Republicans in Oregon have a unique opportunity this fall to elect a Republican Governor for the first time in 24 years. But after a competitive primary and with the possibility of 6 candidates to choose from in the general election, many Republicans are reluctant to give their full support and effort to elect their nominee, Ron Saxton. Republicans in doubt should consider what is at stake in this election and place their full support in a unified effort to take the governor’s mansion back.
The primary gave Republicans a choice between three strong and qualified candidates. All three ran on a vision of Oregon as a place of opportunity for all and restoring faith and accountability in state government. Oregon Republicans and Ron Saxton have the best chance at making that vision come true.
Republicans also have much at risk if they allow the re-election of Governor Kulongoski. His failed leadership has caused Oregon to lag the nation economically. Four more years of his administration would be a disaster for Oregon’s economy.
There is also a significant benefit for Republicans to having a Republican Governor. The Governor has the power to appoint high-level bureaucrats and judges. The appointments often have more impact on how government works than the elected officials do.
Recent polling shows that Ted Kulongoski is the most vulnerable Democrat Governor in the country. A Survey USA poll released on June 15th shows that 59% of Oregonians disapprove of the Governor and only 32% approve. That negative 27% difference is the largest for any Democrat governor. Even his own party believes he is doing a bad job as witnessed by his weak showing in the primary against poorly financed challengers.
A poll by Tim Hibbits in May showed that a majority of Oregonians felt the state was “on the wrong track”. 66% of Republicans and a surprising 48% of Democrats answered “wrong track.” This poll indicates a general dissatisfaction with government and means trouble if you are an incumbent in charge of that government.
In a direct head-to-head poll taken shortly after the primary, Ron Saxton was in a statistical tie with Kulongoski. The Rasmussen poll indicated 2% difference in support, well within the poll’s margin of error. This is almost unheard of for an incumbent to have such a small margin after the primaries. Usually they lead by significant margin at this time and the margin closes as the election nears.
All of the statistical signs point to a vulnerable incumbent, if the challenger can run an effective campaign with the proper resources. All signs say the Ron Saxton has put together an organization capable of winning and that he is raising sufficient funds to support his race. Saxton out raised Kulongoski in the three weeks after the primary by 250%. In fact, he out raised all other candidates collecting $2.2 million since the fall of 2004. Ron is doing his part in taking advantage of his historic opportunity.
If Republicans fail to take advantage of this historic opportunity, they will have to endure four more years of Governor Kulongoski’s policies. (No other candidate has the name recognition, organization or financial resources to win besides Saxton and Kulongoski.) Let’s take a look at those policies.
The Governor has already stated that he wishes to keep the income tax “kicker” and expand government spending. That would be the largest single tax increase in Oregon, almost a billion dollars! He is also stated interest in keeping the “corporate kicker”. He has supported raising the minimum corporate income tax. Making the state even less friendly to business.
The Governor’s policies have lead to Oregon’s 5.6% unemployment rate, a full percentage point above the national average. Oregon is also below the national average in per capita income.
The Governor is also chasing opportunity from Oregon with his environmental policies. He is unilaterally adopting stricter auto emissions standards, raising the costs for consumers and businesses. He is fighting any salvage logging of the Biscuit fire and has supported closing commercial salmon fishing.
How long can Oregon survive under his combined policies of higher taxes and more regulation?
With Ron Saxton as Governor, a Republican will be making the appointments to high offices. That means business friendly people running DEQ and ODOT. It means that Republicans will gain valuable experience for future political campaigns.
Do Republicans think a Governor Saxton would appoint a head of DHS that would encourage agencies to participate in the “Carousels of Information” with the Mexican Consulate? Would a Saxton appointee misplace $120 million and not get fired?
There are also hundreds of positions on advisory boards and commissions that the Governor appoints. In Lane County that includes the Lane Transit District board. It also includes the PERS Board. Frankly, Republicans should want Saxton appointees on both of those boards.
The power of having a Republican Governor during the 2008 elections is immense. How much fundraising help would it be for a Republican running against Secretary of State Bill Bradbury if a Republican was Governor in 2008? Who do Republicans want to be Secretary of State when the 2010 census reapportionment takes place?
A Call for Unity
Weighing the opportunity, risk and benefit, Republicans must be unified and support Ron Saxton for Governor. Even if your support is just to not break Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” Although, this historic opportunity obligates Republicans to do more to elect Ron Saxton.
Republicans should not waste this opportunity over minor doubts and misgivings. They should not risk the direction of Oregon for the next four years in search of perfection. They should recognize the benefit of having a Republican as our state’s chief executive and strive to achieve that