City News

Running for city councilor has gotten costly for one ward as partisan divide shapes a local race

Salem city hall (Salem Reporter)

In the race to represent Salem through unpaid, nonpartisan city council positions, one campaign this year stands out for the heavy campaign spending, unusual for such local races.

Reid Sund, finance director for Salem Health, has collected $46,846 from his supporters in the race to represent southwest Salem as of Friday, April 24, according to campaign finance filings made to the Oregon Secretary of State.

An analysis by local activist Jim Scheppke of campaign expenditures dating back to 2012 shows Sund has amassed the largest amount of campaign contributions in recent history.

Sund’s opponent, Vanessa Nordyke, has raised less than half that. Nordyke, a lawyer for the Oregon Department of Justice, was appointed to represent Salem’s Ward 7 in October following Sally Cook’s resignation. Nordyke has collected $20,089 in cash and in-kind contributions.

In 2016, a wave of progressives won election to the typically conservatively held council seats. This year’s election also falls along an ideological divide as homelessness and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic prove to be guiding issues during this election.

Five of the nine seats on city council are up for election in the May primary. Mayor Chuck Bennett is expected to have little trouble defeating his lone challenger as he seeks a third term.

Complicating campaigning this season is the coronavirus, which has already imposed a hard hit on the local economy and will have lasting outcomes.

Campaign finance records show that Nordyke’s largest contributor has been $1,500 from Dunn and Roy PC, a personal injury law firm. She received $1,000 from AFSCME Local 2067 and $426 from UFCW Local 555, and $275 from City Councilor Chris Hoy.

Nordyke said she’s prioritized attending neighborhood association meetings and talking to her neighbors to understand their needs and earn their support.

“Money doesn’t decide votes, period. It has an impact, but frankly you need to talk to voters., That’s how you win,” she said.

The records show she has spent $13,948 as of Monday, April 27, and has $2,592 cash left.

Sund’s largest contribution — $10,500 – came from the Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee. The Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition gave Sund $7,500. Mike Erdmann, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, is listed as the treasurer for the coalition.

Erdmann said it contributed to Sund’s campaign because he supports building a third bridge across the Willamette River and his finance background makes him well suited to find solutions to the city’s budget issues.

Sund received $1,000 from Richard Duncan, president of Rich Duncan Construction Inc., $225 from the Oregon Right to Life PAC and $500 from auto dealership owner Richard Withnell.

He has spent $39,038 and as of Friday had $5,213 in cash.

When reached for comment Monday, Sund said he gathered the amount of contributions he has because he wants to win.

“I believe that Salem should have a balanced city council and I would bring that balance and I have the background to tackle the problems that we’re facing,” he said. “More than anything I want to win. We put together a plan to give it our best shot.”

Sund hired political consulting firm New Media Northwest and finance records show Sund’s campaign has paid the company $20,212.

He said each dollar he’s paid the firm has gone toward a “physical something,” like mailers, stickers and signs. 

“That’s not campaign advice,” Sund said.

He said he has never campaigned before this race and has learned a lot about what things cost.

“There are many ways to reach people and all those ways cost money, especially because we can’t knock on doors,” he said. “It also shows that I have support. When you have financial support, it shows that people are behind me.”

A local nonprofit, Citizens for Livable Communities, has given money to a slate of candidates for council. The group lists its mission as “improving the local economy, creating jobs, and enhancing the livability of the Mid-Willamette Valley.” Chuck Adams of New Media Northwest is listed as the agent of Citizens for Livable Communities. Its president is lumberman Rob Freres of Lyons.

The group has contributed $6,578 in total to the campaigns of Jan Kailuweit, Brad Nanke, Jose Gonzalez, Sund and Bennett.

Adams didn’t return phone messages seeking comment about the group’s objective in the council races.

Ward 1

In the race to represent downtown Salem, Kailuweit is running against Virginia Stapleton. Kailuweit, an IT manager, lost in 2016 against current councilor Cara Kaser. Kaser isn’t seeking re-election.

Kailuweit has received $10,200 in contributions, and Stapleton has gotten $11,563.

Stapleton, a stay-at-home mom, was endorsed by Kaser and received her largest contribution from Elect Cara Kaser at $2,458.

As of Monday, she has spent $5,432 and has a $6,331 cash balance.

Kailuweit’s largest contribution came from Salem physician Bud Pierce at $2,000. Pierce ran an unsuccessful campaign against Gov. Kate Brown in 2016. Kailuweit also received $1,500 from the Build Jobs PAC.

He has spent $7,269 and has a $5,102 cash balance.

Tom Hoffert, CEO of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, is listed as the treasurer of the Build Jobs PAC.

In Salem Area Chamber of Commerce endorsement documents, Kailuweit is described as having moderate and practical views.

“While Stapleton is a likable and intelligent individual, she lacks the knowledge and experience of candidate Kailuweit. Due to his ability to work with people from all walks of life, he reminds many of a former popular councilor from Ward 1, Chuck Bennett,” the chamber’s endorsement reads.

Ward 3

In less than two months, City Councilor Brad Nanke raised more money than his opponent, Trevor Phillips, did in six months.

Nanke, a director of safety and training at the Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, initially said he didn’t plan to run but reversed his decision and gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Nanke has received $16,925. Nearly half that came from the Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee at $7,500.

He’s also received $5,000 from the Build Jobs PAC at $5,000 and $2,000 from Pierce.

Records show Nanke has spent $9,627 and as of Monday had $8,597 in cash balance.

Phillips, a Salem Health emergency room doctor, has raised $15,291.

He donated $5,000 to his own campaign and his wife, Michelle Phillips, added $2,500.

Phillips also received $500 from the Democratic Party of Oregon and $430 from Hoy.

Hoy said he contributed to the campaigns of Nordyke and Phillips because their values and priorities line up with his. He said he became friends with Phillips when the pair canvassed for his own campaign.

Phillips has spent $8,621 and as of Monday had $6,565 in cash balance.

Ward 5

To represent north Salem to replace outgoing Councilor Matt Ausec, Jose Gonzalez is running against Hollie Oakes-Miller.

Gonzalez, a real estate broker, received $9,116 in cash and in-kind contributions, around nine times the amount raised by Oakes-Miller, a part-time instructor at Portland Community College.

His largest contribution was $2,000 from Pierce.

Oakes-Miller’s largest contribution came from the Marion County Democratic Central Committee at $500. She has spent $651 and has a $480 cash balance.

Records show Gonzalez has spent $4,730 and has a $1,138 cash balance.


Bennett has raised $11,125. He is running against Brooke Jackson, a controller for biomass company Restoration Fuels.

Bennett’s largest contribution was $5,000 from Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee.

He also received a $2,000 from the Portland General Electric Employee Candidate Assistance Fund and $2,500 from the Salem Fire PAC.

Bennett has spent $5,552 and has a $9,854 cash balance.

Jackson has raised $320, $296 of which came from Julia Jackson. She hasn’t spent any money, according to campaign finance filings. 

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.