by Mike Nearman
It’s no secret that Oregon Republicans have had a tough time at the polls lately.
Republicans haven’t won a statewide election for an embarrassingly long time. Oregon hasn’t had a Republican Governor in decades. And, like a girl who doesn’t get asked to the prom, the Beaver State GOP faithful had to watch this year’s Republican wave sweep across the country while sweet Oregon sat next to the phone waiting for the call that never came. We have to do something different.
One bright spot this election cycle were the ballot measures. Nearly all of them came from the left, and for the most part, the right prevailed. The one that came from conservatives was Measure 88 – repealing driver cards for illegal aliens – and it was a victory for the right by a two-to-one margin. This isn’t the first election in which Oregonians defeated Republican candidates for office at the polls, but affirmed conservative principles with ballot measures.
Clearly, this is our home turf.
It’s not acceptable for Republican political leaders to say that since Oregon is such a blue state, we just have to accept results like these. Heck, blue states like Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Maryland all have something that we don’t have: a Republican Governor. The way forward may lie in the initiative process.
- As the minority party in the state, ballot measures may be one of the only ways that we can influence the process. It’s been years since we’ve had legislative majorities.
- Ballot measures take very little money to get off the ground. Once they do get off the ground, money may flow in from other sources.
- A successful signature gathering effort may force the other side to spend money against the initiative, instead of against our candidates.
- An initiative may create a reason for contact with voters, especially in off year elections. Rather than stand in a county fair booth trying to promote the Republican Party, volunteers can try to sell an idea that is captured in an initiative.
- It’s easier for people to understand an idea than a party. Once people understand an idea, it’s easier for them to understand the underlying principle and how that relates to the Republican Party.
This isn’t a silver bullet or a panacea. I’m not naïve enough to think that we’re going turn Oregon red through the initiative process alone. Both the Oregon Republican Party and Republican elected officials have some soul searching to do and some game plans to adjust. I hope that they choose to use the initiative process as a way to speak to voters.
Mike Nearman was just elected State Representative in House District 23, which includes much of the rural Western Willamette Valley. He also owns several clipboards. He can be reached at [email protected].