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Endorsement Sunday: OR

The premier endorsement – the Oregonian’s – in the premier race in the state – the governor – is out.

PORTLAND OREGONIAN/Governor Not a big surprise here, recent news coverage notwithstanding. The Oregonian is a Portland establishment organization, and Republican Ron Saxton is a Portland establishment person. The paper hasn’t gotten along well with Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski for a long time. (It endorsed him four years ago, when he was running against an even more non-Portland type, Kevin Mannix.) The paper’s point was almost dispassionately stated. It characterized Kulongoski’s term as partly successful and partly not. And it noted concerns about Saxton, and cited a series of problems that Oregon has – most of which any governor has only a limited amount to do with – before concluding, “It is a leap of faith to endorse a former school board chairman over a sitting governor. If all was well, we would recommend that voters re-elect Kulongoski. But the times demand a fresh look at Oregon’s problems and Saxton brings an open, independent mind to the task. We recommend that voters select him as their next governor.”

PORTLAND OREGONIAN/State House 49 Maybe by way of balance, the paper also urged – in more determined terms – voters in House District 49 to defeat Representative Karen Minnis, who has been House speaker. In the course of the editorial, most of the flaws of the whole legislature in the last couple of years were assigned to Minnis. And although their issues with her have to do basically with her role in leadership, the editorial advises defeat for the House seat. At the same time, the editorial specifically said it was not calling for a change in party control of the House. Whatever you think of Minnis, or her opponent Rob Brading (who seems to be running strongly competitively), it’s an oddly-structured editorial.

SALEM STATESMAN-JOURNAL/Governor It’s an endorsement for Kulongoski, but not by a lot. After factoring in the many perspectives and images of Ron Saxton and being uncertain which Saxton would wind up as governor, the editorial board concluded for the incumbent: “There. You have our Editorial Board endorsement. Make it more than a tepid one. Turn up the heat. Be bold. Lead.” You didn’t get a feeling of wild optimism that he would.

MEDFORD MAIL-TRIBUNE/Governor In a little more of a surprise, the M-T went for Saxton. It sums up at the beginning: “It’s clear to anyone paying attention that Oregon state government needs to make systemic changes or face an endless string of funding crises. It’s not clear that Gov. Ted Kulongoski is ready to do that. And that’s the main reason we’re supporting Ron Saxton, who does seem prepared to challenge the status quo and ask questions that need to be asked. We admit that our support of Saxton involves a bit of a leap of faith. We hope that when we land, we’ll discover that Saxton is the man we knew before the political winds pushed him to the right. We think Saxton is a Mark Hatfield-Tom McCall kind of Republican, a man who will put partisan politics aside to work for what’s best for the state.” The point about change is logical enough, but Hatfield-McCall? That’s a stretch for a description of Saxton, in either his primary or general campaign incarnations.

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