What are Republicans in Oregon not doing? Winning!

by Brendan Monaghan

At the risk of sounding like an after-school special, we had a lot of fun at Dorchester this weekend. The issues provided thought-provoking table and floor debate (and were actually connected to real current events). Our keynote and lunchtime speakers were outstanding and gave the cause of Republicanism something to be proud of nationally, as well as hope for a bright red future. Friday night’s legislative town hall was certainly worth the trip as BFF’s (at least until next year) Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan assured delegates they could put aside petty differences and work in the best interests of all Oregonians as Co-Speakers. Even the (in)famous Dorchester Tent Show was better than last year- providing lots of laughs and no major walkouts. And there were after-parties. Moving on . . .

But what have we learned after such a fun weekend? It’s quite easy to return home without taking away much in the way of lessons- besides the cliches of not calling each other RINOs and striving for an inclusive, big tent Republican Party. Perhaps the best opportunity in this regard came in the Founder’s Day speech Saturday night, delivered by Rob Cornilles. He, as we all know by now, was victimized by the short-sighted and hyper-partisan nature of voters in the First Congressional District, who last November chose to re-elect a crazy man in a tiger costume. The loss was symbolic of the continuing electoral drought of the Oregon Republican Party which- excluding federal offices- hasn’t won a statewide race since 1998.

The need for change within the ORP is clear, and Cornilles’ speech reflected that. It may not have been the message everyone wanted to hear, but it’s tough to argue with twelve-plus years of electoral futility (and the successes of Republican parties in such deep-red strongholds as Massachusetts, California, and Michigan). What the ORP needs is not a rebranding or a reinvention. We need not become clones of the Democrat Party, or any other party for that matter. Instead, the Republican house in Oregon needs a renovation- the foundation of limited government is strong, as are the pipes of individual liberty and the wiring of lower taxes. But perhaps the paint job could use an updating- maroon for as long as I’ve been living in it. While were at it, the drywall of divisive and incendiary intra-party rhetoric could be taken out, which keep different styles of Oregon Republicans locked in separate rooms.

It would also behoove some of us to realize that as long as we keep telling our neighbors they’re crazy when they point out the mushrooms in the siding, they’re probably not going to want to come over when we host a dinner party. When it comes to political parties, winning isn’t everything- it’s the only thing, requiring not the best candidates for the most rigid of ideological believers but the right candidates who fit the state or the district. So yes, many voters in Oregon are idiots- Cornilles’ defeat proved that- but we keep missing the reasonable I’s and D’s who would otherwise want to visit. Geography matters, and Delaware puritans found out the hard way that not everyone loves the Jim DeMints and the Michele Bachmanns as much as they do. They punted away a safe seat to the Democrats and expressed shock and outrage at their own side after rejecting centrist Mike Castle, anointing far-right Christine O’Donnell, and receiving far-left Senator Chris Coons.

The right candidates matter, and for too long some Oregon Republicans have confused collaborating on policy with compromising on principle (or worse, treating an emphasis on matters other than their pet single-issue as a form of acceptance of the other side). Rigid ideologues have never performed well in statewide or even congressional elections here in Oregon. Congressman Greg Walden is hardly right-wing and he’s arguably the most popular Republican in Oregon. Vic Atiyeh, Mark Hatfield, and even Bob Packwood are thought today as elder statesmen in the party, despite being as moderate today as they were when they dominated a Republican Party that consistently won elections. Contrast that to candidates from elections past who campaigned on the wrong priorities, alienated and spurned the wrong people, and found themselves either ending their election parties disappointed by 8:05 PM Tuesday night or waking up heartbroken Wednesday morning.

