Thursday, September 30, 2010

Watching the Debate? Here's What The Camera Isn't Showing You

Watching the gubernatorial debate on television tonight? Here's one thing you won't see on screen. Check out the two podiums in the photo.  Guess which one belongs to former NBA-player Chris Dudley. No, this isn't a trick of the camera. The podium that's farther away from the camera really is noticeably taller than the one in front. KGW news director Rod Gramer just told the studio audience that Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber won't be speaking from the podiums. Rather, they'll address the TV audience while standing on an "X" taped to the carpet in front and just to the side of the podiums. That way, Dudley won't appear excessively tall and Kitzhaber won't seem comparitively short. The two will use their respective podium for jotting down notes when they're not speaking.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Style Difference Between Dudley and Kitzhaber

I'm not sure what to read into this, but there was a striking difference between John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley at the League of Oregon Cities forum this past Saturday in Eugene. Check out the two photos on the right. Notice anything? Kitzhaber, like the two minor party candidates on stage, wore a headset microphone. Dudley did not, choosing a lavalier mic attached to his tie. It was a "personal preference" on the part of Dudley, according to a campaign aide.

Looking at these photos, it's obvious why an image-conscious politician may prefer the lavalier. But it was Dudley whose speech was muffled and interspersed with sounds of the mic rubbing against his clothing. (A tech support guy came up partway through and adjusted the mic, which reduced some of the interference.) And while I took these photos from the front row, the headsets were all but invisible on the large-screen video feed that was projected to observers in the large hotel ballroom.

I suspect this won't be an issue during the KGW debate. The Portland TV station has aired plenty of political debates over the years and I imagine the technicians there will have their own ideas about how best to mic the candidates.

A Few Pre-Debate Thoughts

Tomorrow evening could be a watershed moment in this year's race for Oregon governor. It's a chance for veteran politician John Kitzhaber to show his chops. Chris Dudley, on the other hand, has the task of proving to viewers and listeners that he knows his stuff. Dudley's made much during this campaign of his own lack of governmental experience. But can he stand up to an hour of questioning and cross-examination from journalists and Kitzhaber on live television? Dudley--and Kitzhaber, to be fair--will no doubt fall back on tried and true talking points. Dudley will tell us "it's time for a new direction" and Kitzhaber will say "this is no time for on-the-job training."

In the end, will any of it make a difference? How many undecided voters will tune in and make a decision based on Kitzhaber or Dudley's performance tomorrow night? Few, probably. But a bang-up job by Dudley could energize his base. And a fired-up Kitzhaber could inject some excitement into the race among Democrats. Likewise, if Dudley commits a major blunder he gives ammunition to people who say he's not cut out to serve in the state's top office. And if Kitzhaber comes across as too wonkish or "insidery" he risks turning off voters who are looking for, well, a "new direction."

The debate will be the first time in Dudley's nascent political career that he'll face a candidate from a different party, but it's worth pointing out that Dudley participated in several debates and forums among Republican candidates during the primary. Here's a link to one of them. And Dudley did appear alongside Kitzhaber at a forum sponsored by the League of Oregon Cities this past Saturday. For that event, in Eugene, the candidates were given questions in advance. Afterward I asked Dudley if he'd be ready for this week's match-up which will require more extemporaneous answers. He laughed off the question, saying "I've been going around the state for 11 months without questions ahead of time."

The debate starts at 7 p.m. Thursday evening and will air live on KGW television. Public radio listeners around the state can tune in for a live simulcast on OPB and KLCC.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My First Post About Michael Marsh and Walt Brown

One of the hazards of being an actual broadcaster is that you occasionally get asked a question on live radio that you simply do not know the answer to. This happened to me yesterday during my guest appearance on KLCC's "Friday at 3" program. (You can find the audio to the show here--click on the 9/24/10 link for "Friday at 3".)  Near the end of the hour, the conversation turned to this year's race for Oregon Treasurer. The race has been decidedly low-key. Incumbent Democrat Ted Wheeler and Republican challenger Chris Telfer have received very little media attention, and have been running no broadcast ads.  Nevertheless, I was able to give a brief background of the two as well as the race in general so far.

