Kudos to the people of Eugene, who have once again saved the state of Oregon from relative embarrassment by reclaiming its status as the second-largest city from Salem. The populations of each city hover around 150,000, and the vibrantly crunchy Emerald City has just recently outpaced the drab and dull Cherry City in growth. This information is according to the Population Research Center at Portland State University (warning: Excel file) and comes courtesy of the Eugene-based Oregon Ecology blog.
Even if you prefer Salem for cultural or provincial reasons, you may root for a faster-growing Eugene if your politics are left-of-center. Of course, Eugene is a liberal haven that almost always supports Democrats (though its home county, Lane, is particularly against local taxes). All of the Eugene area‘s state representatives and senators (5 of the former, 3 of the latter), are Democrats, and future growth may mean more seats allocated to the Emerald City and its environs. By contrast, the Salem-Keizer area is served by 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats in the House, with 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat in the state House. Though the Salem area may be politically moderate, it consistently sends Republicans to the statehouse. Moreover, in contrast with the Eugene-Springfield area, Salem-Keizer seems to disproportionately claim a larger share of legislative district.
Should Eugene’s growth as the second-largest city continue apace until the 2010 census, the Democrats could hold out hope for a shift of one or two Salem-area districts further down I-5. Of course, this may make the Emerald districts more competitive for Republicans, but one would hope that the GOP would simultaneously lose their geographic advantage in Salem-Keizer.
But for now, the Boundary will take the consolation that Salem has been bumped down another notch among Oregon’s largest cities. Though, it should be said, even its status as third-largest city greatly overstates its prominence among Oregon’s cultural attractions.