Friday, April 30, 2010

Kitzhaber To Bradbury: Whatever Happened To That Mouse?

Just when you thought you'd seen it all: At a debate this afternoon between John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury at the City Club of Portland, the two Democrats were told they'd get to ask the other candidate three questions. Bradbury went first, asking Kitzhaber about his stance on community college funding. Kitzhaber followed that with a question that has to be heard to be believed:

Kitzhaber and Bradbury--as the question implies--are old friends, and so a light-hearted tale from days gone by may not have been out of place. But while Bradbury followed up with more standard debate questions about Kitzhaber's voting record and his past remark about the state being "ungovernable," Kitzhaber continued to lob softball questions at Bradbury. Actually, calling them softball questions is probably too generous--it might be more accurate to call them T-ball questions. Specifically, Kitzhaber asked Bradbury about when the former Secretary of State first decided to enter public service, as well as what Bradbury considered to be his "greatest contributions to the people of Oregon." In each case, Bradbury gave a thoughtful response. But here's what he had to say about the line of questioning afterward:

So, does Kitzhaber feel as though the May primary is a done deal? Few candidates would admit to such confidence outright, though the Kitzhaber campaign is talking up recent poll results showing the former governor in the lead over Bradbury. And Kitzhaber himself may have tipped his hand somewhat during a phone interview I had with him yesterday. I asked him how he'd propose to handle what many predict to be a multi-billion dollar deficit the state will face next year. Here's how he started his response:

Notice he didn't say "I will have a detailed plan ... if I win the primary." Now, it could be that part is assumed, but you usually don't hear primary-season candidates speak as though they've already won the primary. By the way, if you want to hear the entire City Club debate, you can do so by clicking here. You can also listen to the Republican candidates debate by clicking here. Next week, the gubernatorial hopefuls will debate on the public radio program Think Out Loud

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Treasurer Candidates Lukewarm About Bradbury's Bank Proposal

Both Democratic candidates for Treasurer are expressing doubts about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Bradbury's proposal to create a "Bank of Oregon." Bradbury says his plan, modeled after a similar venture in North Dakota, would keep money from flowing to large out-of-state financial institutions, instead turning cash around to be invested in the local economy.

When asked about Bradbury's Bank of Oregon proposal last night at a candidates forum sponsored by the Washington County Democrats, both Ted Wheeler and Rick Metsger said they supported the general idea behind Bradbury's proposal, but fell decidedly short of endorsing it. Metsger, a current state senator, pointed out that North Dakota is much smaller than Oregon, and wondered why--if it was such a good idea--no other states have followed North Dakota's lead. Metsger pointed to a bill he carried during the February special session as an example of how the state can help existing local financial institutions. The bill allows governmental agencies to deposit money at credit unions, not just banks.  Likewise, Ted Wheeler--the incumbent Treasurer, appointed last month by Governor Ted Kulongoski--said that he'd be reluctant to create what could turn out to be a competitor to local financial institutions. "Count me as skeptical" about the Bank of Oregon proposal, Wheeler said.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Avakian Backs Away From Workplace Marijuana Challenge

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian has decided not to challenge this month's decision by the Oregon Supreme Court to allow employers to fire workers who use medical marijuana, despite having a medical marijuana card. The Bureau of Labor and Industries argued in court that people who legally use medical marijuana to treat certain medical conditions are protected from workplace drug-use policies. The Oregon Supreme Court felt differently, siding with business groups.

Medical marijuana advocates said they were disappointed by the ruling, and Commissioner Avakian initially called the decision "troubling." He said it "undercuts" the will of voters, who approved Oregon's medical marijuana law in 1998. Today, however, Avakian issued a statement saying he would not appeal the Oregon Supreme Court's decision:

"I accept (the) decision and the Bureau of Labor and Industries will enforce the law accordingly.  Dragging out the legal process would benefit neither workers nor employers."

Monday, April 26, 2010

When A Transcript Doesn't Tell The Whole Story

Democrats today are circulating a video that purportedly shows Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley saying he'll "leave Oregon" if he doesn't win the governor's race. According to the Democratic Party of Oregon, the video was shot last Friday at an event in Tillamook. The transcript of the video, as provided by Democrats, is this:

[unidentified audience member]:…. If you don’t get elected, I will leave.
[Dudley]: I mi – I might too. no -  just – better watch the recorder here – what are you – where are you putting this?

Now, this is a completely accurate transcript. But it's a far from complete portrayal of the exchange. If you watch the video, Dudley is clearly kidding when he says he would leave the state if he doesn't get elected governor. He has a large grin on his face and is laughing. As far as unscripted campaign-trail videos go, this one is far from the most embarrassing to surface in Oregon in recent years. (At least Dudley wasn't eating a hot dog, for instance.) But the fact that Democrats are aiming their rhetoric at Dudley may provide some insight into who party insiders think has the inside track at winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dudley Gets Cash From Kevin Kline

Actor Kevin Kline, who once played the role of President in the movie "Dave," has gotten involved in a real-life political campaign in Oregon. The Academy Award winner donated $500 this week to Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley. As a former NBA basketball player, it's not too surprising that Dudley knows his share of celebrities. In this case, the connection is diabetes, according to Dudley's spokeswoman Brittany Bramell. Dudley has battled diabetes since he was a teenager. According to Wikipedia, Kline's son has diabetes.

Kitzhaber Hits Airwaves

One day after fellow Democrat Bill Bradbury unveiled his second ad, former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber released his campaign's first television ad. The 30-second spot includes photos of Kitzhaber's career from his days as an emergency room doctor as well as his time in Salem as a legislator and then governor. According to the Kitzhaber campaign, the ad will begin airing across the state later today.

Legislature Unveils Redistricting Website

Redistricting--that once-a-decade political exercise that begets no controversy whatsoever--is just around the corner, now that the U-S Census is underway. The official headcount won't arrive back in Oregon until next spring, giving lawmakers about three months to meet a July 1 deadline to finish the process. Of course, that's not how it typically goes. (See section 3.2, especially)

If Democrats retain control of the Oregon House and Senate, and retain control of the governor's office, it's possible that redistricting will be less of a boondoggle than it's been the last few times around. Also, with a potential multi-billion dollar deficit looming next year, lawmakers may not wish to be seen as "wasting time" over something like drawing lines on a map, which at the end of the day doesn't directly create jobs or build stronger state services. But you can also be sure that redistricting won't be one of those things that creates a lot of bi-partisan hand-holding, either. Anyhow, the Legislature has rolled out a redistricting web page, so you can keep up with the latest nitty-gritty details as they unfold over the next 18 months.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bradbury Releases Second TV Commercial

We haven't seen any television commercials yet from Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber. But Bill Bradbury today unveiled a second ad. The release is meant to coincide with Earth Day, and it highlights Bradbury's anti-LNG stance. Bradbury was speaking out against LNG even while he was still Secretary of State, and it's an issue that his campaign seems to think will resonate among Democratic voters looking for a reason to choose Bradbury over Kitzhaber.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Foster Expects To Issue Statement Tomorrow

I just got off the phone with Brent Foster, who resigned suddenly yesterday from his role as Special Counsel on environmental issues for Oregon Attorney General John Kroger. Kroger's office said Foster had "misrepresented his involvement in the investigation of a criminal case" involving accusations of water pollution against a Hood River juice processor.

Foster said he was speaking to me from his attorney's office in Portland. He wouldn't reveal the name of his lawyer. Here's what he did have to say:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Am I Registered To Vote?

With the May primary less than a month away, you may be asking yourself questions like: Am I registered to vote? Do I need to update my registration? What if I moved recently? What if I want to change parties? What if I changed my last name? What IS the deadline to register, anyway?  Is there anybody else out there who has these same questions?

The answer to that last one is apparently "yes," according to a new television commercial produced by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

The deadline to register for the May primary is April 27. As a general rule, if you received a ballot for the January tax election, you're more than likely still registered, provided you haven't moved since then, in which case you'll need to update your registration to reflect your new address. However, since this is a primary, you'll only be able to vote for candidates in the party in which you're registered. So if you want to change parties, you still have time, but the clock is ticking. On the other hand, every registered voter in Oregon will get a ballot, regardless of party (or lack thereof) because there are a number of non-partisan races to be decided, including a pair of ballot measures and the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. In many places, there are local non-partisan races on the ballot as well.

If you're not registered, this will be the first election for which it's possible to register online. You can do that, as well as check to make sure you are still registered, at the Oregon Votes website.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Darren Karr's "Great Night" In Tillamook

You certainly don't hear or read much about Darren Karr, one of nine Republicans running for governor in the May 18 primary. The self-described "zero dollar" candidate isn't accepting any campaign contributions, and didn't even bother (or couldn't afford) to purchase space in the state voters pamphlet. But he evidently is making the effort to attend some candidates' forums, including one last night in Tillamook.

