"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Strong benchmark

Starting point in figuring the chances for an independent candidate for major office is, well, behind the major-party candidates, if only because that’s what history tells us. If Oregon has previously elected an independent to governor, as it has, then it is also true it has not in 76 years. It never has to the U.S. Senate. (Wayne Morse doesn’t count; his switch from R to I came after one election, and he switched again to D before the next one.)

But such considerations are starting points only, and newly-minted Independent Ben Westlund of Tumalo is sprinting in his new governor’s race.

A news release from his campaign touts that he “attracted significant support in his first week as financial pledges and contributions passed the $100,000 mark Wednesday afternoon. Over 100 volunteers have also registered online to help gather over 18,000 valid signatures he needs by August 2006 to qualify for the ballot. The financial support came from over seventy contributors including $4,000 raised through Westlund’s website ( www.benwestlund.com). The petition sheets to place him on the November ballot are available on his website.”

That’s not a bad start; a couple of strong fundraising months at somewhere near that level could put him in a competitive position financially. And the 100 volunteers are not a bad beginning either.

Could there be more than first met the eye? Let’s see what sort of consistency the Westlund campaign develops this spring.

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