REPORT In just about a month, the Oregon Republican Party will consider what to do next. It will have the toughest job to do of any of the major parties in the Northwest.
Consider: The Democrats in Washington and Oregon and the Republicans in Idaho remain in strong majorities and may feel a little smug and happy; and the Republicans in Washington and Democrats in Idaho were able to point to gains (albeit, against the larger backdrop, not major ones). But the Oregon Republicans?
Start with the cognitive dissonance in this statement from Vance Day, the state Republican chair who is looking ahead to a prospective challenge for re-election: “You get a good bit of success going and you’re bound to get people who want to challenge you for the position.” Success? (Republican Coyote at NW Republican headlines a post: "Things that make you go, 'Huh?'") Oregon Republicans lost their one statewide office (U.S. Senate) and a string of state House seats which cost them leverage on fiscal and other matters, and gained . . . one state Senate seat, bringing them to 18-12 in that chamber. Party registration, close until not long ago, now runs to a massive 220,000+ advantage to Democrats - this with independents leaning Democratic as well. 2008 was unequivocally a bad year for Oregon Republicans.
Far from a challenge because someone wants in on the goodies, any challenger to Day would have to have at least some selflessness. This is not an easy job, to rebuild a party now flat on its back.
There is, however, a challenger: A former state senator, Bob Tiernan, one of those legislative Republicans ousted in recent years from suburban districts as such those ringing Portland (Tiernan is from Lake Oswego). He is a businessman, has been president of the Grocery Outlet chain, and on surface at least he presents a reasonable option.
Party chairs tend to get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when they go badly: Most of what happens in campaigns is outside their control or even influence. What they do can matter, though. Chairs can be central in fundraising and developing the network of party organization, and someone with the skills to do those things can be valuable. As can someone able to bridge gaps between various wings of a party. (Republican Phil Batt in Idaho stands as one of the best examples of a party chair who made those kind of differences.)
And the Oregon Republican Party does have problems in all these areas (financial, organizational) and in candidate recruitment as well. Some of that may ease off once the Obama era kicks in. But whoever they choose - and we're drawing no conclusions about that at this point - Oregon Republicans will get to make their first moves toward recovery on January 10. Even at best, it won't solve all their problems. Likely not most. But maybe, some of them.