The event was sponsored by the Tillamook chapter of the American Association of University Women. I couldn't find any coverage of the forum on the local newspaper's website. But fortunately, Darren Karr stepped up to describe the event in excruciating detail. Among his observations:

1. The candidates present included "a lady state senator running against Ted Wheeler for State Treasurer." (Uh, Darren--that would be your fellow Republican Chris Telfer, who technically isn't running against Ted Wheeler right now...she's running unopposed in the GOP primary. She'll face either Ted Wheeler or Rick Metsger, the two Democrats vying for their party's nomination in May.)

2. "(State Senator) Betsy (Johnson) is an older woman." Johnson, according to the Oregon Blue Book, is 59 years old. I couldn't find an age for Darren, but the photo on his campaign website would appear to place him on the south side of 59. Still, referring to a powerful female state lawmaker as "an older woman" is surely a dubious political move.

3. Karr refers to Oregon's "state congress" and calls state lawmakers "congressmen."

4. Karr, after listening to the other candidates, observes: "We need ME in office to represent us."

5. Despite "SEETHING" his way through the forum, Karr nonetheless concludes: "It was a great night."

Sizemore Starts Raising Campaign Cash, Finally

Republican gubernatorial candidate and long-time initiative activist Bill Sizemore is finally raising some money in his long-shot bid to win the GOP nomination next month. Sizemore, you may recall, was barred by an Oregon judge from raising campaign contributions as part of a ruling against him in a case brought by teachers' unions. But according to the NW Republican blog, Sizemore was granted permission last week to start raising cash.

Indeed, a look at Sizemore's campaign committee shows that he is raising and spending cash, albeit not a great deal of it. Aside from some in-kind donations in the form of voters pamphlet statements, Sizemore reports just over $1000 in cash contributions, mostly in small amounts. He's spent nearly all of that, mainly to reimburse himself for travel expenses. Curiously, if the report in the NW Republican is correct, some of the contributions seem to have been accepted prior to the lifting of the contribution ban.

Of course, this isn't the only legal battle Sizemore--who will participate in a Republican candidates forum today at the City Club of Portland--is facing. He's also under a felony indictment for tax evasion. While Sizemore--who maintains his innocence--had hoped the case would go to trial before the May 18 primary, the next hearing in the case isn't scheduled until June 11, according to the Marion County Circuit Court.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Conservative "Bus Project" Targets Greg Smith, Bob Jenson

The conservative political activist group Common Sense for Oregon is putting together a bus trip to eastern Oregon aimed at unseating a pair of Republican state lawmakers. Greg Smith of Heppner and Bob Jenson of Pendleton infuriated many conservatives when they voted for a pair of budget-balancing tax hikes in the legislature last June. The measures were referred to the ballot by a citizen referendum effort and eventually passed statewide in the form of Measures 66 and 67. Jenson voted for both the income tax hike on the wealthy (Measure 66) and a corporate tax hike (Measure 67). Smith voted only in favor of the income tax hike.

The two quickly gained opponents in the Republican primary. Jenson's challenger in the 58th District is Mike Mathisen, and in the 57th district Greg Smith faces Colleen MacLeod. (I highlighted the Smith/MacLeod race in a recent story.) While both Smith and Jenson are long-time lawmakers with deep roots in eastern Oregon, conservative groups hope to eject them from office in May in part to signal that they're ready to take on the much larger pool of Democrats in November who voted for the tax hikes.

At a Tea Party rally in Salem Thursday, Ross Day--the director of Common Sense for Oregon--invited the crowd to sign up for an overnight bus trip to eastern Oregon. The group has rented two buses and is looking for 100 volunteers to fill them up. All travel expenses including transportation and hotels will be paid for by Common Sense. Once in eastern Oregon, volunteers will go door to door to campaign for Mathisen and MacLeod.

Interestingly, according to state campaign finance records, Common Sense has donated $3500 to MacLeod's campaign but not a penny to Mathisen. Overall, Mathisen has raised a paltry amount compared to Jenson, but MacLeod is starting to catch up to Smith when it comes to fundraising, buoyed in large part by a $20,000 gift this week from the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, a group headed by Kevin Mannix--who is also one of the directors of Common Sense for Oregon.

