In the governor’s race, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has to face the reality that his “do nothing” administration has cost him substantial support even among Democrat loyalists. Jim Hill, Oregon’s former state treasurer, was underfunded, virtually unknown outside of Salem and Portland, and less than inspiring in his twin campaign themes of higher corporate taxes and support for Oregon’s overly generous Public Employees Retirement System. And yet he polled almost 30% of the Democrat faithful to Kulongoski’s 54%. For a sitting governor to poll less that two-thirds of the voters from his own party should be a huge wake-up call. Voters are responding to the call for leadership and Kulongoski is found lacking in that regard. (The proof of this will be found in whether Kulongoski can identify one initiative to improve the opportunities for Oregonians that doesn’t involve spending more tax dollars, or whether he will be content to simply attack his opponents.)
On the Republican side, Ron Saxton overwhelmed his well-funded and well-known opponent Kevin Mannix, former head of the state GOP. Saxton had about forty percent more votes that Mannix despite Mannix’ superior name recognition and early organizing. In this instance, Saxton focused his energies and considerable resources on delivering messages about leadership and change, about solving government inefficiency, about expecting performance for payment. Mannix chose to spend most of his energies attacking Saxton personally. Let’s hope that Kulongoski makes the same mistake.
But the surprising element of the Republican primary was Jason Atkinson’s strong finish. With very limited resources, little initial name recognition outside of Jackson and Josephine Counties, and few big name supporters, Atkinson still came within a whisker of matching Mannix’ vote total. Atkinson, like Saxton, spent his time and limited resources delivering a message of change, accountability and focused attention on creating a climate for prosperity. It is unfortunate the Oregon does not have a governor-lieutenant governor combo because Saxton and Atkinson would make a potent team.
Races for judicial positions made for another mixed bag. Jack Roberts, the consummate non-partisan politician and Virginia Linder, the consummate career government employee will face each other in the general election. The surprising and gratifying thing about this election was that the trial lawyers well funded candidate, Gene Hallman, finished dead last and not by a little, but by a lot. Hallman was only able to gather half the number of votes of either Roberts or Linder. The trial lawyers should have been able to turn out more votes for Hallman if just they, their staffs, and their runners all voted for Hallman. Shining a bright light on the domination of the judiciary by the trial lawyers will pay dividends in the end. Now, the race between Linder and Roberts will boil down to a contest pitting the trial lawyers and the public employees unions (who will shift their support to Linder) against the people who must pay the bill — the taxpayers — who will hopefully support Roberts.
In another widely watched judicial race, Marion County voter’s returned Paul Lipscomb to the bench despite his apparent conflict of interest in the messy process surrounding the attempt to overturn the popular land use reform initiative — Measure 37. The power of the incumbency, particularly with the ballot notation of “Incumbent” is a substantial advantage and encourages the arrogance that lies with those members of the judiciary who think that the Oregon electorate is too stupid to determine critical policy issues themselves.
Finally, in a vote that can only be described as “enough is enough”, Portland’s uber liberals turned out one of their own — in fact, the poster child for everything “progressive” in Portland. Multnomah County Commission Chair, Diane Linn, was given an unceremonious heave ho by her notoriously liberal constituents after a tenure of mandating gay marriages despite Oregon law, rewarding public employees who failed to show up for work during inclement weather, and wasting taxpayer dollars on one frivolous adventure after another. Commissioner Linn can now retire to her home secure in the self-delusional knowledge that Multnomah County voters were too dumb to appreciate her. And the person who pulled this upset? What difference does it make? This wasn’t a changing of political philosophies in Multnomah County; it was just reloading personnel from the endless supply of uber liberals who have brought Portland to the edge of the economic abyss.