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Posts published in March 2010

OR: We have a roster

Candidate filing in Oregon is done for this cycle, barring unusual circumstances, and not counting appearances from the minor parties. Now we can take a quick first run at what's emerging among some of the 306 candidates . . .

U.S. SENATE Ten candidates for the U.S. Senate this time, including one overwhelming favorite - incumbent Democrat Ron Wyden - and a cast of lesser-knowns. Two - Loren Hooker and perennial Pavel Goberman - are primary contestants. Among the seven Republicans, most of whom list no previous governmental experience, the most likely nominee will be former law school dean Jim Huffman. Although, in what's apt to be a low-key primary, you'd be hesitant to post a flat bet on any result.

U.S. HOUSE 1 All five House seats wind up contested, and more candidates filed in the 1st than any other. Democratic incumbent David Wu seems, again, strongly positioned (the Oregonian actually put a positive-spin headline about him on the front page this week) - he's been underestimated in most of the last few cycles. David Robinson of Beaverton will opposed him in the primary. Four Republicans filed here - Stephan Andrew Brodhead, Rob Cornilles, John Kuzmanich and Douglas Keller; Cornilles seems to have developed the best organization and campaign effort so far, but all are newcomers to campaigning and the primary outcome is far from certain.

U.S. HOUSE 2 Republican incumbent Greg Walden seems unassailable in this strongly Republican district, but the Democrats did come up with a candidate, Ashland writer Joyce Segers. Those two will proceed to the general.

U.S. HOUSE 3 Earl Blumenauer, the Democratic incumbent in this strongly Democratic district, has another low-key primary challenger (John Sweeney) and - second time around - Republican Delia Lopez, who lives a couple of hours south of the Portland-based district in the small city of Oakland. (Yes, she can legally file for the seat, but expectations of victory ought, of course, to be modest.)

U.S. HOUSE 4 Only a few months ago, Republicans were looking at this seat with some realistic hopes, back when veteran Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio was considering a run for governor instead, and Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken looked like a strong nominee. Neither circumstance came to fruition, and now DeFazio is back as an extremely-hard-to-beat incumbent, and Republicans have two little-known challengers (Jaynee Germond of Dillard and Art Robinson of Cave Junction) headed to the primary. Doesn't look like a lot of excitement here.

U.S. HOUSE 5 This could be the one really hot congressional race in Oregon this year. Democrat Kurt Schrader is in his first term in a district still pretty closely balanced between the parties (though Democrats have been picking up). Republicans have their strongest congressional challenger anywhere in the state (and probably their strongest challenger in Oregon period above the legislative level) in state Representative Scott Bruun, a relatively moderate and strongly articulate and knowledgeable legislator from West Linn. Bruun has a Republican primary with Fred Thompson of Salem, which may help him organize earlier around the district. Unless Thompson delivers a shocker in May, the Schrader-Bruun contest will be one of the best to watch in Oregon this year.

GOVERNOR No fewer than 13 filers for governor this year, and so few with any realistic shot of getting past May. Among the Democrats, there's former Governor John Kitzhaber, who has the best odds, and of it isn't him, it'll be former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Two other Democrats - Steve Shields (thought he'd pulled out?) and Roger Obrist - are in the primary too. And then there are nine Republicans; of them, five are little-known, one (Bill Sizemore) has some name ID but not in politically helpful ways, and then there are the three invited to speak at the Dorchester conference: Allen Alley, