Oregon Republicans should pass the torch to Allen Alley

Outgoing Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bob Tiernan is a warrior. As hard charging and pugnacious as his rank of commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve would befit, Tiernan took the reins of his party at the worst possible time. Still smarting from the drubbing of a lifetime in the 2008 elections, the Oregon GOP was broke and apathy was at an all time high. In two short years, Tiernan successfully engaged with the tea party sentiment sweeping the nation and rebuilt the party.

Tiernan was not only able to rebuild the party’s finances but also recruit and field an appealing group of candidates for the Legislature who were still drying out from the soaking they’d taken during the blue tsunami. The results of his efforts were an even split in the Oregon House and a nearly even split in the Oregon Senate. There’s no denying Tiernan’s record of accomplishment as he passes the torch to his successor.

The question is, who should be his successor?

Forgive my military reference in the wake of the controversy over Sarah Palin’s crosshairs, but just as commanding generals are relieved of duty and replaced with efficient administrators after ground has been taken and secured, the Oregon Republican Party would do well to follow that example. In the wake of the country’s rejection of the Democratic agenda, Republicans, both in Oregon and nationally, must show that they not only can set a course for economic recovery and long-term prosperity, but also that government can run like a business and still deliver quality essential services to taxpayers. One man who has stepped forward to lead the Oregon GOP with those goals in mind is Allen Alley.

Following an impressive career as an engineer with Ford and Boeing and the founding of Pixelworks, one of Oregon’s business success stories, Alley turned to public service. Serving as both an economic adviser and ultimately deputy chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Alley developed a keen insight into the inner workings of the state’s executive branch, a branch locked down from Republican candidates for decades.

Unfortunately, to some Oregon Republicans, this was seen as an act of collaboration, and Alley has had to deal with criticisms of being a “Republican in name only.” But that doesn’t bother the man who ran an impressive race for state treasurer in 2008 and came in second in the GOP primary for governor in 2010. And the “Rino” label doesn’t bother outgoing party chairman Tiernan or Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, who have both pledged their support to Alley.

Since the last primary, Alley, in conjunction with state Sen. Dennis Richardson and the Oregon transformation project, has been spending his time performing an analytical analysis of Oregon’s all funds budget and posting it at oregontransformation.com. That analysis, which shows Oregon’s spending increasing nearly 50 percent in four years, has also fueled his ambition to serve as party chairman.

“I want to turn the party of ‘no’ into the party of ‘know,'” Alley told me. “It was clear the country said ‘no’ in November, but the country is now looking to the new Republican majority for the ‘know’ part of it. I want to recruit candidates that have the ideas to move the economy forward and the experience and background to know how to do it.”

Alley shared an interesting personal anecdote with me:

“I’ve never done the research to confirm it,” Alley said, “but my mother used to say that I was related to a famous Hollywood actor. I remember being disappointed when she told me it wasn’t John Wayne, it was Ronald Reagan.”

Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland’s Small Business Advisory Council.