First-time councilor Briae Lewis upsets downtown Corvallis’s ward seat in landslide win

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The downtown district of Corvallis will be run by a new councilor, following an upset by a first-time candidate in the 2022 midterm elections. 

Briae Lewis, a fairly recent resident to Corvallis, will be taking over for incumbent councilor Christina Jancila. Jancila took the position of councilor in September of 2022, after now mayoral candidate Charles Maughn had to step down from the position. 

Though only 75% of votes are counted as of Dec. 14 according to the Oregon Secretary of State, Lewis holds 69.38% of votes while Jancila trails behind at 29.63%. 

“I was talking to current councilors, previous council people…all of them were telling me ‘It’s okay to lose because this is my first real goal at running,’” Lewis said. “Not everyone wins at their first outing so I had conditioned myself to be prepared to be disappointed.”

Nonetheless, Lewis took an early lead against Jancila and has since remained in the lead. 

Jancila is disappointed by the outcome, pointing to a low voter turnout within the district. Ballot turnout in Ward 2 was the second lowest in all nine wards with 1,095 ballots turned in. Ward 4 — the district covering Oregon State University — had the least amount of ballots turned in. 

“The newly elected councilor has no business experience and that worries me because there is no business representation in Ward 2,” Jancila said. “Businesses have had no viable representation in Ward 2 for a very long time…It appears like Corvallis is not business friendly.”

While Lewis is not a business owner — which is a prominent sector of Ward 2’s revenue — she has volunteered in the community since moving to Corvallis in 2019. She credits Corvallis for a “second lease on life” after a split decision to move here from Maryland. 

“I was just like, ‘What can I do to give back?’— Run for office, duh,” Lewis said. “Despite popular belief, I am actually a very introverted person. But I was like, I need to break through that in order to talk to people in order to see what are the big issues.”

When Lewis takes over as councilor she plans to focus on the viability of downtown businesses, including reinstating outdoor seating. Jancila also tried to keep outdoor seating alive during her tenure, but was outvoted by council members.  

“I can see why some councilors are like, ‘it’s not worth it…’ (but) that’s someone’s way of paying bills, that’s someone’s way of not ending up part of our houselessness issue and I want to take that approach,” Lewis said. “Don’t look at it as the business, look at it as the person.”

Urban development is also at the forefront of Lewis’s plans, as she will aim to reinstate many of the downtown businesses that closed due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She pointed to the small residential area in downtown Corvallis, hoping that they can add more opportunities for residents to live near the business center of the city and therefore boost the local economy. 

“It will boost the revenue down there. There will be space for an entrepreneur,” Lewis said. “Being able to have all of that come together will definitely be something that I want to work on.”

A third major goal of Lewis’s is to work on the diversity of the Corvallis Transit System, which does not stop in many of the residential areas in between Western and Jefferson Ave. and north to the Willamette River. 

“Not everybody can take a hop, skip and a stroll down here,” Lewis said. 

Lewis’s campaign was supported by Maughn, who is now the current front-runner for Corvallis’s new mayor. After seeing her speak passionately in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at a rally in 2020, Maughn encouraged her to run for a council seat. 

“Around the issue of equity, diversity and inclusivity, council could not just have words about those things but instead here’s somebody who is a young Black woman, who is also openly gay,” Maughn said. “Not only does she meet all of the issues and values I’ve represented, but (she’s) also met those goals of the city as well to be more inclusive.” 

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