Despite frustration with a dreary local economy and relentless unemployment, Portland residents who bothered to vote in Tuesday's low-turnout election overwhelmingly voted for the status quo. All county positions available--excepting sheriff--went to incumbents. In Portland, commissioners Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman were re-elected by substantial margins.

Asked why Portlanders rejected new leadership despite widespread dissatisfaction, Peter Alexander, one of Saltzman's opponents, found fault with local media's refusal to cover the race with any depth. "People are numb" to local issues, he says, and the media failed both to mobilize voters and to acquaint those who did vote with the candidates' views.

Because Alexander "ran a low-budget campaign," the lack of media coverage made competition with Saltzman--along with his host of billboards and direct-mail strategy--nearly impossible. Had Alexander more time and more money, he is confident he would have successfully challenged Saltzman. "When I went head to head with him (at debates)," Alexander says, "I ended up with new supporters."

The lack of public forums, however, made these opportunities few and far between. Reviving these forums would enliven Portland campaigns, but Alexander stresses this election's most compelling failure belongs to the press.

"During a two-and-a-half-month campaign period, I collected eight or 10 press clippings about the race," Alexander says. Given the importance of the commissioner race to local business and Portland's suffering economy, Alexander says this is an abysmally low amount of coverage.

"The press is asleep at the wheel We have a billion-dollar budget shortfall and Enron is taking $250 million out of the community that's a lot of jobs," Alexander explains. Local news media have largely failed to connect Enron news to the business page. "This should be front page news," says Alexander.

Because such issues are not raised, city government has been allowed to "coast downhill," relying on old ideas, policies, and plans created years ago, continues Alexander. Candidates have not been challenged to formulate new visions, but instead allowed to rest on past successes. "Our community is headed for a crisis," he warns.

Dismal voter turnout doomed two important measures: a $140 million Multnomah County library levy--the first of its kind to fail in over a decade--and a $48.4 million parks property tax levy. (To pass, each levy needed at least 50 percent voter turnout; only 42 percent of registered voters cast ballots.) As a result, county residents will continue to see Monday closures at libraries as well as further library cutbacks; park users will face shortened restroom hours, community pool closures, and less frequent facilities maintenance.

Legislative measure 13, also rejected by voters, was intended to bolster the state school budget for the upcoming shortfall with $220 million from the lottery-based endowment fund.

In the Gubernatorial Race, Kevin Mannix mobilized enough far-right voters to win the Republican Party's nod. Vowing to cut capital gains taxes and reject all tax increases, Mannix has been viewed skeptically at a time when lawmakers of both parties have conceded that few alternatives other than raising taxes remain. He has also proudly proclaimed himself the only pro-life governor candidate; Democrats hope his extremism will alienate moderate Republicans.

Democratic nominee Ted Kulongoski, a moderate who was the last Democrat to lose Oregon's governor race in 1982, won his party's primary by a wide margin and promises to work for education reform and environmental protections, and to accelerate public works projects to create living wage jobs.