Thursday, November 5, 2009

Has Ward 2 veered left for good?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 2:34 PM

On Tuesday, left-leaning candidate Roy Houseman beat conservative incumbent John Hendrickson by 262 votes, marking the biggest progressive win Ward 2 has seen this decade.

Houseman's win is the second trouncing in a row by a left-leaning candidate in the ward, exhibiting a dramatic change in what has historically been a split district.

So, has Ward 2 veered left for good?

Prior to 2007, elections in the northwest corner of town were nail biters—progressive John Couch lost by 34 votes in 2005. And in 2003, conservative Don Nicholson beat Elizabeth Macasaet by just six votes.

“It’s been weird,” says Ward 2 Councilwoman Pam Walzer of the shift. She beat her right-leaning rival by nearly 100 votes in 2007.

Local political pundits and strategists once considered Ward 2 bipolar. On one side sat the comparably upscale Grant Creek—traditionally home, some would say, to Republicans. The flip side of the district featured the more working-class Westside, a presumed hotbed of liberalism.

But as semi-affordable housing developments like Pleasant View—with 581 new homes erected since 2000—and the duplex-filled Hellgate Meadows were built, political demographics may have shifted.

Perhaps, Walzer says. But she cautions about categorizing constituents too broadly. Liberals live in Grant Creek, just as Republicans have been known to hang in the Westside.

“I have found a lot of very entrenched conservatives in the Westside,” she says.

And Houseman supporters are quick to point out that the affable union leader mobilized voters with tireless campaigning and an easy-to-support message. In other words, he was simply the better candidate.

But it's still worth watching whether Ward 2’s shift left will stick.

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