• Mayor Casey Roats

• Councilor Justin Livingston

Democrats

• Councilor Barb Campbell

• Councilor Nathan Boddie

• Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell

• Councilor Bruce Abernethy (can act as a swing vote)

As a citizen committee reviewing Bend’s charter nears its December deadline to recommend whether the city should elect its councilors from geographic wards, city staff have created five maps to help committee members decide whether they prefer three wards or four.

Each ward contains about 23,000 people and consists of between three and seven voting precincts. In each scenario, all or most wards lean Democratic, according to a Bulletin analysis of the ward maps and 2016 election results.

The Bulletin used 2016 presidential election results, rather than the number of registered party voters in each precinct, to classify precincts and wards because of the high number of independent and non-affiliated voters in the city. The Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump race more clearly showed partisan leanings than Ron Wyden’s Senate race or Greg Walden’s House race.

Clinton won every one of the proposed wards in Bend, but she also won all but five of the 20 precincts in Bend. Trump won by much slimmer margins in his precincts, meaning even potential ward maps that group several pro-Trump precincts together don’t swing to the right. Given the well-publicized antipathy many conservative voters felt toward Trump, these precincts could be more conservative than they appeared in 2014.

However, Bend has also become more liberal as it grows. House District 54, which contains most of the city, had about 5,500 more registered Democrats than Republicans as of Sept. 30.

The Bend City Council is elected on nonpartisan ballots, and most city business has little to do with national party politics. Partisan leanings do come into play in some city decisions, such as Bend’s climate action resolution. Liberal councilors, along with their elected Democratic counterparts in Salem and Washington, D.C., were more supportive of Bend’s efforts to reduce fossil fuel usage and reach carbon neutrality in municipal facilities.

The current council has three Republicans (Councilor Bill Moseley, Mayor Casey Roats and Councilor Justin Livingston) and four Democrats (Councilor Barb Campbell, Councilor Nathan Boddie, Mayor pro tem Sally Russell and Councilor Bruce Abernethy, who can act as a swing vote).

Maps were drawn to fit with traditional districting principles including compactness and contiguity. Because Bend is overwhelmingly white, the federal Voting Rights Act requirement that districts not dilute the voting power of racial minorities does not apply.

However, staff avoided splitting the four central Bend precincts where non-white residents and those of Hispanic heritage make up between 8 and 14 percent of the population into four separate wards because they could be considered a “community of interest.” Oregon law says voting districts should not divide groups of people likely to have similar legislative concerns.

Here’s what the different wards look like politically and what the maps mean for current members of the city council.

Four wards

If Bend switches to a four-ward system and an elected mayor, the city would likely have open, citywide elections for the mayor and two at-large council positions in 2018. Councilor Barb Campbell, Mayor Casey Roats and Councilor Nathan Boddie all have terms up in 2018, meaning the three of them would not be affected in the same way by ward elections should they choose to run again.

Boddie, now running for the Oregon House seat Knute Buehler will leave to run for governor, would have time to file for re-election for his council seat should he lose a currently uncontested May primary.

Councilors Justin Livingston, Bruce Abernethy and Bill Moseley and Mayor pro tem Sally Russell, whose terms end in 2020, would have to run for re-election from wards. Abernethy previously told The Bulletin that he does not intend to run again.

Scenario 1:

In the first scenario, Democrats have an edge in every ward. In two of the four wards, though, Clinton’s margin over Trump was fewer than 1,000 votes.

Under this scenario, councilors Livingston, Boddie, Russell and Roats would all live in the same southeast Bend ward. Councilor Moseley would be in a north Bend ward, Abernethy in a southwest ward and Campbell in an east-central ward.

The southeast ward, which contains one strongly Democratic precinct, one weakly Democratic precinct and three in which Trump eked out narrow victories, would be the most favorable to conservative candidates like Livingston and Roats. It has two of the four precincts Russell lost during her 2016 re-election campaign, while Livingston received more than 77 percent of the votes in four of the five precincts in this ward during his 2016 run.

