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Bennett's Blog: Tough election season ahead Print E-mail

chuck-bennettBy Chuck Bennett, Director of Government Relations

It's over. And the outcome was underwhelming.

The few Oregonians who took the time to either mail in their ballot or drop it off for Tuesday's primary election have spoken. Sort of.

In the Governor's race, Ted Kulongoski will represent the Democrats. Ron Saxton will carry the Republican banner. And, the Green Party has a candidate whose name remains unnecessary to learn. Time will tell if Sen. Ben Westlund gets his name on the ballot as an independent candidate.

Turnout was somewhere below 40% and dropping. The theory is that negative campaigns and lackluster candidates just didn't excite the electorate. Okay. Why not? It probably wasn't the re-re-re-run of Seinfeld, and anyone could have made it home from the ballot drop off point in time to watch American Idol and cast their ballot after the 9 p.m. poll opening to determine whether Kat, Taylor or Elliot will make next week's finals.

Statewide, school district measures seeking funds for buildings or local option levies, were universally unsuccessful. Some just lost but many failed as voters stayed away from the polls and turnout left districts without the second half of the double majority requirement -- one more than half of the registered voters taking the time to vote.

There were few surprises in races for the legislature. It was good to see Rod Monroe, former David Douglas School Board member successfully beat back a challenge for a political newcomer. Republican Sen. Charles Starr is still in a neck and neck race with his rival in the Washington, Yamhill and Marion counties' Senate District race. Brad Avakian, a suburban representative, will now move to the Senate, and longtime children's advocate Tina Kotek is going to fill a House seat in a liberal Portland neighborhood.

We're still waiting word on Estacada Junior High principal Kevin Olds' son Ryan, who is a neck and neck race to run against House Education Chair Linda Flores.

After a race-by-race review, it looks fairly clear that Ted Kulongoski is in the race of his career. He barely broke 50% in the Democratic Primary against latecomer Jim Hill and Lane County's Pete Sorenson. But Saxton is emerging from a mud bath with fellow Republican Kevin Mannix and has saddled himself with conservative credentials that haven't played well in moderate Oregon General Elections.

In the State Senate General election, it's clear Democrats will retain control of the upper chamber but at what price? They will be defending 11 seats to the Republicans 4 and there will be some tough races around the state. Keep your eye on the Jackie Winters/Paul Evans race in Marion and Polk counties. Winters is very popular and a well know moderate but Evans is a vigorous and ambitious campaigner with national connections through his wife, who heads Congresswoman Darlene Hooley's staff. Expect big spending in this one.

Word is that Sen. Rick Metsger will have a real challenge from Hood River Republican County Commissioner Carol York. There's no question Sen. Vicki Walker of Eugene is going to have her hands full with former Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey. Expect the Walker/Torrey race to be the most expensive in Oregon history.

On the House side, it would be a worse than long shot bet to put your money on Democrats taking control. It's far more likely that the partisan split will narrow to a one or two vote margin which tends to result in more moderate legislation or more contentious partisan bickering. There are many races to watch just for the entertainment value but the ones that will help decide control and tone of the House next Session will start in Salem with Republican Rep. Billy Dalto and his opponent, Brian Clem. Both are young, ambitious and experienced campaigners. Dalto has made a solid name in health care and as a moderate voice in the increasingly conservative Republican caucus. Clem is a local liberal activist best known for his leadership role in the successful mayoral elections of Mike Swaim. This is going to be a no holds barred slugfest. The Oregon Education Association has already endorsed Clem despite Dalto's vote to oppose the PERS reforms and pass out two school support measures during special sessions.

Another decisive race will be between Democratic Rep. Larry Galizio and former Portland Police Officer Shirley Parsons. Galizio has moderated what was expected to be the most liberal voice in the House and Parsons is a well spoken, no nonsense conservative who is pro-schools, pro-law enforcement and willing to admit she doesn't have all the answers. Expect this one to reach new spending heights in House race election history.

Other races to watch include: Washington County's Rep. Chuck Riley versus Cornelius Mayor Terry Rilling; House Democratic Leader Jeff Merkley of Portland versus Bruce McCain; and Republican Alan Brown's rematch with Jean Cowan in Lincoln County.

CARE, the political action committee for COSA and OSBA, will be making endorsements in most races. We'll keep you posted on that. Between now and then, let us know how you view these and all of the other poltical races headed for the November ballot.

 

Comments (4)Add Comment
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Impact on K12 Funding measures during th
written by Steve, May 18, 2006
Given how low the turnout was yesterday, what's your sense of how that may (or may not) impact funding measures set to be on the ballot (at least regionally) during next fall's election? Should we expect that such low turnout will be a harbinger of more failed local funding options for K12 (and higher ed for that matter) or was this low turnout a bit of a one-off?
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Election Season Preview
written by Jack Lorts (Retired Fossil Sup, May 18, 2006
It is good to know who is facing who in the governor's race. The governor's victory over challengers Jim Hill and Pete Sorensen, I was pleased to see, was a comfortable 55% of the votes. I don't agree with Chuck's description of it as "barely breaking 50%." Chuck's usual careful choice of words might indicate a certain bias or perspective on his part regarding the governor's race. Although with Saxton's all over the board approach to issues, I don't see how education advocates could possibly support him in contrast to the governor's on-going efforts on behalf of Oregon students. Mr. Saxton may have advocated well for the Portland schools (although that, too, is open to question) when he chaired their board, but he will need to learn that Fossil, Jordan Valley and Burns also have students who need to be educated. But I thoroughly agree with Chuck's overall comment that it's going to be a tough election season ahead. Let's get that dialogue rolling!
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Waiting for the vote count
written by Chuck Bennett, May 18, 2006
Low turnout seems to be a trend in Oregon with our current voter registration system and failure to maintain current voter rolls in some counties. Hopefully this will be an issue in the next race for Secretary of State. We're fortunate that the double majority requirement does not include the General Election so turnout is not a factor other than as a matter of our general hope for good citizenship and participation in the political process. But then, I hope I'll lose 30 pounds and have my hair turn brown again.

Sorry on the percentage Jack. At the time I wrote the column the numbers had not "matured" to the point the had on the 18th. Despite that, the Governor's 55% is nothing to write home about. He's going to have to do much better than that to overcome the combined impact of Saxton, Westlund and that Green Party candidate.
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Jon Isaacs, Executive Director, Future P
written by Jon Isaacs, Executive Director, May 19, 2006
Chuck,



Please check your facts on Brian Clem's service record:



-FOUR YEAR CHAIR OF THE OREGON STUDENT ASSISTANCE COMMISSION

-TWO TERM PRESIDENT OF THE SALEM CITY CLUB

-FIVE YEAR 5TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE FOR US SENATOR RON WYDEN.



I find it extremely hard to believe that you when you chose to describe Clem as a "local liberal activist" you weren't aware of real record of exceptional service to Oregon and Salem. It seems to me your members would be better served by hearing factual descriptions of the service of candidates in key races rather than political spin that purposely omitted the most prominent parts of Clem's service.



Also, Rep. Jeff Merkley's district is in no way shape or form a competetive seat. He has never recieved less than 64% of the vote in a district where John Kerry received 59%. Are you suggesting that CARE side with the Oregon Taxpayers Association, Oregonians in Action and Oregon Right to Life who are currenlty engaged in a campaign of harassment and distortion against Rep. Merkley?

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This page was last updated on Sunday, May 21, 2006 .