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Faceoff in Portland

No conclusive winners in the Monday forum for Republican gubernatorial candidates, the most widely-viewed event (on Portland’s KGW TV) for these three during the primary. Comparing to their appearance at Dorchester in early March, Jason Atkinson was maybe a shade less polished and Ron Saxton maybe a little more forceful and distinct as a personality, but neither they nor their competitor, Kevin Mannix, really staked out much new ground.

They took great care not to lob direct shots at each other, but the pressure on all three must be wearing: The subtle, indirect hits were all over the place. More common than that, however, were the shots at Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski, who one of the three most likely will face in the fall.

Some shots hit home, as in the heavy turnover in some parts of the Kulongoski Administration. In other places, they were less sucessful; all three, for example, called for a declaration of state emergency for salmon-fishing areas of the coast impacted by a new salmon fishing ban, while failing to note that Kulongoski had earlier the day issue just that declaration.

In other places, you have to wonder about the implications. Asked about Kulongoski’s stance on Iraq, for example, Saxton praised him for attending the funerals of Oregon National Guard troops killed in Iraq, then seemed to blast him for changing his view on the war from supportive at first to critical now. An Oregon governor, he suggested, must support not only the troops but also the policy – or was he suggesting that Oregonians generally should stifle their views on the war? His answer was a muddle, and something a skillful reporter might return to (much to Saxton’s possible discomfort in a state which seems now to be generally anti-war).

No one ran the tables or glitched himself to death. But the odds and ends of this debate could provide some useful news stories between here and ballot mailing time.

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