Most if not all Republicans in Oregon are in a general consensus on principles. That includes the aforementioned themes of limited government, personal liberty, and low taxes, but even the scary social issues as well. We Oregon Republicans hate abortion, want to see fewer of them, and certainly don’t think taxes should pay for them- whether some of us think legislation or contraception is the best way to prevent them should not throw us in to civil war. We’re all living under the same roof, so renovating the Republican house will be a collective effort. It’s a tough job, so we should remember to pick the right color paint that goes with the neighborhood and not threaten to move out if we don’t like the kitchen cabinets. The end result will be the best-looking and most modern house on the block and a place our friends and neighbors will no longer find excuses to avoid visiting.

Brendan is a graduate student at Portland State Universty, where he hosts the KPSU “Right Jab” radio program. Brendan is studying politcal science, and graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007, with a degree in political science.

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  • Not a Conservative Christian

    It’s time to start ignoring the one issue partisan hacks in the Party; as well as the folks that ask “What church do you belong to”. Sorry – I’m Jewish and don’t worship at any church – unless they are having an inter-faith service. I also have lots of money to donate to political causes; but as long as the two above types control the primary elections I won’t be doing much for this party.

    • I have been involved in politics at almost all levels for almost 20 years and I have never ever heard anyone ask “what church to you belong to?”

      You sound like someone filled with sour grapes. For whatever reason your candidates are not winning and you need to find someone to blame and the easiest path for you is to simply accept the mainsream pap regarding Christian conservatives.

      In all actuality you are probably just a liberal Democrat plant attempting to stir the pot. We’ve seen the act before.

      Yip Yip

      • Not a Conservative Christian

        Sorry – but you are dead wrong Mr. Coyote. I was asked that question way back in the 1990s by people in East Multnomah County. Talk about a great way to lose supporters of the party. Guess you also forgot about hate-filled gasbags like Ms. Shannon and her ilk that poisoned the Oregon Republican Party for more than a decade?
        Sorry – but I’m as far from being a lefty Democrat than you can imagine.

        • Ozymandius

          Coyote ran for office in Portland – I’ll listen to his opinion on how things run there before you.

        • Scatcatpdx

          That was 10 years ago, the religious Right was not verry active after 1997. I was one of them. Most went center left via what would Rick Warren would do, the rest like myself, read the scripture properly and realize the social “(so called) gospel” is wrong regardless it came from the left or the right.

    • Ronglynn

      Mr. Not a Conservative Christian, I know who you are and we have exchanged email previously. I am a Conservative Christian and I would never consider excluding you from participation in the Republican Party. Persons who discriminate against you on the basis of your religion are lunkheads. I will not tolerate anti-Semitic speech in the Republican Party and will speak out against it regardless of anyone’s position in the Republican Party.

      Having said that, the reality is that Republican Party is a conservative party as evidenced by the State Platform. Many of our Republicans are former democrats who could no longer stomach the extreme liberal socialist positions of the Democrat Party such as unrestricted Abortion on demand. Yes, we have liberal and moderate Republicans in the Party, but they have also been known at times to discriminate when they are happen to get in control. It is rare that they are in charge, but I have experienced it when I was first an activist in the Party decades ago.

      Regardless of your positions, your views are very important as it keeps us from the danger of living in an echo chamber. Conservatives are not monolithic and some of us are not threaten with other viewpoints.

  • wnd

    For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” ~ Isaiah 30:15

  • Geoffludt

    Please cite those “ideologues” that ran and lost. From my experience we have seen only “collaborators” like Rob Cornilles run and lose, and lose, and lose.

  • Ozymandius

    Dudley – moderate social liberal, former Obama voter – loser
    Saxton – moderate social liberal, now supports democrats – loser
    Mannix – moderate social conservative but fiscal liberal, former democrat – loser

    See a pattern here?

  • Ozymandius

    Dudley – moderate social liberal, former Obama voter – loser
    Saxton – moderate social liberal, now supports democrats – loser
    Mannix – moderate social conservative but fiscal liberal, former democrat – loser

    See a pattern here?

    • Noooope! Really don’t.

      What about Sizemore? Or Goli Ameri?

      Rob came the closest to winning Wu’s seat since Wu was elected.