To hear Ross Day exhorting the Tea Party crowd at the Oregon capitol to sign up for an eastern Oregon bus tour, click here:

Another Furlough Day Is Here

If you're reading this on your way to the DMV Friday morning...well, first of all, keep your eyes on the road, for pete's sake! Anyhow, you may want to turn around and head back home. The DMV's going to be closed, along with dozens of other state agencies. It's the fourth of 10 scheduled furlough days during the current 2-year budget cycle.  For the full rundown of what's open and what's not, click here.

Paging Doctor Kitzhaber

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bill Bradbury and John Kitzhaber debated in front of an audience at the University of Oregon last night. You can read more about it in the Daily Emerald. But while the two candidates outlined their stances on the education funding, job-creation, and liquefied natural gas, many in the audience may remember the debate for an unusual episode which saw Kitzhaber summoning his medical know-how from his days as an emergency room doctor. As the Register-Guard's Dave Steves describes it: 

The debate was suspended for about 20 minutes after a man in the audience experienced an apparent seizure. When an event organizer asked whether there was a doctor in the house, Kitzhaber dashed up the aisle to attend to the ailing man, checking on his vital signs and ensuring he had an open airway until paramedics arrived to transport him to the hospital.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Courtney Names New Legislative Director

Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) named a new legislative director today. Dana Richardson will start her new job April 27. Normally, this wouldn't be something we'd report on here at Capitol Currents. I note it this time only to point out that Richardson will need to record a new outgoing voice-mail message soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Measures 68 & 69 Campaign Begins

There hasn't been much public debate over Measures 68 and 69, the two education bonding measures on the May primary ballot. No one filed any arguments against the measures in the voters pamphlet, and a political committee formed in support of the measures has tallied a mere trickle of campaign contributions, mainly from educational advocacy groups and education unions. That group has also started a website in favor of the two measures. Given the paltry amount of money the committee has to spend, I wouldn't expect to see any television commercials for these measures anytime soon...or much advertising of any kind, for that matter.

Both of the measures amend Oregon's Constitution, and were placed on the ballot by the Legislature.  Measure 68 was sent to the ballot by wide margins during the 2009 regular session. Measure 69 enjoyed similar bi-partisan support when it was referred to the ballot during the February 2010 special session. You can read the explanatory statements about Measure 68 here, and Measure 69 here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Veto Deadline Today

UPDATE:  The governor has, in fact, vetoed all three of the bills.  Among other reasons, Kulongoski mentioned in his veto messages that he felt that lawmakers acted inappropriately to change "long-standing Oregon public policy" during the four-week February special session.

Governor Ted Kulongoski has until the end of the day today to issue vetoes, if he so chooses. Barring any unexpected special sessions, this is Kulongoski's final chance to give any bills a "yay" or "nay" as he nears the end of his second term as governor.  Kulongoski issued a "Notice of possible intent to veto" last week for three bills (see below) but that doesn't obligate him to actually veto them. We'll find out today what his final decision will be.  Here are the bills and a short description:

House Bill 3704 allows two or more beverage distributors or importers to form a cooperative for the purpose of collecting container refunds under Oregon’s bottle bill law. The bill also requires that the cooperative serve a majority of the businesses in the state that sell recyclable containers.

Senate Bill 1014 makes uniform certain practices among the boards and commissions that help oversee state agencies and departments, eliminates finished or inactive task forces and adjusts the membership criteria of the State Board of Education.

Senate Bill 1046 establishes a Task Force on Prescribing Psychologists to develop criteria for consideration by a future legislature that will allow certain licensed psychologists to prescribe medication. The bill also creates a Committee on Prescribing Psychologists, within the Oregon Medical Board, to develop a formulary of approved drugs that could then be prescribed by the licensed psychologist who also meets the professional requirements established by the legislature. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Kulongoski's Final State Of The State

Governor Ted Kulongoski delivered his eighth and final State of the State address today. If you weren't among the fortunate few to get an invitation, you can read the text of the speech here, or you can listen to it below. (The audio recording starts about three paragraphs into the written copy.)

By the way, thanks to a camerawoman from KOIN television whose name I didn't catch, as well as to Felicia Heaton of KEX radio. They both helped cobble together an audio workaround when the sound system at Portland State University failed to produce a usable audio feed.