"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.

Starrett stays

Maybe, as Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and his staff considered the complaint filed last Friday against Mary Starrett, the name Douglas Patterson came up as well. If it did, it easily could have prompted the line of though that led to a decision keeping Starrett on the general election ballot for governor.

On Friday attorney Kelly Clerk, representing three northwest Oregon clients, filed a complaint with the secretary of state’s office. He said that the Constitution Party of Oregon, which nominated Starrett for governor, had not followed proper procedures in offering notice of its upcoming nominating convention. Whether it did or not remains in dispute. Assuming the secretary of state’ s office also perceived a violation, Clark wrote, it should strike Starrett from the ballot, as having been improperly nominated.

Mary StarrettStarrett has some strategic political significance here. Her odds of actually coming close to winning are not good – most political observers probably would agree (she would not) that she will get more than 1% but less than 10% of the vote, well less than Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski or Republican nominee Ron Saxton. But her presence on the ballot as a skilled candidate and as a more-conservative alternative to Saxton creates problems for the Republicans, and if the race otherwise is close, she could cost him the win. May not turn out that way, but it’s a plausible scenario.

Bradbury’s decision was that whether or not procedures were violated, candidates should not be thrown off the ballot as a result. If the party really screwed up, some form of sanction might be considered – a fine, for instance – but the candidates shouldn’t be barred.

All of which has led to Starrett and the Constitution Party accusing Saxton or his backers of being behind the ballot challenge (no hard evidence of that has developed), and Republicans accusing Democrat Bradbury of giving Starrett a break.

In the process, everyone forgot about Douglas Patterson. And Dean Wolf.

He was another candidate nominated by the Constitution Party convention, for the 5th district congressional seat; Wolf is his counterpart in the 1st district. The question, unasked publicly: If Starrett should be thrown from the ballot, should not too Patterson and Wolf? And two state Senate candidats, Robert Simmering in District 16 and John Pivarnik in District 17?

Expand on that a bit. Why should the make-a-mistake-and-bar-the-candidates principle apply only to minor parties? Suppose the Democratic Party found a legal glitch in the way the Republicans processed their party’s business, should that be grounds for throwing all the Republican candidates off the ballot? (Or, of course, switch the parties if you like.)

It’s not hard to see how quickly mischief can develop from this approach. The state law doesn’t specify what sort of action should be imposed if a party failed to jump through its bureaucratic hoops, but something aimed more directly at a party’s structure would seem more appropriate.

Meantime, Starrett and her allies have something to be really, personally, steamed about.

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One Comment

  1. torridjoe said:

    Good points you raise, Randy. Here’s my take, after having done some legwork on it, and speaking both with CP officials and Starrett herself.

    Clark raised the exact same complaint regarding Clackamas County candidates in 2004. He was turned down by the county elections board, and appealed both to the state, and the county courts. The court overruled the county elections board, and had the candidate removed. However, the state declared authority over STATEWIDE candidacies, and rejected his complaint.

    The essence of the dispute is that the CP nominated its candidates in a closed door meeting according to its bylaws, with delegates doing the nominating. Clark alleges that because no formal public notice was published in the papers for this meeting, that’s a violation.

    In July of 05, the SoS’s office sent Clark a letter noting that the CP’s bylaws do not provide for a nominating convention. They do however hold a DELEGATE election that is open to all members. Those delegates then form the Steering Committee that ultimately chooses the nominees for the party.

    In their (the SoS’s) judgement, the state has no authority to tell a party how to run its business. Thus there is no requirement to have a nominating convention, and further thus the rules on how the convention must proceed do not apply to them.

    In addition (although the proof of this has yet to be established), the party claims it DID publish public notices for the delegate nomination event, in the belief that it would cover all bases in case the state decided that the delegates’ event was the equivalent of a nominating convention.

    Clark is not only wrong, he’s wrong AGAIN–and for the exact same reasons.

    All of which is a very long way of answering some of your questions–the complaints lodged must be directed to the body with authority over candidacies in the district in which the candidate(s) are running. Because Starrett is a statewide candidate, the complaint is ajudicated by the SoS. It may also have ‘appellate’ authority at the county level, but that’s less clear IMO. But to get a non-statewide candidate booted, one would probably have to go to the district where they are running, and file a complaint there.

    Loaded Orygun’s pieces on this story can be found here and (with more detail on the above) here.

    August 25, 2006

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