Alan Pittman is the News Editor for Eugene Weekly.
At 10 pm with about a quarter of the votes counted, Kitty Piercyâ€™s lead had widened slightly to 52 percent in the Eugene mayor's race.
Rob Handyâ€™s lead in the county commissioner race held at about 52 percent.
Both races remained too early and close to call.
With about 20 percent of the ballots counted at 9 pm, the pivotal Eugene mayor and north Eugene county commissioner races were too close to call.
Mayor Kitty Piercy lead Jim Torrey 51 to 48 percent. Rob Handy lead Commissioner Bobby Green 52 to 48 percent.
â€œItâ€™s too early to count any chickens,â€ Piercy said.
Piercy figures she may need about 38,000 votes to be assured of victory. At 9 pm she had just 8,752.
The Handy campaign said they might need about 17,776 votes to be assured of victory. At 9 pm Handy had just 3,503 votes.
Compared to 8 pm, both Piercy and Handyâ€™s leads remained roughly stable.
Lane County Elections will start reporting results after about 8:30 pm on their website.
The pivotal close races to watch are the Democrat Kitty Piercy v. Jim Torrey mayor showdown and the close race for the north Eugene Lane County commissioner seat between conservative Bobby Green and progressive Rob Handy.
The magic number for Piercy/Torrey may be 34,060. Thatâ€™s 50 percent of those who voted in a city election in November 2004.
The magic number for Handy/Green may be 15,663. Thatâ€™s 50 percent of those who voted in a contested county commissioner race in November 2004.
But the number of voters this year appears likely to be higher. Students say they have registered thousands of new voters at the UO. A high student turnout could help progressive Piercy.
Lane County reports a 2.5 percent increase in voter registrations compared to 2004. If turnout equals the 91 percent for the county in 2004, the Piercy/Torrey magic number could inflate to 34,898. The Handy/Green magic number could inflate to 16,048.
In May 2008, the county had counted about 60 percent of the votes in Eugene by 9 pm. Judging from May, late votes may favor progressives Piercy and Handy.
Piercy and Torrey were nearly even at 9 pm in May, but in the unofficial final results available the next day, Piercy was ahead by almost 800 votes or about 2 percent.
In May Handy lead Green by about 2 percent at 9 pm. In the unofficial final results the next day, Handy had a lead of about 4 percent.
Both races went to a runoff because no one had more than 50 percent.
Torrey and Handy may have a slight edge based on the May results.
If the 4 percent of voters who voted for two other conservative candidates in May had instead voted for conservative Torrey, he would have won with 51 percent.
If the 6 percent of voters who voted for two other candidates critical of Green in May had instead voted for Handy, Handy would have won with 55 percent.
Another factor for Piercy may be The Register-Guard. The paper inexplicably reversed its May endorsement of her to Torrey and has largely buried or not reported in depth news of Torreyâ€™s huge contributions from gravel pit and development interests.
Remember how George Bush, Henry Paulson and other supporters of the $700-billion bailout for banks swore up and down how the taxpayer money was desperately needed so that banks could lend money to main street Americans?
Well, it now appears that's not what the money was really for at all.
The Bush Administration just handed Umpqua Bank, one of the Northwestâ€™s largest financial institutions, $214 million in taxpayer bailout cash.
But as the Oregonian reports :
Umpqua is already well-capitalized, raising questions about whether the institution needed the federal money. "The bottom line is, we probably don't," said Ray Davis, president and CEO of Umpqua Holdings.. Umpqua's Davis said it made sense to accept the money, which will come in handy if the bank decides to buy out a competitor.
The Register-Guard similarly reports :
â€œWe can use it for pretty much anything,â€ Chief Financial Officer Ron Farnsworth said. â€œIf we need it for lending, we can use it for lending. We donâ€™t need it for that â€” we have plenty of money for lending (from) deposits. We look at it as an opportunity for increasing our footprint.â€ What the Treasury is trying to do, Farnsworth said, â€œis drive consolidation. They want to see the stronger banks acquire the weaker ones.â€
So Umpqua doesnâ€™t need the bailout money for lending and wonâ€™t use it for that. What it will do is use the taxpayer money to consume smaller competitors, causing big layoffs and making itself too big to fail so Umpqua can then get, you guessed it, more bailouts.
A few years ago environmentalists called for a boycott of Umpqua because some of its biggest owners were old-growth timber barons. After the $214 million taxpayer bailout was announced, those timber baronsâ€™ Umpqua stock rose more than 20 percent.
Could Kitty Piercy get an endorsement from Barack Obama in the tight Eugene mayor's race?
Piercy's opponent, erstwhile Republican Jim Torrey, has also tried to cozy up to Obama, using the same "yes we can" slogan.
While he was running as a conservative Republican against State Senator Vicki Walker two years ago, Torrey ran a TV ad cozying to Bill Clinton in an effort to win votes. But the ad backfired and prompted Clinton to endorse Walker.
How did Walker get Clinton to endorse in the local race? The Register-Guard reported, "Walker forwarded the ad to Clinton's New York office. They quickly sent back an endorsement." Simple.
Kitty Piercy now has a TV ad out in the tight mayor's race that describes Jim Torrey as a "right wing Republican."
The folksy ad also notes Torrey's big contribution to George Bush's re-election campaign.