      Dudley was the closest we’ve come since 1982. When we had our last Republican governor. So I guess that really doesn’t make your point make any sense.

      So what you should be acknowledging is that when we’ve ran moderates within this state who put being sensible above ideologue, we’ve either won, or given the Dems a real run for their money and bled’em a good bit. Which is better than what usually happens, which is the Dem sitting on a big pile of money looking down at the crazy person waving signs and begging for attention because no one cares.

      • Geoffludt

        Using Rob’s own words, moderates = collaborators.

        • I assume you’re one of those “Facts are the enemies of the truth” type of people?

          • Geoffludt

            defend yourself, collaborate with progressive or not?

        • Bill the Cat

          It’s far too easy to confuse sensibility with collaboration. If Republicans collaborate with Democrats, there is no difference. Our two party system is supposed to foster deliberative debate, not selling out of ideals.

          • I’m confused, are you all against the former Stalwarts of the party of this great state? Were the McCalls and Hatfields all a bunch of sellouts in your eyes?

          • Geoffludt

            Sell Outs? No. Collaborators.

          • You, sir, are why we can’t have nice things.

          • Geoffludt

            well played.

      • Ozymandius

        Actually, Mannix was as close to winning as Dudley, and had a higher percentage of the Multnomah County vote despite a libertarian third party challenger. Sorry, facts get in the way some times.

        As for Sizemore, he is simply proof that good policy fails when presented by a person with low charisma and questionable ethics. And let’s not forget about the disaster that was Dave Frohnmayer!

      • Ozymandius

        “Rob came the closest to winning Wu’s seat since Wu was elected.”

        Which, I am sure, has NOTHING to do with the fact that 2010 was a Republican wave year in which 64 seats or so in the House changed hands. Imagine what a better candidate might have done – perhaps actually won…

  • Bob Clark

    I think it infuriating when Republican legislators vote in favor, or sponsor bills, such as the plastic bag ban. Or killing the kicker refund. What good is it to belong to the GOP if its candidates do not stick to the principles of limited government and free markets once in office? Tea party’s got it right. If a Republican does not toe the line once in office, the Tea Party’s big mission becomes to make them walk the plank.

    Cornilles and Alley get passes from this principle because you almost have to be a moderate to win the First District or governorship. But RINOs like Atkinson and Gilliam get no passes since they come from more conservative areas, and seem to eager to push things like the plastic bag ban.

  • Ewtyvoll

    The Republicans in Oregon need to be brave enough to have an open primary to allow more mainstream candidates

    • Ronglynn

      As a member of a past State Central Committee, I helped get rid of the open primary as it was stupid. For example, it is like a Assembly of God church voting for church leaders and letting Church of Christ members from down the street vote in the election. You are either a Republican or you are not. We welcome others to join us as long they follow the core principles of the State Party platform.

      • Davis

        Both parties long ago tried and abandoned the open primary because few from outside the party participated. Aside from violating the obvious intent of a primary — the party selecting candidates for the general election — the open primary provides neither the incentive to non-affiliated voters to participate nor the dreamed-of (by whom? — most likely some mole squirreled away with hopes of undermining the party) “moderate” candidate.

  • valley person

    Corniles was victimized by the voters? I guess that summarizes what has happened to the Oregon Republican party over the past 25 years. You have been victimized by voters who disagree with your program, top to bottom.

    Since your program keeps drifting to the right and obviously voters aren’t following, might I offer an approach suggested by Bertolt Brecht, who remarked on the communist East German government’s statement that they were “disappointed with the people.” He said the government should dismiss the people and get a new people.

    A paint job amounts to lipstick on a pig.

    • noibn

      VP, bespeaking your lipsticking, does the phrase, “Locking the STABLE door after the horse has bolted” strike a familiar note? It ought.

      David’s lickspittle Wu shoo train got a politcal schLOCKdown before the election. Thereafter, the ‘stable’ staff given some free reign, albeit within the DNC’s CORRAL.

