by Dan Lucas
A commenter on a recent opinion piece by Rep. Vic Gilliam (R-Silverton) on the legislative special session expressed a concern that Republicans would be a roadblock to progress in Oregon. His comment echoed a theme I’ve heard many times, and it reveals a commonly held, but mistaken, impression.
It is a deceptive impression that is definitely fostered by the media in Oregon. But Republicans really aren’t in a position to be a roadblock in Oregon. Democrats control nearly everything. They have what The Oregonian’s Steve Duin refers to as a “near-monopoly on political power” in Oregon.
The governor is a Democrat and has been for decades. The last Republican governor was Vic Atiyeh, and he left office more than 26 years ago.
Decades of Democratic governors also means decades of Democratic appointments: appointments to over 300 state boards and commissions, saturating Oregon’s political machinery with Democratic appointees, where they control much of the workings of state government and get experience that builds resumes for future candidacies.
The governor also makes appointments to vacancies in circuit court judges, Court of Appeals judges, Supreme Court justices, justices of the peace and district attorneys. Decades of Democratic appointments have resulted in a very left-leaning judicial branch in Oregon.
Both the state House and the state Senate are controlled by Democrats. Republicans haven’t controlled the state House for seven years or the state Senate for 11 years.
Every statewide office is held by a Democrat — including the major statewide offices such as secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer, as well as the minor statewide offices such as labor commissioner. No Republican has been secretary of state, attorney general or treasurer in the past 20 years. The last time Republicans served as labor commissioner or the now-defunct superintendent of public instruction was more than 10 years ago.
In Oregon’s delegation to Washington, D.C., Democrats hold both U.S. Senate seats and four of the five congressional seats.
Republicans are definitely not a “roadblock” in Oregon. Republicans are the pea under the mattress in the landscape of Oregon politics.
When will Oregon Democrats start taking accountability for what they’ve done and what they’ve failed to do? When will they start to focus on leading and governing, instead of blaming? And when will the Oregon media stop perpetuating false impressions about Oregon’s political makeup?
NOTE: When this same piece ran in the Statesman Journal on Friday, I got comments and email regarding the 2/3 majority1 needed to raise taxes – which actually made my point. Despite controlling nearly everything in Oregon government, Democrats couldn’t accomplish PERS reform and so resorted to blaming Republicans – which was difficult to do because they didn’t need Republicans to pass PERS reforms.
So Democrats went to one of the very few places they did need Republicans this session – which was to raise taxes – which they didn’t need to do (the state just got $2 billion more in the General & Lottery funds budgets – a staggering increase from $14.7 to $16.7 billion) and Democrats certainly didn’t need to raise taxes to pass PERS reforms.
But by manufacturing a false issue, that Republicans were a “roadblock” to raising taxes (which weren’t needed), Democrats again found a way to blame rather than lead or govern.
1It’s actually a 3/5 majority needed to increase revenue in the Oregon Legislature – section 25 of Article IV of the Oregon Constitution – so in the 60-seat Oregon House, for example, only 36 votes are needed instead of the 40 votes that would be needed for 2/3