Major donors largely mum on why they are fueling Julie Hoy’s mayoral campaign

With over a quarter million dollars in contributions, Julie Hoy’s campaign for mayor has shattered previous Salem mayoral fundraising efforts.

But most of the business owners and developers who have spent thousands backing her campaign won’t say why they believe she’s the best fit for Salem.

Donors have contributed $283,803 to the Julie Hoy campaign as of Friday, May 10, compared to her opponent, incumbent Chris Hoy’s, $56,810. The two Hoys are not related.

The campaign reports available publicly show Julie Hoy, a restaurant owner serving on the Salem City Council, still had $41,248 on hand in her campaign treasury while Chris Hoy, retired from a career in law enforcement, had $41,771. The election is May 21.

The mayor is an unpaid position who presides over city council meetings. The incumbent is one of nine votes, and a majority is required to approve city-related measures.

Former Mayor Chuck Bennett, who moved out of Salem in 2022 to be closer to family, said the cost of mayoral races has been rising, but he called Julie Hoy’s total amount raised “stunning.”

He said many in Salem think the mayor makes decisions about the day-to-day running of the city. The mayor appoints councilors to committees and volunteer members of city boards and commissions, but otherwise has the same vote as any other councilor.

Mayors don’t approve development permits or get involved in routine building and planning decisions that impact many developers. The city manager is in charge of most aspects of city operations.

“There’s an impression that’s both real and kind of imagined as to how much power the mayor has,” Bennett said. “People think the mayor runs the show and they don’t.”

Over half of Julie Hoy’s total comes from large donors representing real estate and business interests, both locally and statewide.

Salem Reporter reached out to seven of her top donors, those who contributed over $6,000, to ask what inspired them about her candidacy and what policies they look forward to seeing implemented.

Only her top contributor, Oregon REALTORS PAC, spoke on the record and answered written follow up questions. Marion + Polk First, a conservative political action committee which has sent out mailers on her behalf, provided a written comment. 

Two other top donors declined to comment and three did not respond. 

Hoy’s campaign strategist, Betsy Schultz, said that over 250 individual donors, including smaller ones, show a breadth of community support to reach the high fundraising total. 

“I think that people sometimes feel like campaigns should not be expensive. But the reality is: this is an important role in our community, and it takes resources,” including money and effort, “to get a new and different outcome,” she said, because Julie Hoy is facing an incumbent.

“While there may be some sticker shock, I think that there is an understanding across the community that if we want to see change, we have to actually step up and make that change happen,” Schultz said.

Hotly contested mayoral races have been rare in recent Salem history. Mayor Anna Peterson was unopposed for reelection in 2012 and 2014. Bennett was unopposed in 2018, and raised just $22,564 in his 2020 reelection bid against Brook Jackson.

In the previous race in 2022, Chane Griggs, chair of the Salem Planning Commission, raised $132,000 to Chris Hoy’s $51,000. 

This year, Julie Hoy’s second largest donor, Larry Tokarski, has contributed $20,000 in cash, and $19,104 of in-kind contributions through his business Mountain West Investment Corp.

Tokarski declined to comment on the donations, citing through a spokeswoman his ownership interest in Salem Reporter. He did not respond to questions.

Mike Erdmann, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, leads the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition PAC, which contributed $7,500 in cash. He also declined to comment.

Her other top donors who did not respond to requests for comment include Richard Schultz and Jeanne Schultz, owners of Cherry City Metals who contributed a combined $25,000. They have no relation to Julie Hoy’s campaign strategist.

Commercial Property Resources, a Salem-based property management company, donated $10,000 and Dick Withnell, who used to own the Withnell Dodge dealership and contributed $6,000, also did not respond.

Her largest contributor, Oregon REALTORS Political Action Committee, has spent $71,623 on in-kind spending for the campaign and contributed $1,000. Its president, Ashleigh Fordham, directed questions to the Mid-Valley Association of REALTORS to discuss their local priorities.

Zach Fischer, president of the Mid-Valley group, said that the mayoral race is a top priority because of worsening housing affordability in Salem.

Fischer said that local housing supply is not meeting demand, and the average income has not gone up to meet rising costs. He said city permitting has changed, with single-family permits down and multifamily permits up, and that there aren’t enough incentives for local builders. 

Since July 2023, the city has issued 17 multifamily building permits for 215 total apartments, and 284 single-family home building permits, according to the city’s monthly permit reports.

“Julie Hoy has had conversations with our organization about this and reached out to engage with our organization, whereas Mayor Hoy hasn’t. He did not even participate in our endorsement process at all,” Fischer said, and that she’s asking good questions like which housing sector they should focus on developing.

He said that Salem’s housing stock is a decade behind where it needs to be. When asked what Chris Hoy could have done differently to address the issue since joining the Salem City Council in 2017, Fischer said, “At this point I would just say conversation with us.”

Chris Hoy, in a phone call with Salem Reporter, said that he’s talked to the group “many times about many issues,” including participating in its mayor’s panel on February 15. He said he had participated in their endorsement process in previous campaigns.

“Did I fill out their multiple-page questionnaire back in November when they asked for it? No I did not, because I didn’t see a point in spelling out a lot of the details that they wanted back in November because there was a zero percent chance they were going to endorse me,” he said. “They endorse very conservative people, and I’m not that.”

Fischer did not cite any specific policy proposals from Julie Hoy that the group supported. 