      Today, Congressman Wu still vaunts to keep his job and (enter moment of silence) avoid a Bob Packwood career path change.

      However, many more now think Rep Wu ought resign. Hell, he’d have boo coo Congressional benefits to $ustain him, meaning more time for Mr. Mom-hood – too, perhaps, lobbying for mental health organizations. And that’s the toot,
      VP!

      • valley person

        So in effect, Corniles not only lost badly to a liberal Democrat, he lost to a possibly certifiable crazy liberal democrat. Do republicans take this as, “hey, maybe we ought to reconsider our program? No, apparently not.

        And this is Washington County we are talking about, not Multnomah County. Its an upper middle income, very white, well off, business oriented population. Republicans can’t beat a crazy guy there?

        • wnd

          VP, Seems Multnomah County’s Kool-Aid has more WuBegone stands in Washington County than even Leo Ryan, deceased CA Democrat Congressman, could take for granite.
          Alas, District One seems as kooky-coochie-Wu a foregone a contusion as ’twas Jonestown, Guyana. Oy!

        • FYI, West Mult. County is in Wu’s district… which entails (holy crap!) all of downtown Portland. So yeah, it does entail not only part of the county, but also Portland.

          • not a betting person

            Good point. But the bulk of the population in that district is in Washington county. And the west part of Multnomah county is demographically similar to Washington county; white, middle and upper middle income, business and professional oriented. Republicans cannot win without a substantial share of these voters.

  • valley person

    Corniles was victimized by the voters? I guess that summarizes what has happened to the Oregon Republican party over the past 25 years. You have been victimized by voters who disagree with your program, top to bottom.

    Since your program keeps drifting to the right and obviously voters aren’t following, might I offer an approach suggested by Bertolt Brecht, who remarked on the communist East German government’s statement that they were “disappointed with the people.” He said the government should dismiss the people and get a new people.

    A paint job amounts to lipstick on a pig.

  • Jim

    What an uninformed and ahistorical blog post. The Republican Party is only irrelevant in Oregon because it has strayed from common Oregon values. The Democrats continue to push to preserve our state’s scenic beauty, manage our natural resources efficiently and effectively, support the work of small businesses and locally-owned corporations and provide visionary guidance to rebuild our economy.

    The Republicans, over the last 20 or 30 years, have slid comfortably into a nationally-run, consultant-driven scrap heap that moves only when told to by out-of-state corporations (see Hilex lobbying against the plastic bag ban, which is a policy daughter of Tom McCall’s landmark bottle bill) and Beltway consultants. The ORP of yore, the McCalls and Hatfields and Packwoods and all the way back to Julius Meier and beyond, knew a good idea when they saw one and weren’t afraid pursue it because of a party-line ideology or the threat of the next election. They were leaders and statesmen. I find that, in both parties today, we have significantly lost our tradition of statesmanship and true, courageous leadership. But there are far more dedicated public servants serving in Oregon’s Democratic ranks than the hacks that keep running for Republican tickets (notable exceptions being Frank Morse, Allen Alley–here’s hoping he can inspire some of his colleagues, Bill Kennemer, Mark Johnson and a few others).

  • Jim

    One more thing: the single most credible and effective candidate the Republicans have run against David Wu was absolutely not, in fact, the Golden Boy Rob Cornilles (telemarketing scams aside).

    In 2008, the ORP had fielded a tremendously talented and bright candidate in Joel Haugen, a middle-school science teacher and Vietnam veteran that displayed broad bipartisan appeal and a sharp mind for public policy. A self-described Hatfield-McCall Republican, Haugen was shunned from party events and essentially driven out of the ORP. He ended up listing the Independent Party next to his name on the ballot.

    This kind of ideological purity test is what loses elections for the ORP. As soon as someone expresses a measured or rational view of an issue or discusses both the merits of both sides of a debate, the purse strings of the party get cut off and that person finds him or herself up a creek.

