Why credit Kitzhaber for being ‘bipartisan’ in a one-party state?

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

In a recent endorsement of Gov. Kitzhaber for a 4th term as Oregon Governor, the Statesman Journal Editorial Board wrote “A key example is how Kitzhaber worked with the Legislature to have a successful, bipartisan special session last fall on pension reform, mental health care, taxes, school finance and other issues — at the same time the federal government was shut down because of partisan gridlock.”

Christian Gaston at The Oregonian expressed a similar sentiment last October after the “Grand Bargain” session. Gaston wrote “Against a backdrop of gridlock in Congress, Kitzhaber can boast that Oregon stands as a national model of bipartisan cooperation.” That was seven months before the same Christian Gaston left The Oregonian to “work for Gov. John Kitzhaber’s re-election campaign.”

I can understand why Gaston wrote what he wrote — it was part of his job application. I don’t understand how the Statesman Journal Editorial Board could write such nonsense.

There is “gridlock” in Washington D.C. because President Obama is utterly incapable of working with anyone not in his own party. He even struggles to work with members of his own party in Congress at times. President Obama only surrounds himself with and can only work with people who completely agree with him.

As a reminder, Democrats have controlled the U.S. Senate since 2007, and they controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives the first two years of President Obama’s administration. Those first two years are when Democrats “rammed Obamacare through without a single Republican vote.” A move the Washington Post said “inflamed the partisanship that Obama pledged to tame when he campaigned for the White House and has limited Congress’s ability to pass any other major legislation.”

For purposes of comparison, President Clinton worked with a Republican-controlled Senate and House for six of his eight years.

Now on to the second part of the nonsense — that Gov. Kitzhaber should somehow be given credit for being “bipartisan” in a one-party state.

As I wrote a year ago, Democrats control nearly everything in Oregon. The governor is a Democrat and has been for decades. “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.” “No Republican has been secretary of state, attorney general or treasurer in the past 20 years.”

Gov. Kitzhaber didn’t show bipartisan leadership in the “Grand Bargain.” All he did was work to politically “solve” PERS without drawing too much ire from the public employee unions — who had given him $775,000 in direct campaign contributions in his 2010 campaign. Even if the modest PERS reforms stand up to court challenges, Kitzhaber hasn’t fixed PERS. Past PERS excesses are continuing to bleed budgets at every level of state and local government, including schools, across Oregon. All Kitzhaber did in the “Grand Bargain” was to lure enough Republicans into voting for token tax increases to appease public employee unions so that he could get his modest PERS reforms through with minimal reprisals. No Republican, bipartisan support was needed to pass the modest PERS reforms — they were just needed to pass the token and unnecessary tax increases.

It was appeasement of public employee unions, not bipartisan leadership, from Gov. Kitzhaber.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com

  • Bob Clark

    The Oregon GOP needs to grow some statesman/woman. That the GOP couldn’t take advantage of the repetitive failures of Kitzhaber’s big government projects says to me Oregon is in the proverbial desert hopelessly wandering from one populist diatribe corner to another.

    Radically hiking the minimum wage, for example, is no panacea except for labor union bosses. It moves Oregon even closer to France’s labor economic model where unemployment is routinely ten percent or more; and an ever larger segment of the population stagnates on government assistance. Keep driving the populist bus, like the Dems encourage the Oregon voter to do, and there will come a day of financial tumult for Oregon. And its people will have to dig out of a big, self inflicted economic hole.

  • Eric Blair

    David, I think you have a basic misunderstand of the word bipartisanship. Of course he worked with the Republicans… and making bargains frequently means that neither party walks away completely happy.. and as for: ” All he did was work to politically “solve” PERS”.. Of course, what other sort of problem solving would expect the governor and legislature to do? They are political bodies. Would you expect Republicans to completely throw over their supporters? I know you’re more politically savvy than that.

  • Sally

    This man has the best looking jeans and boots in the country. He is to admired for his sartorial excellence, if nothing else.

    • CherryAnn1000


  • Oregonnative

    It seems that he could have done more…. It could be that Oregonians miss-understand him and now he deserves more time. No matter what happens you will live in luxury of your Pers., earned from the State.
    I do think you are a bit out of touch of what is going on in your administration, to say the least.
    One way or another you are going to win…

  • CherryAnn1000

    I saw this article, and totally agree with you, Dan. Dr. No has done absolutely nothing for this state in any of his terms worth mentioning; it’s all been bad. We need genuine conservatives to step up to the plate, no matter which party, and take on and oust the Dums that have controlled this state for far too long, and have led us to be a third world entity. Any of you around when Tom McCall and Vic Atiyeh were govs? Now there were leaders, men of character, integrity, and good will toward the people. What did old John say when he left office the last time? This state and its people are ungovernable. Now why would anyone vote for a fourth term for a man who views us and our state so low?

    • HBguy

      Tom McCall and Vic Atiyeh could not have passed the “True Conservative” test of today’s Republican voters. Here on OregonCatalyst they would have been derided as RINO’s.

      If The Republican Party could have nominated McCall/Atiyeh types for CD-5, CD-4, the Gov. Mansion, Oregon may not be such a blue state.

      • guest

        Your slant shtick peers like it’s about to ‘fallow ‘ over.

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