But when I was asked about the other candidates running for Treasuer, I completely blanked. There's only a certain amount of election-related information I can carry in my head at any given time, and the names of the non-major party Treasurer's candidates on the ballot completely escaped me. And let's face it: It wasn't simply their names I forgot--it was whether there were even any such candidates, period. It turns out there are two, and so in the interest of fairness, I present them to you here:

Walt Brown is a former Democratic Oregon state senator. He's also run for President, Congress, and Oregon Attorney General. At least, that's what I learned from Wikipedia. What appears to be his campaign website is a bit sparse. You can also read his voters' pamphlet statement. Brown has received the nomination of the Progressive Party. Aside from his stint as a Democratic lawmaker, Brown has also been nominated in the past by the Socialist Party and the Pacific Green Party. In his most recent try for statewide office, Brown came in fourth among four candidates vying to be Oregon Attorney General in November 2008.

Michael Marsh is making his second consecutive bid for Oregon Treasurer as a member of the Constitution Party. Marsh came in a distant third during the 2008 election in which voters elected Ben Westlund. (Westlund's death earlier this year kicked off a new Treasurer's race just two years later.)  I couldn't find a campaign website for Marsh, and the state's Constitution Party doesn't even list him on their website's list of 2010 candidates. However, you can read his Voters' Pamphlet statement here, and for added fun you can read his statement from the 2008 Voters' Pamphlet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Greetings, From An Actual Broadcaster

Chris Dudley's campaign managers sure love a sentence I wrote back in April. First, they put it into the Voter's Pamphlet. Now, it's being used in both a television commercial and a radio commercial. Here's the sentence:

When John Kitzhaber left office in 2003, the economy was in shambles and the acrimony was thick in the Oregon legislature.

And here's the sentence in its original context.

I'll freely confess to a certain amount of chagrin at having my voice used as part of a candidate's advertising campaign. (And no, I'm not getting any royalties!) That said, I can't help but smirk every time I see that TV commercial that includes the snippet of my story with the words "ACTUAL BROADCAST" appearing underneath. If that was an ACTUAL BROADCAST, then I must be an ACTUAL BROADCASTER. Finally, the career affirmation I've been waiting for.

Hunt Wants Second Term As Speaker

Democratic Representative Dave Hunt says he'll try for a second term as Speaker of the House. When I asked him yesterday if he wants another go-round in the House's top position, he said "That would be my hope." Hunt told me he "still has a lot of energy" and that he feels like Democrats have a strong leadership team in place. If Hunt remains Speaker, he'd be the first Democrat to serve in that role for consecutive regular sessions since Vera Katz, who served as Speaker for the 1985, 1987, and 1989 sessions. Katz went on to serve more than a decade as mayor of Portland. (The last Republican to serve as Speaker in consecutive sessions was more recent: Karen Minnis in 2003 and 2005.)

For Hunt to remain as Speaker, at least four things would have to happen:
1. Hunt wins re-election to his seat in House District 40.
2. Democrats maintain control of the Oregon House.
3. Hunt seeks the Speaker's gavel again. (see above)
4. His fellow lawmakers--and specifically, the Democrats--elect him as Speaker.

Friday, September 17, 2010

They Still Don't Like Him

I just can't help myself from reading through more back issues of the Oregon Voters Pamphlet. The Oregon State Library has been scanning and posting the documents online. In my post yesterday, I looked at the pamphlet from exactly one century ago and outlined the case being made at that time for and against women's suffrage. Today, I looked up something from the more recent past.

Since the Library has been posting the version of the pamphlet that went to Marion County voters, it's not possible to see the original information John Kitzhaber posted about himself when he first ran for the Oregon House in 1978. That's because Kitzhaber is from Roseburg, far from Marion County. But we can see the page from Kitzhaber's first statewide general election campaign when he successfully ran for governor in 1994. Voters that year had to turn all the way to page 178--past arguments for and against 18 different ballot measures--to see Kitzhaber's page.

But what I found more interesting is just a few pages earlier. On page 174, the Oregon Republican Party devotes much of its one-page statement to outlining the reasons why they felt voters should reject Kitzhaber's candidacy. It starts:

Unlike Bill Clinton, Barbara Roberts and John Kitzhaber, Republicans understand that government is rarely the solution to the problems facing our society. Unlike these Democrats - who believe an endless parade of higher taxes and new government programs are good for what ails us - Republicans realize that all too often, big government is the problem.

Much of that would fit right in on a Republican campaign piece today, but what immediately stands out is the reference to Bill Clinton and Barbara Roberts. The equivalent names this year would be Barack Obama and Ted Kulongoski. But I've seen little if any mention of Obama or Kulongoski during this year's governor's race by Chris Dudley or the Oregon Republican Party. Of course, unlike in 1994, Kitzhaber now has a two-term track record as Oregon governor from which to draw on as source material.