    • Look at the election returns — Rob had the best showing since…. Wu got elected, I believe.

      • Bill the Cat

        Xander, you’re incorrect. Cornilles lost by 13 in an 8 point district. Several candidates have done far better against Wu.

        • Addrjunk

          Hello?!

        • Bill the Cat

          I stand corrected to an extent. Only one candidate has had better results, and that was Molly Bordanaro in 1998. However, the point remains that Cornilles didn’t even close the registration gap, meaning that he didn’t even convince enough in his own party to vote for him, never mind capturing the independents.

        • I’m sorry, who are you referring to?

          Certainly not Joel Haugen, who only received less than 18% of the vote.

          Certainly not Derrick Kitts who only received about 35% of the vote.

          Certainly not Goli Ameri who only received 38% of the vote.

          Certainly not Jim Greenfield who only received 34% of the vote.

          And certainly not Charles Starr, who only received 38% of the vote.

          To perhaps you can your misplaced 13-8 point spread and take a gander at history. So if by several, perhaps you mean one candidate, who was Molly Bordonaro, during Wu’s first election.

          • Bill the Cat

            So it’s a victory, then, that Cornilles got 41%?

      • Bill the Cat

        Xander, you’re incorrect. Cornilles lost by 13 in an 8 point district. Several candidates have done far better against Wu.

      • Addrjunk

        Xander, check the scoreboard, Rob lost. Why are you taking lessons on winning from a loser? Next.

        • I did check the scoreboard. And when one is checking a scoreboard, determining how much one loses by is very important. For instance, if you keep losing by VAST margins and then keep putting those same types of people in the field, perhaps you’re doing something wrong. And when suddenly, you put someone in the field and they outshine all their preprocessors, it’s a note that you might be starting to do something right for a change.

          So if that point is lost upon you, then perhaps we should just pack up all our things and never set foot in Oregon’s First again, but I for one see this as sign that we’re starting to come into a formula which might actually work.

          • Addrjunk

            The wave of tea party conservatism broke over Oregon, look at all the state house and senate seats that went for conservatives. What we lacked was credible conservatives in federal races. Cornilles’ closer margin had more to do with this wave of conservatism then anything Cornilles did. That he lost is on him, he squandered one of the best opportunities we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

          • We picked up seats we had lost previously for the most part. Can’t really call that CD1 now can we?

          • Addrjunk

            I’m certain that you didn’t miss the point, CD1 bucked the trend for many reasons but, most importantly, because the candidate wasn’t credibly conservative. He didn’t attract the base. I personally went in and made phone calls for him, his call center was dead every time I was there (how much time did you spend in his call center?). He wasn’t exciting and, the reason he wasn’t exciting is because his conservatism wasn’t credible. It doesn’t help his cause by suggesting in his remarks that we collaborate.

          • Addrjunk

            I’m certain that you didn’t miss the point, CD1 bucked the trend for many reasons but, most importantly, because the candidate wasn’t credibly conservative. He didn’t attract the base. I personally went in and made phone calls for him, his call center was dead every time I was there (how much time did you spend in his call center?). He wasn’t exciting and, the reason he wasn’t exciting is because his conservatism wasn’t credible. It doesn’t help his cause by suggesting in his remarks that we collaborate.

      • Ozymandius

        Again, in a Republican wave election. Anybody with an R after his name would have given Wu his toughest challenge in 2010.

