Thursday, April 26, 2012

GOP's "Open Primary" Draws Few Takers

The Oregon Republican Party's offer to open a portion of its May primary to non-affiliated voters has attracted little interest. It's not terribly surprising, considering that none of the three races the GOP is allowing non-affiliated voters to weigh in on offered voters a choice, a fact that wasn't known when the Republicans made their offer in early February. Just one race--the Secretary of State's primary--drew any candidates whatsoever: Bend orthopedic surgeon Knute Buehler. No Republicans at all filed for the other "open" primary races--Treasurer and Attorney General. The GOP's offer did not apply to other races with contested primaries, such as the Presidential primary or several legislative primaries.

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown announced last month that non-affiliated voters who wanted a rare chance at casting a partisan primary ballot would have to send a pre-printed postcard to their county clerk's office. Informing the state's roughly 433,000 non-affiliated voters cost taxpayers about $200,000. Republicans, perhaps feeling sheepish about their link to such a plan, blasted Brown for using the postcard system. They suggested (though Brown disagreed) that there were cheaper ways to fulfill their request to partially open their primary.

So now that the deadline has passed for non-affiliated voters to request a Republican primary partial ballot, how many such voters took up the GOP on their request? Hardly any at all, it turns out. According to the Secretary of State's office, just 12,401 requests were made. That's fewer than 3% of those eligible. And of course, the number of those voters who actually cast that ballot is bound to be even less.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Last Time Two Republicans Ran For Attorney General

In my story on this year's race for the Democratic Attorney General nomination, I noted that it's been two whole election cycles since a Republican even filed for the office. I spoke with the last GOP candidate, Paul Connolly, who won his party's nomination in 2004. Connolly, who practices business law in Salem, told me he had been informally approached about entering the race this year, but decided against it. Running for statewide office was enjoyable, he said, but "it is a tall mountain to climb, and having climbed it once, I wasn't sure that I wanted to try climbing it again."

Connolly faced no opposition in the Republican primary in 2004. (Incumbent Democrat Hardy Myers handily defeated him in the general election.) It made me wonder: When was the last time that Republican voters had a choice for Attorney General in their primary? I dug through some elections records and here's what I found:

In 2000, Kevin Mannix was unopposed for the Republican nomination, and lost to Myers in the general election. This was the second time Mannix lost to Myers while running for Attorney General. In 1996, Mannix had sought the same office as a Democrat but lost to Myers in that party's primary.

In 1996, the Attorney General's office was up for grabs as incumbent Ted Kulongoski decided to run for Oregon Supreme Court. Mount Angel attorney Victor Hoffer ran unopposed for the nomination and lost to Hardy Myers in the general election. Hoffer later developed a working relationship with Myers, and last December was the subject of an interesting profile piece in the Salem Statesman Journal.

As it turns out, you have to go all the way back to 1992 to find a year when multiple Republicans sought their party's nomination. That year, Republican Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer had resigned from the job to become dean of the University of Oregon law school. Charles Crookham was appointed to be his replacement, but quickly decided he would not seek a full term. That left the party's nomination wide open.

Two young political neophytes entered the contest: Richard Rodeman and Sandijean Fuson. An Oregonian article previewing the race summed up their chances this way: "They're not objects of derision or dislike. They're simply unknowns." Rodeman defeated Fuson in the primary but lost by a landslide to the much better known Democrat, Ted Kulongoski, in the general election. Rodeman ran unsuccessfully for an Oregon Senate seat two years later, but I can't find much trace of him after that. The Oregon State Bar lists him as "resigned." Fuson still practices law in eastern Oregon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Coal Train Photo Makes The Rounds

As I covered the rally against coal export terminals outside the State Land Board meeting in Salem today, I couldn't help but notice a striking photo that was enlarged and prominently displayed: A freight train, laden with coal, rumbles down the tracks, seemingly feet from a dwelling on one side and a body of water on the other, with an ominous gray sky above. In addition to today's rally, the image has been used in other publicity materials. It's the leading image on The Sierra Club's website about coal in the Northwest. It's used in this FAQ that was distributed at today's protest. It appeared alongside an article headlined "Oregon Moves Closer To Dirty Coal Exports" on the ThinkProgress website. Today's rally was meant to put pressure on Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to oppose plans to "haul dirty coal by rail through Oregon."

I was curious about the photo, since it so neatly demonstrates the message of the anti-coal crowd. It turns out the photo wasn't actually taken in Oregon, and no one lives in the building that's smack up against the tracks. The photo is by photographer Paul K. Anderson and displays a hotel built next to the tracks in Bellingham, Washington. The Chrysalis Inn and Spa, where rooms start at $200 a night, doesn't advertise its proximity to the tracks in its publicity materials, but the website TripAdvisor shows a photo of the same hotel from a different angle, with a different kind of train passing by.
Photos of The Chrysalis Inn & Spa, Bellingham
Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Monday, April 2, 2012

Think-Tank Suspends Capitol Blog

The libertarian-leaning Cascade Policy Institute says it will no longer publish its state politics blog known as Oregon Capitol News (OCN). The think-tank started the website about two years ago with hopes that it would become self-funding. Cascade CEO John Charles told readers today that "we do not see a path to financial independence" for Oregon Capitol News.

Cascade maintained that OCN was editorially independent, but critics held that it was inextricably linked with the values and objectives of its owners. When the Oregonian raised the profile of OCN by selecting it as one of its "community blog partners," left-leaning websites dismissed it as a "house organ" and a "front group" for Cascade Policy Institute.