Another interesting thing about the GOP's 1994 Voters Pamphlet statement? It contains nary a mention of Republican gubernatorial candidate Denny Smith. While Republicans did well in legislative elections that year, Smith was trounced by Kitzhaber in the governor's race.

Another Furlough Day

A quick reminder: Today (Friday, September 17) is another furlough day for Oregon state agencies. More than 26,000 state employees will take an unpaid day off, saving the state around $2 million, according to the Department of Administrative Services. This is the seventh of 10 scheduled furlough days during the current two-year budget cycle. For a list of what's closed, click here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Digital Glimpse Into Oregon's Past

The Oregon State Library has put a goodly portion of the state Voters Pamphlets from the past 106 years onto its website. It's a fascinating trove of historical information, though much of it is buried deep within daunting 200+ page PDF files. Here's one nugget I found from the 1910 pamphlet:  A proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution that would have granted "to taxpayers, regardless of sex, the right of suffrage." I say would have since, as someone noted with a hand-written scrawl on the archived copy of the pamphlet, the initiative--one of 32 measures on the 1910 ballot--was soundly rejected:  59,056 against, with just 35,270 in favor.

What's especially interesting are the arguments in favor and against giving women the right to vote. The "Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association," in making its case, wrote:

"Any sane man or woman can understand why an idle woman, whose mind is filled with life's frivolities, may not care to vote. But no one possessed of safe or sane reasoning power can comprehend the motive that impels any woman who says she does not want to vote to attempt preventing any woman from voting who wants to vote."

The "Oregon State Association Opposed To The Extension Of Suffrage To Women" calls the initiative "pure buncombe" and quotes New York Senator Elihu Root in making the case against it:

"Woman rules today by the sweet and noble influence of her character. Put woman into the arena of conflict and she abandons these great weapons which control the world, and she takes into her hands, feeble and nerveless for strife, weapons with which she is unfamiliar and which she is unable to wield. Woman in strife becomes hard, harsh, unlovable, repulsive; as far removed from that gentle creature to whom we all owe allegiance and to whom we confess submission as the heaven is removed from the earth."

Root, it should be noted, went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize two years later--the same year, coincidentally, that (male) Oregon voters finally approved a women's suffrage initiative. You can read more about the history of the women's suffrage movement in Oregon at this website.

He Shoots, He Scores!

With a 26-point "Budget Reform" plan, an 18-point education plan, and a 20-point job creation plan, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley's point total in this campaign (64) has now officially exceeded the number of points he scored in the final two seasons of his NBA career (48).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Treasurer Candidates Know How To Copy, Paste

One thing appears to be clear about both major party candidates for Oregon Treasurer: They each know how to use the "Control C, Control V" functions on their computer. In recent days, both of them have copied and pasted press releases produced by public employees from their "day jobs" onto their campaign websites.

As the incumbent, it's no surprise that Democrat Ted Wheeler issues press releases in his role as Treasurer. All statewide officeholders do this on a regular basis. Often these press releases are covered in the media and the office-holders/candidates (in this case, Wheeler) post coverage of that press release on their campaign websites. This time, Wheeler didn't wait around for any media coverage of his September 8 press release, written by Treasurer's Office communications director James Sinks. The release appeared today on his campaign website, word for word--minus any form of attribution. (UPDATE:  Wheeler, in the comments section, noted that his campaign will "look into this." The page has subsequently disappeared from his campaign website.)

Republican Chris Telfer, meanwhile, is a state senator from Bend. Following the late August revenue forecast, Telfer's Senate office issued a press release headlined: "Telfer Proposes Ways to Reduce Spending." The release appears on Telfer's Senate letterhead and lists Senate Republican Communications Director Michael Gay as the "contact" and presumable author. Click over to Telfer's campaign website for the Treasurer's race, and the same press release appears, word for word. It's nominally presented as a news article that was "broadcast" on a central Oregon television station, but a visit to that station's website reveals the station simply posted the original press release, word for word, on their website.

It's not unusual for a communications worker for an elected official to moonlight as a spokesperson for the same politician's re-election campaign. The work is done on the side, and is paid for by campaign money. That's not what's happened here, however. In each case, the items in question were produced on the public dime and were immediately appropriated as publicity material for political campaigns.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A $5000 "Oops"

Ever misplaced your glasses or your cell phone? Imagine the consternation of the Oregon political staffer who recently lost a $5000 contribution. On August 20, the campaign committee for state representative Brian Clem
donated five grand to Future PAC, the political action committee for Oregon House Democrats. Clem must have figured he didn't need the money--that single check represents more cash than Clem's opponent, Marvin Sannes, has raised in the entire campaign so far. Clem, like other House Democrats in districts considered "safe," is trying to make sure his caucus stays on top by donating money to be distributed to candidates in more vulnerable districts.

But more than a week went by and Future PAC still hadn't cashed that $5000 check. Did they not want the money? It turns out, the check was nowhere to be found. "Misplaced," according to Future PAC executive director Michele Rossolo. Clem campaign workers mused:  Should they cancel the check, which meant a $20 fee from their bank? Or should they cross their fingers and hope the missing check didn't fall into the wrong hands. On the one hand, says Clem aide Dan Balm, "No one is going to go into Fred Meyer and say 'Hi, my name is Future PAC'" in a fraudulent attempt to cash the check. On the other hand, five grand is nothing to sneeze at. So in the end, the decision was made to cancel the check and write a new one.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dudley Attacks Kitzhaber For Attacking Dudley

Chris Dudley, who ran the first negative ad of the 2010 Oregon governor's race, is now blasting John Kitzhaber for doing the same. In a new ad unveiled today, the Dudley campaign takes aim at Kitzhaber's ad from last week that highlighted Dudley's decision to live in Washington state to avoid paying some Oregon taxes during his first stint playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. (Still with me?)

The new Dudley ad takes Kitzhaber to task for running a negative ad and calls Kitzhaber "desperate and behind." (Several recent polls have put Dudley in the lead, but generally within the statistical margin of error.) The ad doesn't refute or put into context any of the claims made in the Kitzhaber ad. While Dudley's campaign insists the former pro-basketball player paid nearly a half-million dollars in Oregon income taxes during his Clark County exile, the campaign hasn't responded to inquiries about how many taxes Dudley was able to avoid paying to Oregon during that same time period.

As attack ads go, these are still fairly mild. But with nearly two months to go until Election Day, it could be a sign of the general tone of things to come. If nothing else, the rancor might help to drive up ratings for the only televised debate scheduled so far between the two candidates.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dudley Supports Out Of State Coffee Seller

The Kitzhaber campaign is hitting Chris Dudley on Dudley's decision to live in Washington state when he played for the Portland Trail Blazers. The argument goes that Dudley avoided paying some taxes to Oregon by living there. While Dudley did pay Oregon income tax, his campaign hasn't provided an estimate of how many other Oregon taxes Dudley was able to avoid by living across the river. Democrats continued the drumbeat today by organizing a "panel discussion" on Dudley's decision to live in Washington. So with so much attention focused on Dudley's allegiance to Oregon, why did he show up for a video chat with the Statesman-Journal today with a cup of joe purchased from a Washington-based coffee retailer?  Since he's running for the state's top office, perhaps next time he's in Salem Dudley should consider buying coffee from this place.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Want To Practice For The Upcoming Governor's Forum?

Gubernatorial candidates John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley can't seem to agree on a time and place for a debate. Each candidate insists his side has bent over backwards to accommodate the needs of the other. Who knows? Maybe they're each afraid of turning in a performance like last night's train wreck of an opening statement from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

At this point, the only thing resembling a debate between the Democrat Kitzhaber and the Republican Dudley is set for September 25 in Eugene. It's more of a joint appearance than a debate. The sponsoring group, the League of Oregon Cities, has supplied each candidate (including the Constitution Party's Greg Kord and the Libertarian Party's Wes Wagner) with a list of questions in advance. As you may expect from an organization that represents local governments, the topics are generally focused on local government issues, including wastewater management and utility franchise fees. But according to a draft of questions released by the League, the candidates will also be grilled about how they'd balance the state budget in the face of a looming deficit, and how they'd encourage private sector job creation. Below, you can read the draft questions and decide how you would answer.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bill Bradbury Gets A Gig

Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury may have lost to former governor John Kitzhaber in the May Democratic gubernatorial primary, but it looks as though Bradbury will be the first of the two to land gainful employment. Current governor Ted Kulongoski appointed Bradbury to a seat on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which--according to its website--"develops and maintains a regional power plan and a fish and wildlife program to balance the Northwest's environment and energy needs." 

Bradbury's appointment is pending confirmation by the Oregon Senate and would be effective October 1st. He'll join former Democratic state lawmaker Joan Dukes as Oregon's representatives on the four state agency. Ironically, with a salary of $107,000 and change, Bradbury will be making more than he would have had he been elected governor.