A fun thread about Oregon gubernatorial prospects for 2010 at Blue Oregon; a longish list of prospects followed by some (sometimes cutting) reviews.

Don’t miss the comments by Jack Roberts, a Republican who gives his nickel’s worth along with the Democratic regulars.

Bottom line after review: The odds seem to favor a wide-open situation, though mainly if you think that the ultimately candidate sheet won’t include the names of DeFazio, Kitzhaber or Walden (which is probably where the weight of guessing would go).

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Our current president is a former U.S. senator, but historically that’s an anomaly: In recent decades, and even no so recent, a lot of them have come from the ranks of governors. (Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Carter . . .)

So Ken Rudin of National Public Radio decided, just as an exercise, to rank the nation’s current Republican governors – Republicans since Democrats probably have their next party nomination taken care of – in terms of probability of ever (either in 2012 or later) becoming president. His top-ranked was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (our guess, until the last moment, for GOP VP last time), and second is Utah Governor (though not for long) Jon Huntsman. Alaska’s Sarah Palin was 7th.

In the Northwest? Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter came in 15th out of 22. Though considering that Rudin still has South Carolina’s Mark Sanford at number 9, Otter certainly should rise at least one spot.

This list was shortly followed with another one (developed by other bloggers) for Democratic governors, which was led by Brian Schweitzer of Montana. Washington’s Chris Gregoire was No. 9. Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski did less well, ranking at 26 (out of 28 total).

Absolutely nothing scientific about any of it.

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Richard Devlin

It was supposed to be dead. Although a lot of the individual members of the Oregon Legislature were on board, a measure enabling easier and more widespread activities by minor political parties, including explicitly approved cross-nomination, seemed dead in the water. (The Oregon Education Association was apparently one of the key reasons for that.)

Just now, however, Senate Bill 326 passed the Senate – concurring with House amendments – and from a minor-party point of view, it’s a big deal. A quick rundown from the Oregon Independent Party (via a release):

SB 326 consists of two parts:

1) It repeals HB 2614 (2005), a law that made it much more difficult for non-affiliated candidates to obtain sufficient signatures to be nominated for public office.

2) It now includes the provisions of what used to be HB 2414 (prior to its recent gutting), which allows a candidate who is nominated by more than one party to list up to 3 such party names on the ballot next to her name. More information on HB 2414 is available at http://indparty.com/node/174.

Despite strong bi-partisan support, the passage of the provisions contained in this bill have been in doubt for much of the latter part of the legislative session. For details see: http://wweek.com/editorial/3531/12669/

SB 326 (including the terms of HB 2414) passed last week in the Oregon House on a vote of 42-17. The provisions of this bill are among the top legislative priorities of the Independent Party of Oregon.

Senator Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, said the finished bill had flaws, but he would push for correction in those in next year’s session (since this year’s is fast approaching completion). The few senators who voted against (all Democrats) said they did so out of concern for the flaws, but all said they’d be at work on those. Meantime, the small partiers should have an existing law on books – not a bad place from which to defend unflawed provisions.

Many are the paths to passage.

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How much of all that public school money is actually making it to the classroom?

That’s a question that ought to be asked a lot more. There’s some useful information toward answering it in a new post by Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation:

“Records from the State Department of Education indicate while Idaho’s student population has grown about 16 percent in the last 15 years, the ranks of school employees have grown disproportionately. Teaching staff grew by 26 percent, but school bureaucracies fared better: District administrations grew by 33 percent, while school building administration grew by 27 percent. But the big growth market is in school classified staff – computer techs, secretarial staff, bus drivers, custodians and similar support professions – which has grown 55 percent since 1994.”

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Parading in Carlton/Stapilus

As residents of a bona fide small town (Carlton, Oregon, population still well shy of 2,000), we’ve never quite figured out those qualities that are supposed to distinguish the authentics of the small town from the phonies of the larger. People are people. Most of the people here, as in most small towns, have in any event close ties (jobs, families, other connections) to larger communities anyway.

But you don’t usually see in larger communities the kind of small town events – or at least, the all-community feel of them – that sometimes you get in places like this. Today was the peak of the annual Carlton Fun Days, the main events of which were a sort of festival in the larger city park, and before that a parade. Which, between those who marched (and anyone who wanted to, could) and those who watched on the sidewalks, seemed to bring in most of the town’s inhabitants. A real civic get together.

In between was this: A crowd shot of the people (or at least a large fraction) of Carlton, all in one group, outdoors downtown. Couldn’t do that in Seattle.

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Not all the decisions in the effort to do something useful about health care are necessarily easy. But some of them – a considerable number – simply seem to be no-brainers, proposals whose downside is awfully hard to find.

Consider Oregon House Bill 2376, passed today by the House, which “requires manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and other medical products to report to the Department of Justice gifts, fees, payments subsidies or other economic benefits the manufacturer provides to purchasers, providers or dispensers of the manufacturer’s drugs in the state. The bill also requires the Department of Justice to establish a readily searchable database and website for the public to search the database.”

In other words, it says that if your hospital or physician is being given drug samples or other goodies by pharmaceutical companies, you should be able to know that . . . so you can determine if, for example, there’s some relationship between a company’s sales efforts and the drugs you’re prescribed.

