Matt Ausec is not decided if he wants to run, possibly paving the way for real estate broker Jose Gonzalez, whose ties to a conservative political consultant have raised concerns.
Jose Gonzalez is a candidate for the Salem City Council to represent the northeast neighborhoods of Ward 5. (Courtesy / Jose Gonzalez)
Over the past few months, over cups of coffee, Matt Ausec and Jose Gonzalez have discussed an idea that could be a bit of a drag on Salem voters.
Ausec is a Salem city councilor whose progressive status and opposition to a third bridge over the Willamette River earned him his seat. Gonzalez, meanwhile, is non-partisan but is seen as linked to the Tories.
Still, Ausec, a policy analyst in the state administrative services department, has not decided whether he will run again. Instead, he can support Gonzalez.
âMy official response at the moment is that I haven’t decided,â Ausec told Salem Reporter. “I had assumed I would run again until I spoke with Jose.”
The deadline for submission is March 10.
Ausec said a combination of factors played into his consideration. Northeast Salem has a higher concentration of Latino residents who could be better represented by Gonzalez, Ausec said.
“I think it’s an important message of inclusion that if you have a leader in the community like the Latino community, who is ready to step in and devote their time and energy, I don’t want to oppose it” , says Ausec.
Gonzalez is originally from Oregon and the son of Mexican parents. For the past two decades, he has been a real estate broker at Tu Casa Real Estate. He is the father of four children.
Politically, Gonzalez avoids labels. He said his policy mainly revolved around self-employment because he had worked for himself “mostly my entire working life”.
âSalem is political. Unless you’re under the wing of something, people don’t trust you, âGonzalez said. âFor me, I will always be myself. â¦ I’m not changing for anyone. I don’t run to please people.
He has campaigned in the past for elected Liberals like City Councilor Tom Andersen, he said. He said he doesn’t like development when it leads to poorly planned housing and transportation.
Lately, his campaign has grown closer to those with conservative backgrounds.
In the past two months, Gonzalez’s campaign committee has spent more than $ 2,200 with New Media Northwest, a Salem-based political consultancy that has been involved in some deadly campaigns.
The company was in the trenches of the House District 20 campaign in 2018, depicting Selma Pierce when she challenged potential State Representative Paul Evans, implicating accusatory billboards and attack ads being broadcast at television.
Gonzalez’s ties to the company have raised concerns for Progressive Democrats, according to Evan Sorce, chairman of the Marion County Democrats.
Sorce, who is also a staff member at Evans, said he was not working directly to find candidates for Salem city council, but was aware of the current concerns.
âThe people he chose to affiliate with in the campaign has been one of the concerns that a lot of progressive community organizations have, I know,â Sorce said. “The hiring of consultants who work exclusively with right-wing campaigns kind of gave us pause to support his candidacy.”
Chuck Adams, CEO of New Media Northwest, said that although he has played âhard at the legislative level,â he believes Gonzalez will be an independent voice.
âWe have to find more people like Jose who will be more independent and not be drawn into an ideological framework,â Adams said.
Adams supported the Salem River Crossing, a proposed third bridge over the Willamette River. The project divided Salem politics for many years, and the council canceled it last year. He said the current list of advisers tends to “ignore reality”.
Adams said he didn’t expect Gonzalez to vote in a way he would agree with all the time.
âI have sometimes been more disappointed by my friends than by my enemies. It just happens, right? It’s democracy, âAdams said. âI just trust, really, his good way. I’m more concerned with someone who is so ideological.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, said he hasn’t had the luxury of refusing help.
“I do not have the privilege of choosing a side,” he said. But he also defended Adams. âHow many people know him personally? This is what I invite them to do.
Gonzalez’s affiliation with New Media Northwest is a red flag for Ausec, he said, but he expects Gonzalez to keep an open mind. He said he was comfortable that they might not agree on everything.
âThe only factor that would keep me in the race is if I felt he wasn’t a candidate who wouldn’t look at issues fairly,â Ausec said.
Ausec hasn’t closed the door on a new race and said he would if he felt Gonzalez’s campaign, for whatever reason, was taking on a meaner tone. But he’s going to step aside to focus on planning his wedding and stay focused on his job.
More than that, Ausec said, he hopes the Latin American community will have an advisor who reflects his experience.
âI think he would be a great role model to say, we take your voices into consideration,â he said.
Do you have any advice? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [emailÂ protected] or @TroyWB.