Without the distractions of highly emotional sideshows, these elections are a chance for Oregon to shore up its political foundation. Our economy sucks. The state faces a one billion-dollar deficit. Social services continue to dwindle. And what's more, it's been a long time since the Oregon legislature put forward a new and refreshing idea. Here are the A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s for this year's very elementary election.
Our Strong-Armed Governor
When the former WWF golden boy, Jesse Ventura, won Minnesota's governorship, T-shirts were printed that read, "our governor can kick your governor's ass." But if Ted Kulongoski holds onto his slim lead, Oregonians may be able to contest that bold claim. An orphan, a marine, and a steel mill worker who used his wages to pay his way through law school, Kulongoski is tough. But like most superheroes, Kulongoski's strengths are also his vulnerabilities. His integrity and willingness to stand by a proposed income tax increase have hobbled his campaign. Two months ago, Kulongoski all but ran away with the election. But his steadfast belief that what may hurt individuals--a tax increase--is good for the state, he's not making friends.
His opponent, Kevin Mannix, has hammered this issue with relentless cruelty. His latest campaign ads intone that Kulongoski also supports an eight-percent sales tax. (In fact, Kulongoski has stated that voters should decide whether Oregon should adopt a temporary sales tax.) Worse yet for Kulongoski, Mannix has oodles of charm--he comes off as a guy who would make a great dinner guest and the type of neighbor who would give up his Saturday afternoon to help with your yard work.
But Mannix is a snake charmer, able to hypnotize with his smile and quick wit and chumminess. When trying to earn the Republican appointment, he repeatedly raised abortion as an issue. His anti-abortion stance managed to secure a solid base within the Republican Party, while pro-abortion candidates--his opponents for the nomination--alienated the GOP's core members. Since entering the race with Kulongoski, and while looking to attack more middle-of-the-road demographics, Mannix has purposefully avoided issues that would alienate large demographics--like abortion. Instead, knowing that the majority of Oregonians oppose tax hikes, Mannix has made taxes his pet issue. Don't fall for the charm. VOTE KULONGOSKI!
Third Party Politics
Two years ago, the Pacific Green Party had promised to emerge as a viable third-party option. With dozens of impressive candidates from the president to municipal boards, it seemed as if they were slowly building a coalition. But interestingly, the Greens are all but absent from this year's election. In their stead, the Libertarian Party has stepped forward with 21 candidates, from the eminently charismatic governor's candidate, Tom Cox, to Kevin Schaumleffle, a hypnotist running for state senate (State Rep, 34th District; Beaverton).
"We feel that our time is right," said a spokesperson from the Libertarian Party state offices in Beaverton. "People are concerned about taxes going up." The party subscribes to a laid back governing philosophy--where the feds keeps their hands off social issues and a free enterprise economy, rather than a tax-and-spend big government that shapes policies. "And we back medicinal marijuana and the right-to-die," added the representative.
Lacking in the past several legislative sessions have been so-called sniper politicians--those representatives who lock their sights on a single-issue target. Often these single-issue legislators are more focused and, therefore, imminently more successful than their brethren in trying to push forward an agenda.
Although Erik Hartung (State Rep, 33rd District) has a few more planks in his platform, the wine distributor is championing the single best idea in this year's election: Privatizing the Liquor Commission!
"They are trying to govern morality," explains Hartung. "The thing that the OLCC uses to protect themselves is bringing in $200 million to the state," he points out, referring to the profits that the OLCC realizes by acting as a middleman between distributors and liquor stores. Hartung says that money could be replaced by eliminating a massive bureaucracy and instead, taxing alcohol at the point of sale.
Sign Me Up!
"There is a band of gypsies that follow ballot measures around the country," says Patty Wentz, a spokesperson for Oregonians for Initiative Integrity. Measure 26 hopes to ban the pay-per-signature format for ballot petitioners. Wentz adds, "Oregon is known for being notoriously easy in getting away with fraud." By taking away pay-per-signature allowances (yet still permitting signature gatherers to be paid per hour), Measure 26 hopes to curb the incentive to cheat and forge.
According to Wentz, too many voter initiatives currently make the ballot due to the role that gatherers play, as opposed to the measure's merits "[Gatherers] either do a good sales job or fraud their way onto the ballot," Wentz says. YES ON 26!
The Mercury's Endorsements
GOVERNOR - Kulongoski
US SENATE - Bradbury
US REP (1st District) - Wu
US REP (3rd District) - Blumenauer
CITY COUNCIL - Cruz (Anti-Sit/Lie Ordinance!)
METRO COUNCIL (President) - Bragdon
METRO COUNCIL (Position 2) - Atherton
STATE SENATE (17) - Ringo
STATE SENATE (24) - Shields
STATE HOUSE (33) - Hartung (wants to abolish the OLCC!)
STATE HOUSE (42) - Rosenbaum
STATE HOUSE (43) - Kafoury
STATE HOUSE (44) - Hansen
STATE HOUSE (45) - Dingfelder
STATE HOUSE (46) - March
BALLOT MEASURE 14 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 15 - NO
BALLOT MEASURE 16 - NO
BALLOT MEASURE 17 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 18 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 21 - NO
BALLOT MEASURE 22 - NO
BALLOT MEASURE 23 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 24 - BITE ME
BALLOT MEASURE 25 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 26 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 27 - YES
The following are city ballot measures:
BALLOT MEASURE 26-33 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 26-34 - YES
BALLOT MEASURE 26-36 - YES