The House Democrats said in a release that “citizens today are acutely aware of the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to market prescription drugs directly to the consumer. However, most people are not aware that pharmaceutical companies spend billions more dollars contracting with, and marketing to, doctors who, in addition to prescribing drugs, also advocate for their use at medical conferences and in medical journals.”

There are some legitimate questions of details (at what monetary amount do you have to report?) but the point seems painfully obvious.

There was House floor debate against. (It passed 34-25, not a huge margin.) As the Oregonian reported:

“We’re going to drive jobs out of the state of Oregon,” said Rep. Ron Maurer, R-Grants Pass.

Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, said the bill would have a “chilling effect on our ability to attract research dollars to Oregon.”

The bill, of course, has nothing to do with research. And jobs lost are those of drug pushers who are making ever more expensive and distorted our health care, then the problem doesn’t seem significant.

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Idaho’s Greg Smith Associates polling is also actively pulling up numbers for leading political figures and – considering how static and one-sided things often are in Idaho – some of them ought to be of broader interest.

The strongest numbers among the major figures belong to 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson – his favorable/unfavorable is a very strong 56/8, or +48; as a benchmark, Simpson (now in his sixth term) typically wins general elections with two-thirds of the vote or a little higher. Senator Mike Crapo (59/17, or +42) is close to that, and freshman Senator Jim Risch (49/19, or +30) isn’t far off.

That’s all about what you expect; what’s been less clear is what sort of numbers the new Democrat in the delegation, 1st District Representative Walt Minnick, would draw. Turns out that his numbers (47/20, or +27) are closely comparable to those of Risch, the other new member in the delegation. Those are sound, strong numbers for a Democrat; they suggest Minnick is well-positioned at least for now. There is one distinction: Minnick has a higher number of people saying they have “no opinion,” meaning that he (and his opposition) has more room to sketch in a narrative about him between here in November 2010.

The other numbers of interest concern Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, whose favorable/unfavorable now sits at 47/35 (+12), not terribly strong, and a clear decline from previous polling. Smith’s comment on that: “On one hand, Otter certainly took some popularity hits due to the Legislative session. His insistence on desiring to raise gas/transportation-related taxes for road improvements, along with a negatively perceived Legislative session these tax stands contributed to, certainly caused some perceptual damage to Otter. But, recognize that these perceptions were measured only about a month after the Legislature ended – in other words, while memories are still fresh and haven’t had the time to ‘mellow’. Potential Otter opponents who smell electoral blood would be wise to consider this, and ask themselves who specifically is ‘out there’ sufficiently perceived positively, ably, and credibly enough to be elected Governor in 2010.”

Still, sometimes these early results help make their own realities, as prospective campaigns come together, or fail to.

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Daily Kos/Research 2000 has out a fairly thorough set of polling on the 2010 Oregon governor’s race, which yet remains far from filling in clear contours. Just two substantial contenders – Democratic former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and Republican businessman Allen Alley – are declared at this point, but there’s little sense that the field on either side is near closed. Alley, for some reason, doesn’t even figure in the polling, maybe because his chances of winning the Republican nomination are not great.

That still leaves the pollsters in the position of polling mostly possibilities rather than actual candidates, which could have some results skewed. Still, there plenty here of interest.

The prospects polled were, on the Democratic side, Bradbury, former Governor John Kitzhaber, Representative Peter DeFazio, and 2008 Senate candidate Steve Novick; and on the Republican side, former Senator Gordon Smith (who may have taken himself out of contention), Representative Greg Walden (who seems likely to have done likewise) and state Senator Jason Atkinson, the one person polled who ran for governor in 2006. (Most frequent guesses seem to run against a DeFazio candidacy too, though that’s more speculative.) President Barack Obama also was polled for favorability.

A few observations.

bullet Obama seems to be far more popular (favorable/unfavorable 62-31, or +31) than any of the Oregonians, and practically everyone had an opinion (just 7% didn’t). The Oregon name who really stuck out in terms of everyone having an opinion was Smith, whose “no opinion” was just 13%; but that’s of no help, since his favorable/unfavorable gap is -9, into unpopular territory, no a good place from which to start a campaign. The two candidates with best standing were Kitzhaber at +20 and DeFazio at +25; the difference probably is more or less erased by Kitzhaber’s larger name familiarity around the state (28% had no opinion of him). Bradbury and Novick were in net positive territory, but the more than half of Oregonians polled had no opinion of them, so they would be virtually building from scratch in campaigning terms. Atkinson’s numbers (+10) were in the Bradbury/Novick range, and Walden’s a little better than that (+11) but a favorable still only at 36%.

bullet In head to heads, Kitzhaber and DeFazio were polling at winning not massively but solidly over all three Republicans. Bradbury was seen as winning but within the margin of error in matchups against Smith or Walden but substantially ahead of Atkinson. Novick was polled as losing to all three Republicans.

Of course, all of this is pre-campaign, and these numbers can and do change once campaigns commence. The high no-opinion factor also matters. Even two-term Governor Kitzhaber (who left office back at the end of 2002) will still have some re-introduction to do, to newcomers and some others. But as this begins, the strongest opening hands likely would be those of Kitzhaber and DeFazio; the next question is whether either of them run.

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