by Sen. Doug Whitsett
The 2016 election results are nothing less than exciting. Pollsters and political pundits had assured us that another Clinton in the White house was a near 95 percent certainty. By their computations, there simply were not enough “deplorable” Trump supporters to even make the presidential contest close.
Thankfully, they were uniformly wrong. The too-often quiet American majority came to the polls in record-breaking numbers to change the course or our nation. They came from middle-America in droves and elected Republican nominee Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States.
Trump won election by prevailing in several states that were lost by U.S. Senator John McCain in 2008 and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012. Those include Florida, North Carolina and a number of Midwestern “rust belt” states like Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice president likely helped carry those states, as well as his own.
Many of the same pollsters, political pundits and so-called experts also predicted Republicans would lose control of the U.S. Senate. Wrong again! A series of incumbent Republican Senators turned back well-funded Democrat challenges to maintain a majority in that chamber. They include senators Marco Rubio in Florida, Rob Portman in Ohio, Richard Burr in North Carolina, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Roy Blunt from Missouri.
During the last presidential debate, the candidates were asked to explain their philosophies regarding appointments to the US Supreme Court. Their responses couldn’t have been more different.
Trump stated his primary criteria was for selection of justices who would uphold the U.S. Constitution. Clinton replied she would appoint justices who she believes would shape the Constitution toward the political will of the people.
President Donald Trump could be afforded the opportunity to appoint at least three Justices. His election, along with the Senate Republican majority, should help to ensure the selection of justices similar to the late, greatly respected constitutional scholar Antonin Scalia.
Republicans also maintained their strong majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in Congress. For the first time in over a decade, Republicans at the federal level have the opportunity to govern with the principles of true conservatism. They can get serious about balancing the budget and addressing the nearly $20 trillion in federal debt that has nearly doubled under the Obama administration.
Voters gave Republicans the opportunity to roll back the nonstop growth of government, to free the markets of the more onerous Obama initiatives such as Obamacare and his absurd energy policies, to repair our crumbling infrastructure, and to rebuild our military capabilities and leadership. It is now their responsibility to perform.
Oregon voters once again chose to elect a Democrat governor and Democrat majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Nearly 30 years of Democrat governors and a decade of Democrat control of the state legislature has resulted in immense increases in spending and government growth.
Maintaining all that growth is projected to cost about $3 billion more during the next two year budget cycle. The immediate problem is that revenue projections “only” predict about $1.5 billion more than we have ever before had to spend.
Simple math demonstrates at least a $1.5 billion shortfall between projected costs and projected income. The obvious potential solutions are to spend less money or raise more revenue. Democrats historically have had little appetite for reducing spending.
The proposed multi-billion dollar Measure 97 gross receipts tax on businesses was widely rejected by Oregon voters. This means there will be no blank check to bail out the big government special interest groups that have long dominated politics at the state capitol in Salem. The 2017 budget struggles will be epic.
Regular audits from the Secretary of State’s Office could aid in that budget process. Meaningful audits of state agency spending is much more likely now that former longtime Representative Dennis Richardson has been elected Secretary of State. His platform included using that agency’s audits division to better track state agency spending, and increasing transparency and accountability.
Richardson is the first Republican elected to statewide office since former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith in 2002. His candidacy was endorsed by nearly every newspaper editorial board in the state.
He has been a stalwart fiscal conservative throughout his legislative career. During the 2005 Legislative Assembly, he was elected speaker pro tempore, the last time Republicans held a majority in either chamber. We have served together for a decade on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee which at one time he co-chaired. I am confident Dennis will serve the people of this state well bringing some much-needed, and long-overdue, balance to our state government.
In the Oregon Senate, my Republican colleagues all won re-election by impressive margins. Senator Herman Baertschiger (R-Grants Pass) won his race with 97 percent of the vote. Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena) earned 80 percent; Senators Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), Fred Girod (R-Stayton) and Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) garnered around 70 percent; Senators Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) and Tim Knopp (R-Bend) were both at around 60 percent in their races.
Former Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum also earned 60 percent of the vote in his election to represent SD 28. He will succeed me in office following my retirement from the Legislature early next year. Senator-elect Linthicum will represent the district well. He has a tremendous understanding of the importance of natural resources to our rural economies and is a strong proponent of constitutionally limited government and free market economic policies.
Preliminary results have former Ashland mayor Alan DeBoer leading by about 500 votes in the SD 3 race to replace Senator Alan Bates (D-Ashland), who passed away last summer. Assuming those results hold up, Senate Democrats will no longer hold a 60 percent super-majority that allows them to levy taxes on a party line vote. It could limit their ability to further grow government by enlarging the ranks of the public employee unions. It could also force a meaningful discussion of limited, constitution reform of the state’s Public Employee Retirement System in order to maintain its long-term solvency.
Republicans in the Oregon House of Representatives did not gain or lose any seats. That also deprives Democrats of a supermajority in the House. Many incumbents won their races by wide margins.
Representatives Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg), Duane Stark (R-Grants Pass), Greg Smith (R-Heppner), Greg Barreto (R-Pendleton) and Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) all pulled around 90 percent of the vote in their races. Around 80 percent was earned by Representatives Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio). Representatives Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass), Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) and John Huffman (R-The Dalles) received around 70 percent. Around 60 percent of the vote was received by Representatives Sal Esquivel (R-Medford), Vic Gilliam (R-Silverton), Jodi Hack (R-Salem), Cedric Hayden (R-Roseburg), Bill Post (R-Keizer), Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City) and Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver).
Seats left open by the decision of Rep. Jim Weidner (R-Yamhill) and Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) to not seek another term were also retained by House Republicans. The House Republicans who represent districts with Democratic registration majorities also withstood well-funded challenges, including Representatives Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) and Knute Buehler (R-Bend), who will all be returning to the Legislature for the 2017 session.
Werner Reschke handily won the House District 56 seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Gail Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls). Like Linthicum, Reschke is a strong fiscal and social conservative with private business experience. He is a good listener, intelligent, industrious and an excellent speaker and writer. We are confident he will represent the constituents of our district very well.
The American people were given a clear choice in last Tuesday’s election. Clinton’s vision for our nation appeared to promise four more years of policies similar to the last eight years of the Obama administration. Trump offered a vison of a return to the free market entrepreneurial innovation and growth that has made America exceptional. In my opinion, they made the right choice and by doing so may have saved our nation as we know it.
Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls