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Placing Saxton on the spectrum

Ron Saxton, Republican candidate for governor, is a man pulled in a couple of dstinct directions. His main appeal is as the guy who’s centrist enough to win over voters in the general election. But to get to the general election, he has to win a primary election where most of the voters are conservative.

Ron SaxtonThat makes for a question ticklish in the extreme: How “moderate” – or “conservative” – is Ron Saxton?

All this should be prefaced with our usual disclaimer: Such labels as “conservative,” “moderate” and “liberal” have long since passed any point of real meaning, especially when the most “conservative” politicians in our nation’s capital qualify as the most radical major politicians of the last couple of generations. The terms have more to do with branding and with group self-identification, and there they have real political impact and significance.

In running against two candidates commonly defined as “more conservative” – Kevin Mannix and Jason Atkinson – Saxton has been shorthanded as the moderate in the race. He hasn’t really seemed to push against that definition, maybe because of the general election advantages it could confer.

But he has gotten support from a number of Oregonians who define themselves as very conservative indeed, and that may – with less than four months remaining till primary election deadline – start to send some ripples, and shivers, around the state.

Veteran tax activist Don McIntire is one. But perhaps more immediately notable is the endorsement from Rob Kremer, a conservative Portland broadcast commentator (especially on education). He had no criticism for Mannix or Atkinson, but, in addition to making the general election electibility case for Saxton, he said this:

Before going into my reasons for supporting Ron, I want to address an important issue: lots of conservative bloggers have been trying to paint Ron Saxton as a liberal, or as an inauthentic Republican – a RINO.

Let me put it simply: They are wrong.

Ron is not only the most fiscally conservative candidate running for governor, I believe he has the best grasp of precisely what is wrong about they way Oregon government operates right now and how to correct it.

On social issues, Ron is conservative where it matters: he would sign a ban on partial birth abortion, and he supports parental notification. He may not be as much as an abortion purist as the other candidates, but I have news for you: it doesn’t matter who the governor is – you’re not going to get more than this.

Writing in the left-leaning BlueOregon blog, Kari Chisholm concluded, “Ron Saxton. Conservative. ‘Nuff said.”

How does Saxton define himself? Summing up on his web site’s home page, there is this: “I am the only candidate in this race who is not a career politician. I am a lifelong, common-sense Republican who has valuable private sector experience.
I have a record of success as a fiscal conservative. And I am not remotely interested in maintaining the status quo.”

Note closely that last sentence – it may be be the best key to peeling the onion. And add up these issue-points scattered through his page on issues stands:

  • To promote efficiency, the private sector will be considered to deliver services at all levels of government.
  • Oregon citizens-and Oregon businesses-already pay enough taxes. I support eliminating the tax on capital gains to encourage investment in Oregon.
    I support tort reform.
  • I support Measure 37 and the rights of private property owners.
  • I am committed to expanding education choice and support charter schools, and home schooling.
  • I support pro-family programs aimed at stopping domestic violence, and private sector treatment programs for addicts and victims. Oregonians will know that I am a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and a supporter of the death penalty.
  • In a Saxton administration, Oregon will stop issuing drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants and we will enforce the law.
  • Those issue points are a selective, abridged list, not everything he has to say (you can read the whole statement on line). But the overall tenor is certainly nowhere near mistakable for that of a Portland Democrat, or even a coastal or Salem Democrat. His policy statements have the ring of a conservative very much like Mannix and not far removed from Atkinson. By the evidence of Saxton’s written statements, the analysis by Kremer (and Chisholm) holds up solidly.

    Now imagine you are Mannix or Atkinson. What do you want to do next – blast away at Saxton because he’s too much like you? Cry out that he’s been misrepresented? And suppose you are Saxton – how much do you want to play up your philosophical similarities with the other two, and how far not? For that matter, what really are the differences?

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