Campbell, possibly the most liberal member of the council, would similarly be in a more conservative ward, though she’s unlikely to run from the ward because of her election cycle.

Abernethy’s ward is the most comfortably liberal — votes cast for Clinton in the five precincts in this ward were more than double those cast for Trump.

Moseley’s ward is also significantly liberal — Clinton received three votes for every two cast for Trump — and contains both one of his best and one of his worst precincts.

Scenario 2:

This scenario creates two strongly Democratic wards, one moderately Democratic ward and one swing ward.

Russell, Boddie, Campbell and Moseley end up in the same ward covering a swath of north-central Bend. Because of election cycles, Russell and Moseley would be the sitting councilors who could run from the ward in 2020.

If presidential choices align with how voters select their city council members, Russell has a clear edge over Moseley in this ward because of Clinton’s 3-2 margin in 2016. Russell’s and Moseley’s best precincts in 2016 most closely aligned with Clinton’s and Trump’s, respectively.

Republicans would have a better chance in a southeastern ward, which Clinton won by fewer than 100 votes. Both Roats and Livingston live in this ward.

A northeastern ward, which no current councilors live in, has a slight Democratic edge. Clinton won the ward by fewer than 500 votes in the 2016 election.

Abernethy’s ward is identical to the first scenario.

Scenario 3:

Under this scenario, four councilors live in a ward comprising the city’s five most liberal precincts. Two other wards went for Clinton by fewer than 800 votes, and one is moderately Democratic.

Russell, Boddie, Moseley and Abernethy are now in the same west-central ward, with Russell and Moseley the sitting councilors most likely to run in the ward in 2020. The ward contains Moseley’s five worst precincts in 2016 and five of Russell’s six best. It clearly leans Democratic; Clinton trounced Trump with nearly 8,000 votes to his 3,058 in this ward.

Roats and Campbell, both of whom are up for re-election in 2018, live in the same east-central ward, and Livingston is on his own in a southern ward. Clinton won both these wards, but by a small enough margin that a conservative candidate still has a good shot.

No current councilors live in the six-precinct northern ward, where Clinton beat Trump by a comfortable 1,200 votes.

Three wards

If Bend decides to adopt a three-ward system, the city would most likely elect one candidate from each ward in 2018 and another candidate from each ward and an elected mayor in 2020.

This means that if Campbell or Roats live in the same ward and both decide to run for re-election in 2018, they’d have to face each other. Livingston, Moseley and Russell would have the choice to run for their ward seats or mayor.

Scenario 1:

This scenario creates one extremely liberal ward, one strongly liberal one and one swing ward. Provided Abernethy does not run again, no current councilors would have to face each other in ward races.

Campbell, who’s up for re-election in 2018, and Moseley, who’s up in 2020, both live in a strongly liberal ward in north Bend. Russell, Boddie and Abernethy are in a very liberal west Bend ward, where Clinton more than doubled Trump’s votes.

Roats, who’s up in 2018, and Livingston, who’s up in 2020, both live in an east Bend ward Clinton won by about 200 votes.

Scenario 2:

Once again, the scenario creates three Democratic leaning wards. If Boddie and Abernethy do not run for city council seats in 2018 and 2020, no sitting councilors will face each other.

Moseley and Abernethy reside in a liberal district in northwest Bend where Clinton came close to doubling Trump’s share of the vote. Roats, Russell and Boddie are all in a southwest Bend district where Clinton got about 150 percent of Trump’s votes.

Livingston and Campbell live in a ward comprised of seven precincts on the east side. Clinton won the ward by slightly more than 800 votes, making it the most obvious swing ward. Livingston, who ran against perpetual candidate Ronald “Rondo” Boozell, performed well across the city in 2016, but the ward contains two of the precincts where he performed worst.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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