“What our association is looking for is something that’s going to promote real estate ownership for the masses. And right now, we’re not seeing enough being done to do that,” Fischer said. “We know that it takes time, but Julie’s been very open to having conversations with us and has appeared to show support towards what we feel is best for our consumers.”

Mailed flyers from Oregon REALTORS cite Julie Hoy’s opposition to the payroll tax, which the association wanted to see taken to voters, according to their Government Affairs Director Selina Barnes.

She said in an email to Salem Reporter that there was no cap or clarity on implementation of the tax and that the Mid-Valley group supported the Oregon Business and Industries campaign against it.

“Julie Hoy repeatedly spoke out against the payroll tax being implemented without voter approval. She listened to the community and heard the concerns being raised,” Barnes said.

David Kilada, a political strategist who works with Marion+Polk First, shared a statement attributed to the PAC about their support of Julie Hoy. The group has contributed $6,823 in-kind, buying YouTube ads and sending out mailers criticizing Chris Hoy for voting to impose a payroll tax last year.

“Mayor Chris Hoy said that he works ‘every day to try to find more revenue.’ He and each of the candidates he supports for city council have all taken the same position fewer than 18% of Salem voters have in support of a costly payroll tax on Salem workers. Marion+Polk First PAC will be happy with a mayor and city council that spends every day looking to find ways to use record high levels of funding to better help citizens. Julie Hoy is beyond qualified to do that job,” the statement said.

Schultz, Julie Hoy’s campaign manager, said her campaign has been spending most of the money raised on mailers, and has distributed most of its 1,000 campaign signs. 

“Campaign signs are so much more expensive than they used to be,” she said. “Postage has gone up, printing has gone up, labor has gone up. So that certainly drives the cost.”

The campaign also used the funds to put out digital advertisements, text messages and hosted a town hall which allowed people to talk with Julie Hoy live, like a radio show.

Most of Chris Hoy’s campaign contributions come from smaller donations under $1,000. Two top donors have contributed larger amounts: former city councilor Jackie Leung who contributed $15,000 from her campaign funds raised for a 2022 bid for state representative, and Progressive Salem, which has contributed $11,686 of in-kind spending.

Leung did not respond to request for comment.

Tina Calos, a member of Progressive Salem’s board, said that the group had encouraged Chris Hoy to run for Salem City Council in 2017, because they’d been impressed with his work with neighborhoods. The group supported him in his 2022 mayoral campaign.

“He’s basically spending full time being the mayor, diving into problems trying to find solutions. So we’ve been happy with him, so we’re sticking with him,” she said.

Calos said that Progressive Salem looks for hard workers with progressive values who can deliver rather than pushing particular issues.

She said that personally, she is happy with the steps the city has taken to address climate change, the mayor’s law enforcement background and his experience with governing.  

“It’s whether you have a mayor whose orientation is the livability and the welfare of failing for everybody that lives here, rather than for a group of high dollar donors,” she said.

Progressive Salem has put out a flier listing Hoy’s donors top donors, which states that Julie Hoy is trying to buy the mayor’s seat.

“Last time I looked, Julie had amassed $265,000. That’s an unheard of amount, and you have to wonder what that’s all about. It has to raise suspicions, especially when you see that a large part of it was raised in big chunks,” she said. “What is it those people think they’re getting?”

Other council races

Salem’s contentious city council races are also seeing large fundraising amounts, much of the boosts coming from the same people backing Julie Hoy, according to state campaign records.

The Ward 3 Race between Shane Matthews, a Realtor, and Nathan Soltz, a legislative chief of staff and member of the Morningside Neighborhood Association, is the most expensive among the three competitive council races. The ward includes the Faye Wright Neighborhood, Fairview Park and Southeast Mill Creek.

Matthews has raised $68,974 in cash and in-kind contributions as of Friday, outpacing Soltz and his $20,212. 

For Matthews, the Oregon REALTORS PAC has contributed $10,350 in-kind and cash; Mountain West donated $5,000; the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition $7,500 and Withnell $1,000.

Soltz’s top contributors include City Councilor Trevor Phillips, who has endorsed Soltz to take his place, with $2,500. Richard Yates has contributed $2,000 and the Friends of Kien campaign for a Portland Community College board seat donated $1,600.

The second most expensive council race is Ward 1, representing most of downtown and central Salem. It’s between epidemiologist and political newcomer Celine Coleman and Paul Tigan, a communications strategist who has had leadership roles on the city’s budget committee and Grant Neighborhood Association.

Coleman has raised $21,291, the majority of it from the Oregon REALTORS PAC – which has contributed $15,112 in-kind and $1,000 cash.

Tigan has raised $12,833 as of Friday. His biggest contributors are Frank Taussig, who contributed $3,000, Kristin Miller and Councilor Phillips who donated $500 each. 

The Ward 5 race is between Irvin Brown, a state policy adviser and chair of Salem’s city budget committee, and Michael Hoselton, a paralegal and Northgate Neighborhood Association board member.

Brown has raised $16,123 as of Friday, and Hoselton has raised $12,834.

Brown’s largest contributors are Nadine Lecheminant ($3,000), Mitchell Canham ($2,500) and Frank Taussig ($2,000).

Hoselton’s largest contributors include the Oregon REALTORS PAC, with $7,626 in-kind, the Mid-Valley association with $1,000 and his mother, Margaret Hoselton with a $2,000 cash donation.

DISCLOSURE: Larry Tokarski is a founder and an owner of Salem Reporter. He is not involved in news coverage produced by Salem Reporter. Read more on that here.

Managing Editor Rachel Alexander contributed reporting.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.