        • Addrjunk

          The Hamburgler (R)

          • Ozymandius

            Actually, that would be The Hamburgler (TM)

    • Bill the Cat

      Jim, despite being on the opposite side and incorrect on the issues, is actually correct about the reasons we Republicans continue to lose. Substitute “tin eared national political decision makers” for “corporations”, and he’s dead on with this statement:

      The Republicans, over the last 20 or 30 years, have slid comfortably into a nationally-run, consultant-driven scrap heap that moves only when told to by out-of-state corporations

    • Bill the Cat

      Jim, despite being on the opposite side and incorrect on the issues, is actually correct about the reasons we Republicans continue to lose. Substitute “tin eared national political decision makers” for “corporations”, and he’s dead on with this statement:

      The Republicans, over the last 20 or 30 years, have slid comfortably into a nationally-run, consultant-driven scrap heap that moves only when told to by out-of-state corporations

  • 3H

    Rob Cornilles was victimized by the voters – because they didn’t vote for him? Is this the new Republican strategy? Play the victim when voters don’t elect you? That has to be one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever read.

    No, let me guess, had the voters elected Cornilles, they would have no longer been “hyper-partisan” but rather thoughtful and and reasonable. Yes?

    I’m sure that if Wu’s issues had come out, Cornilles very well may have won. Not because they liked Cornille’s views on issues, but because he would have appeared more stable than Wu. However, lacking that, they picked Wu because Wu’s views on the issues more closely reflected their own.

    Maybe that’s your point? Republicans can only win if the voters are distracted from the issues and are more focused on the personalities. At least in that district.

    Just out of curiosity, would you describe those areas of Oregon that have long voted conservative as being hyper-partisan?

  • 2teach

    This is a rambling piece of nonsense. So we should listen to people who expect us to compromise our deeply held beliefs to work with people who hate us for our deeply held beliefs? I don’t think so. BTW, this post is redundant, poorly written and little more than skewed opinion, and sadly well below the level I’ve come to expect from this publication.

  • ike869

    I read the title and didn’t read the article nor the comments.

    I have only this to add:

    What are Republicans (aka ‘conservatives’) in Oregon doing?

    NOT F#%&ING VOTING!!!

    a$$hats.

    Oh, and so-called ‘Republican Party of Oregon’?

    FAIL. MEGA-fail. Good luck Alley leading an organization full of people with nothi9gn but 30 years of FAILURE under their belt (likely a lot of infiltrators to-boot).

    There needs to be a cleaning of house, firing of all and takeover by ‘Conservatives’ if things are ever going to change in this damned State…

  • I think we should just continue our strategy of losing elections by landslides as most of these posters seem to think we should do.

    Forget Brendan and his attempt at wanting to WIN things. Follow these folks above and wisp ourselves to another 30 dry years with hardcore ideologues with HUGE margins of loss rather than what seems to be coming closer every year which are prudent old school traditional Oregon style Republicans who lose by smaller margins every election cycle.

    • Bill the Cat

      When’s the last time a real idealogue ran? I can’t think of a pure conservative candidate …

  • HBguy

    After reading the post and the comments, and assuming the readers here represent a fair cross section of the Repubican base, I can confidently predict that Democrats will be in control of Oregon for a long, long time.

    • not a betting person

      You won’t lose any money on that prediction.

  • The problem with the arguement is that it ignores the fact we in Oregon in general,. and in CD1 in particular, /have/ been running less-than-ardently-conservative candidates since the days of Hatfield, Atiyeh and Packwood and consistently lost. The problem isn’t ideological; it’s a matter of showing leadership.

    Like them or not, you knew where these “elder statesmen” stood and what they’d do when and if they got elected. In contrast, most of the more recent crop of candidates won’t take a stand on issues, particularly controversial ones. For fear of offending someone, these candidates inspire no one – and we lose.

    There have been some exceptions to this at the state and federal level; Bill Witt in CD1, and Chris Dudley and Kevin Mannix running for Governor, both of which got within a couple of points of winning. In the state legislature, we can find people like Matt Wingard, Shawn Lindsey, Katie Eyre-Brewer and a handful of others who stood for something, and the people got behind them.

    Maybe we should take a look at what got them so close and model future campaigns on their efforts rather than following a practice that says essentially, “Well, I’m not the Democrat…” We’ve been doing that for nearly a generation, and we’ve lost. If we keep doing what we’re doing – and as the author suggests – we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

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