City News

Julie Hoy holds commanding lead in bid to unseat Mayor Chris Hoy

Julie Hoy, a Salem city councilor and owner of Geppetto’s Italian Restaurant, appeared successful in her bid to unseat Salem Mayor Chris Hoy after running the most expensive campaign in recent Salem history.

Results updated around 10 p.m. Tuesday showed Julie Hoy with 10,059 votes, 56.3%, to Mayor Chris Hoy’s 43.7%.

The city councilor’s campaign focused on the mayor’s support of an unpopular payroll tax, but that issue didn’t prove decisive in other council races.

Paul Tigan, a supporter of the tax, lead handily in the Ward 1 council race, while council races in Wards 3 and 5 were too close to call.

There will be around 20,000 ballots left to count in the coming days, said Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess at around 9:45 p.m. But he said the results of the mayor’s race and Ward 1 council seat are unlikely to change.

Any estimate of ballots to be counted is rough because the clerk can’t predict how many ballots will arrive in the mail the rest of the week. By law, ballots are counted up to a week after Election Day so long as they’re postmarked by May 21.

“There’s some pretty darn close races it looks like, so it might be hard to call the close races,” Burgess said.

By law, he said a mandatory recount will be triggered if the race is within 0.20%, or one out of every 500 ballots.

Burgess said it will be determined that a runoff is happening after ballots are certified, over 20 days after the election.

Julie Hoy celebrates, Chris Hoy thanks supporters

When the results of the race for Salem’s mayor dropped at Julie Hoy’s election night party at the Salem Convention Center, she wasn’t in the room.

While she took a private moment with her campaign strategist to see the numbers, those in attendance began spreading the news, excitement competing with the jazz band on stage, as phones were passed around white-clothed tables. 

They showed a decisive lead. Julie Hoy reentered, triumphant and claiming victory.

After a tee-up from her campaign strategist, Betsy Schultz, the city councilor picked up where the jazz band left off.

She opened by singing a few lines from “The Girl from Ipanema,” leaning on the mic stand, to a warm reception from those in attendance.

Her speech was brief, and in it she thanked her campaign manager and her longtime hair stylist.

“I have heard so many incredible stories about folks who have reached out of their comfort zone to talk about what needs to be done here in Salem. Bravery like I’ve never heard of, or seen, from folks who don’t usually talk about politics or elections or government. And the fact that you have done that with each other and in this community is what is making this happen,” she said. 

“I am here to serve, and that is the absolute truth,” she said.

Julie Hoy celebrates her apparent victory in the Salem mayoral race by playing guitar at her victory party on election night, Tuesday, May 21. (Abbey McDonald/Salem Reporter)

After some mingling with supporters, Julie Hoy described the moment she found out she won as “brilliant.”

When asked what tomorrow, and the next week would look like in her new role, Hoy said, “I can’t wait to find out.”

At a more subdued party at the Marion County Democrats’ office in downtown Salem, Mayor Chris Hoy appeared anxious as he checked results on his phone.

He spoke to supporters shortly after 9 p.m. and did not concede the race.

“The night’s not going how we had hoped, that’s for certain, but I’m just grateful for all of you,” he said. “There’s still a lot of votes to be counted so we’ll see. I’m very optimistic, so, we’re not done yet.”

Tuesday’s vote brings to a close a hotly contested mayoral race where Salem business and real estate interests contributed to a nearly $300,000 effort to unseat a sitting mayor after his unpopular effort last summer to impose a payroll tax on Salem workers.

Chris Hoy said in his Tuesday speech that he knew voting for the tax might make him a one-term mayor. But he said he doesn’t regret his vote to impose the tax.

“I’m OK with that because I think it’s the right thing to do,” he recalled telling City Manager Keith Stahley.

The mayor’s two-year term starts in January 2025. The position is volunteer, and unpaid. 

Julie Hoy’s term as the Ward 6 councilor ends in 2026. If she’s elected mayor, the council will appoint a replacement when she takes office in January.

The mayor is a voting member of city council who presides over its meetings, and also appoints council members to city boards and commissions. Aside from those responsibilities, the mayor has no more formal authority than city councilors.

On council, the two Hoys have butted heads over the city budget, and the bouts increased during the campaign. During an April 30 debate where they quarreled over experience, Julie Hoy called Chris Hoy “dismissive,” and Chris Hoy questioned her efforts to have the city reevaluate its contract with a tire business, which he called a clear violation of the city charter.

The Hoys have presented differing approaches to the city’s top issues, including the city’s budget priorities, homeless services and public safety.

Julie Hoy announced her candidacy for mayor in November. She said she felt compelled after the city council narrowly voted to impose a payroll tax. She was one of four votes in opposition.

Her campaign raised nearly $292,628 in campaign contributions as of Election Day according to campaign finance records, with over half the amount coming from large donations from real estate and business interests

During the campaign, Julie Hoy said she would bring optimism to the role of mayor, and work to improve relationships and communication with the county. She said she wanted to overhaul the way the city budgets.

Chris Hoy was elected mayor in May 2022, earning 55.2% of the vote against opponent Chane Griggs. He’s served on the council since 2017, representing Ward 6, east Salem.

Ward 1

Paul Tigan, a budget committee member and leader in the Grant Neighborhood Association, leads epidemiologist Celine Coleman in the race for Ward 1. The ward includes part of west Salem, most of downtown Salem and extends east to the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

“I’m really humbled, really grateful,” Tigan said Tuesday night. “There’s still a lot of work left, and I’m really excited to get to work.”

Tigan led with 1,077 votes, 58.5%, to Coleman’s 757 votes.

City council candidate Paul Tigan speaks at the Marion County Democrats election night party on Tuesday, May 21. (Joe Siess/Salem Reporter)

In April, Tigan said that he ran to address the city’s budget sustainability, improve walking and biking access and climate sustainability. He was one of the leaders of the “Save Salem Campaign” to promote the unpopular payroll tax.

Coleman said she wanted to see the city improve its wraparound services for addiction and mental health by improving relationships with the county and community organizations.

Ward 3

Initial ballot counts show Realtor Shane Matthews with a narrow lead over Nathan Soltz, a legislative chief of staff and member of the Morningside Neighborhood Association, in the race for Ward 3.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Matthews had 976 votes to Soltz’s 911.

The ward includes the Faye Wright neighborhood, Fairview Park and Southeast Mill Creek.

In April, Matthews said he was compelled to run for office when his mail kept getting stolen, and that he was also compelled by the issue of the payroll tax. He said that as councilor, he hopes to make progress on reducing crime and homelessness.

Soltz said he wanted to address homelessness, maintain and protect Salem parks, improve road safety and work on Salem’s revenue issues.

Ward 5

Irvin Brown, a state policy adviser and chair of Salem’s city budget committee, narrowly leads the race for Ward 5. His opponent is Michael Hoselton, a paralegal and Northgate Neighborhood Association board member.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Brown held 368 votes to Hoselton’s 349.

The northeast Salem ward includes the Highland, North Lancaster and Northgate neighborhoods.

In April, Brown said he hoped to improve community engagement and inclusiveness, and to address the issues of homelessness and public safety. He was one of the leaders of the “Save Salem” campaign to promote the unpopular payroll tax.

Hoselton said he wanted to address Salem’s cost-of-living crisis, homelessness and crime.

Joe Siess 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.