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Pressure

If you have any doubt that incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski is a substantial favorite to win re-election as governor this year, consider one of the uglier but more convincing pieces of evidence to that effect: His refusal so far to engage other candidates in debate, as he did in 2002.

So far he already has missed prospective joint appearances with his declared primary opponents, and appears likely to miss two more – including a Portland City Club event – in the middle of this month.

He has used the usual incumbent excuse of a tight schedule as his rationale for avoidance. he, and his staff, can’t imagine anyone actually believes that, do they? If they do, then they’re foolish enough to blow the election; if not (which is more probable), they’re being dishonest. Either way, they seem to have made the calculation that they’re far enough ahead that bailing won’t hurt too much.

That rationale will stand until they make the calculus that avoidance would be more potentially damaging that participation. (And we’re unsure what they’re so worried about; Kulongoski may not be Mr. Charisma but he’s surely intelligent and articulate enough to hold his own.) That’s where outside pressure – not so much from other candidates, whose pressure in this instance doesn’t mean much, but from others – comes in.

The Oregonian, which would have to be a chief player in this, is wading in, first with a front-page news story on Thursday then with an editorial today. That should be the pile-on signal for the rest of the news media, and for interest groups and Oregonians at large.

If it’s going to happen, pile-on time has arrived.

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