Oregon has some back history of television newscasters running for public office, successfully. The most emblematic Oregon politician of recent decades, Tom McCall, a reporter and analyst at KATU in Portland for years, was one of them, until he ran successfully for secretary of state. He did, though, have some political experience, including staff work in the Oregon governor's office and a failed run for Congress in 1954, as well as sundry Republican Party work, under his belt by that point.
Will lightning strike again? Oregon Republicans may be banking on it. On the 11 p.m. news program at KEZI in Eugene, anchor Rick Dancer announced he's leaving his job and will run for secretary of state, as a Republican. He becomes the first Republican to specifically announce for any of the three constitutional offices (attorney general and treasurer are the others) up for election this year. Four Democrats are running for sec-state.
Dancer is well-known in the Eugene area; he has been a reporter or anchor at KEZI (which broadcasts north to Corvallis, south to Roseburg and west to the coast) since 1989. He's a familiar figure, but not especially identified with specific issues. (His station does note on a descriptive page that he's been "especially interested in children’s issues.") In McCall's day, in the late fifties to mid-sixties, local television was active in a wide range of issues, and long-form and even investigative reports - McCall did a number of those over the years - were an ordinary part of newscasting. Local television news, as anyone who watches it knows, is a lot different now. Dancer - for reasons certainly not his doing - has by necessity to enter the race as more of a cipher.
Politically, that could be good or bad. Dancer starts as a blank slate, so much can depend on how he defines himself.
But unlike McCall, who drew on political alliances and networks from early on, Dancer is starting from scratch. And Dancer evidently understands that; his announcement on his personal web site concludes, "Agreement on Dancer’s departure from KEZI-TV was not reached until last week. Because of his position as a TV journalist, Dancer has not been able to assemble his campaign team or make arrangements for organizing his campaign prior to Sunday night. Further details will be announced as they become available." The four Democrats in the race have been organizing, campaigning and fundraising for months. That difference isn't minor. (more…)