COOS BAY — Voters retained the status quo in Coos Bay city hall Tuesday night, with incumbent mayor Joe Benetti and three incumbent councilors winning in final unofficial returns.
Benetti won easily in his bid for reelection, with 4,068 votes, or around 58.41%. Benetti's challengers, Mark Daily and Steven St. Michael McSweeny, stood at 28.13% and 12.35%, respectively.
"I'm honored that I was reelected, and even more pleased that the council is back, the same council," Benetti said Thursday.
Current councilors Stephanie Kilmer, Drew Farmer and Lucinda DiNovo won with double-digit percentage point margins. Kilmer led the slate with 26.78% of the vote (4,251 votes), while Farmer carried 22.20% of the vote (3,524 votes) and DiNovo carried 19.92% (3,163 votes).
Each of the city council challenges campaigned on their differences from the current city council. Jim Kingsley, who positioned himself as a deeply conservative candidate, carried 1,729 votes, or 10.89% of those reported, and progressive challengers Cameron Langley and Cody Skoff, carried 1,619 votes (10.20%) and 1,400 votes (8.82%) respectively.
Benetti says the vote to retain the status quo signals that city residents are pleased with the direction that city leaders have been heading, with focuses on infrastructure, economic development and expanding tourism. Each of the the returning counselors campaigned on similar priorities and on the city's record.
"I'm one out of seven votes, and we work collectively together," Benetti said.
Leading Benetti's agenda is improving the city's infrastructure. He points to the city's streets as one of the council's past successes, and to the wastewater treatment plant operator, who has struggled to meet some contract requirements in maintaining one of the plants, as an upcoming key project.
Moreover, Benetti looks to helping businesses struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic's winter months and increasing tourism in the region as key priorities for his next term.
"We have done fairly decently (with tourism) during the COVID-19 pandemic," Benetti said, noting that hotel occupancy has been better than in some other communities. "I think tourism is something we gave some attention to, and I think that we'll be able to continue to do that."
He also said the city council challengers — who focused their campaigns on other issues, like homelessness, public safety and income inequality — would be welcome in future city discussions.
"I admire the individuals (who ran) and I want them to stay engaged," Benetti said. "I think it's important that we commend them for that."