Chuck Adams: Future of conservative Oregon politics

Chuck Adams shares his perspective on how the national climate will help and harm local Republicans during the next campaign cycle and where they go from there.
— By Rebecca Tweed,

It’s not breaking news to anyone that Republicans are coming from behind in the 2010 election cycle, especially in Oregon. But who exactly is to blame and who can we count on to put us back on the upswing? “Republicans are reeling from the last two national election cycles”¦to say the least. The challenge and the debate begins with asking ourselves the tough questions and answering them honestly,” says Chuck Adams, owner of Adams and Company, a political consulting and public affairs firm in Salem, Oregon. Chuck Adams has been running campaigns in Oregon and the Northwest for over 30 years. “What is our philosophy? What matters to our party? And how do we become relevant again?’ We can’t move forward until we have those answers.”

Nationally, we’re seeing a new leadership struggling to navigate in the post-Bush era and the new Obama reign, where Democrats are taking advantage of what ultimately ended being the perfect storm for Republicans and Conservatives across the country. It’s not just about politics”¦it’s about public figures across the board leaving Americans with a cynical, bleak perspective of America as we know it. Between promises not kept by President Obama, sex scandals with US Congressmen and even sports figures using performance enhancing drugs, Americans are disappointed in what leaders represent for them, for their families and for the future of the country.

“Nothing is in isolation and the Republicans don’t have the fall back of the media support, like Democrats do. Every misstep is headline news for days,” says Chuck Adams. “The liberal media doesn’t want to admit they may have jumped too quickly on the Obama bandwagon and they won’t throw him under it until they absolutely have to.”

It wasn’t just the media hype that put President Obama in the Executive Chair. President Obama is probably one of the most charismatic leaders the nation has seen in decades, alongside the likes of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, he found the exact voice of hope and change Americans were looking for in November.

So how do Oregon Republicans disassociate enough from the national negativity and at the same time, rebuild their base and strengthen their position politically?

“The first step would be to find an equally charismatic leader and galvanizing force that can be our spokesperson. Someone that Republicans actually believe in as well and that makes us proud to be Republican, both nationally and locally,” suggests Chuck. “We’re in an era of introspection related to our belief system. Someone needs to make us believe again that it’s okay to be conservative.”

In light of Oregon electoral politics, Adams is right on target. Over the last two election cycles, Oregon has become a bluer state then ever before in legislative races. Our executive and legislative branches are held by the Democrats. A majority of our voters have moved left, even in historically conservative districts and the Democrats have the coattails of Obama to ride through an election year where most voters will vote their party or worse, not vote at all, leaving the incumbent with essentially a yes vote.

Perhaps the best move for conservatives is to go back to speaking policy and principle, rather than party.

“If we’re going to play a numbers game, the Republicans are going to lose,” says Mike Riley, president of Riley Research & Associates, a local polling firm. “Republican leaders have distanced themselves too far from the traditional fiscally conservative platform losing a large number of that electorate. Add in sex scandals from Republican Congressman in the last few years and you’ve then alienated the 25-30% of faith voters. That doesn’t leave us much of a base to rely on looking to the future.”

Riley continues, “The way I see it and how my numbers show it, the Republicans have three options to win future campaigns: 1) Stop alienating so many conservative Republican voters, 2) Win over independent or Democrat conservative voters or 3) Revisit and redevelop the message and philosophy to back to the conservatism that Republicans were proud of, like in the Reagan era. Or try all three, but that will take hard work and leadership.”

Chuck Adams agrees. “I believe the future is less about partisan politics and more about giving Oregonians leadership they want and leadership they deserve. We need a coalition, a team. We need to elect Republicans, Independents and yes”¦even Democrats. We need to be like-minded for the future of Oregon, not for the future of our partisan agendas or our state is going to die.”

It appears that the best step for conservatives in the state of Oregon over the long run appears to be to move center. However, moving to the center means holding true to social value issues, free enterprise and hard work. It also means we need to find a way to credibly engage the electorate in issues relating to healthcare, the environment, education and even crime.

“These four issues are the battle ground for remolding our message and repositioning to find fresh approaches to centrist, compassionate issues,” says Adams who also notes that Oregonians, on both sides, have spent too much time creating a battle of who is with and who is without, leaving every educational, social and economic class spread far apart and angry.

According to both Chuck Adams who devises messages and strategy and Mike Riley who crunches the numbers for that strategy, in order for conservatives to get elected in the state of Oregon in 2010, they have to get to the center, they have to re-package their policies and re-invent their message to find common ground.

“It’s not going to be easy, but Oregon deserves strong, honest leadership with values that reflect their own, which surprisingly are not the same values of the leadership that we currently operate in. It’s going to be hard work, but it’s a fight worth fighting,” concludes Chuck Adams.