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Filling the gap


Bruce Hanna

There are a number of candidates, and some variety of candidates, in the running for governor of Oregon next year. But there’s a vacancy: While Democrats have a couple of major names (John Kitzhaber, Bill Bradbury) who logically appeal to the mainstream of that party, Republicans have had in the running only candidates (Alley Alley, for example) who appeal to only a slice of their party. Not, in other words, to the conservative main core of the party, someone most Republicans would happily back. It’s been a yawning gap ever since state Senator Jason Atkinson, who would have filled that role pretty well, opted out of the race.

Which is why, well, a couple of things.

One is that this is an opening too obvious not to be filled, meaning that it almost certainly will be. Oregon conservatives are just highly unlikely to fail to produce someone to speak for their views. They’re not shy.

Yesterday the site Northwest Republican ran a press release from Bill Sizemore, the prominent initiative-backer and 1998 Republican gubernatorial nominee, announcing “that he was running for governor to break the stranglehold the public employee unions have on the state of Oregon, saying he is the only one willing to challenge that behemoth head on. Sizemore said the public employee unions, especially the OEA, run the entire state from top to bottom. He said they own every state office in Oregon and almost every legislator in the capitol is scared to death of them. He said the public unions are the ones who set the state budget and are the ones pushing the Democrats to vote for huge tax increases.”

Sizemore, the crusader against taxes and unions, would have some appeal in the Republican base. But he’s heavily damaged; his legal problems have approached the scale of legend, and there’s even question whether he could raise or spend money on a campaign. “I may have to run my campaign from inside a jail cell,” Sizemore said – which may actually energize his strong supporters, but condemn him to a loss beyond them.

The Sizemore prospect got some Oregonian paper attention today, but another, albeit less definitive, piece in Northwest Republican might merit more attention, because it speaks of a Republican gubernatorial prospect who could appeal to the base and run more strongly as a party nominee.

We’ve been hearing, too, some chatter for the last few weeks about House Minority Leader Bruce Hanna of Roseburg as a prospect for governor – not so much with the idea that he wants to do it, but that he could work: A conservative leader who would speak for the base, clearly a partisan (not meant in a perjorative way), while sounding capable to the electorate at large. He likely would not strike most voters as a bomb-thrower.

Veteran blogger I Am Coyote remarked of him, “after talking with several political insiders I have learned that the discussions are beginning to reach a boiling point. I for one think that Bruce Hanna would make a very fine gubernatorial candidate and from what I have seen a pretty darned good governor.”

The big downside for Hanna is that he’d have to give up his (safe) House seat to run. And there’s no external evidence that he’s inclined to. But the pressure may grow: He could wind up being the option for conservatives next year if they don’t want to be represented in the governor’s race by Bill Sizemore.

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