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Woodburn mayor holds off challenger Eric Morris in oft-contentious election, city to see two new councilors

PMG FILE PHOTO - Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson was a resounding victory over Ward 6 City Councilor Eric Morris, taking more than two-thirds of the ballots cast to earn a second two-year term.Mayor Eric Swenson breezed by challenger, City Councilor Eric Morris, in the Nov. 3 general election, and will be sworn in for a second term in January.

Swenson garnered nearly 70 percent of the vote despite being harangued by the council in late August when he became the target of a "no confidence" vote by most council members, including Morris.

COURTESY PHOTO - Eric MorrisThe council's action appeared to hinge greatly on offhand statements Swenson made while working with various other local and county representetives on solutions to pandemic problems, including establishing an isolation and quarantine facility at the Woodburn Super 8 motel. The council voted to sue the county over the facility and lost the suit.

Swenson's margin of victory proved much broader than the last election when he and Frank Lonergan were neck and neck until the final votes trickled in. He appeared to be humble and grateful for the support while looking forward to working on the established goals in Woodburn.

"I've said throughout this campaign that it's important to be indignant about the issues that are important to us while preserving the dignity of those we disagree with. That's especially true after this particular election as well," Swenson said.

In contrast to his first election against Lonergan, in which both candidates pledged to run positive campaigns, Swenson's fight to retain his seat was met with immediate pushback from Morris, a longstanding representative of Ward VI who had been on the council for more than a decade.

Upon announcing his candidacy in late spring, Morris repeatedly contended that Swenson had sidestepped the Woodburn City Council to work with Marion County on a proposed COVID-19 isolation center at the Super 8 Motel that was established in July.

Swenson argued that he had acted as a private citizen to inquire with the Super 8 about the possibility of housing a community member who had been exposed to COVID, and was not linked to the county's plans to use the motel for a county-wide isolation center.

The campaign spilled over to an August work session meeting in which Councilor Sharon Schaub called for a vote of no confidence in Swenson, which Morris seconded. After a lengthy discussion, the council voted 5-1 in favor of the no-confidence vote, with Ward I representative Debbie Cabrales the lone councilor to vote in opposition.

COURTESY PHOTO - Ali SwansonFollowing the election, Swenson called on unity from the city council and Woodburn citizens heading into 2021 and beyond.

"What's true for our country is true for our community and city council," Swenson said. "It's time to put the campaign season behind us and enter into the season of working together."

While Swenson will hold onto his seat, the makeup of the Woodburn City Council shifts slightly in 2021, as two of the three council positions up for election went to new candidates on election day.

In the lone contested race, City Councilor Lisa Ellsworth lost her bid to be reelected as the representative of Ward 2; challenger and local activist Ali Swanson caputured more than 66%, of the vote in winning the seat.

A local insurance agent and consultant, Swanson has been involved in many community activities, ranging from the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce to the food bank.

COURTESY PHOTO - Benita Puente Jr.Meanwhile Benito (Bubu) Puente Jr. is in line to serve Ward 6, running unopposed in the ward which Morris represented. City Councilor Debbie Cabrales also ran unopposed for Ward 1. She will continue to represent the ward to which she was appointed more than a year ago.

- Phil Hawkins contributed to this story.

COURTESY OF DAVID DIMATTEO. - Debbie Cabrales

WOODBURN results

Mayor

Eric Swenson — 5,498 (68.98%)

Eric A. Morris — 2,473 (31.02%)

City Council Ward 1

Debbie D. Cabrales — 1,049 (100%)

City Council Ward 2

Ali Swanson — 624 (66.45%)

Lisa Ellsworth — 315 (33.55%)

City Council Ward 6

Benito Puente Jr. — 815 (100%)

*Election results are current as of Nov. 6


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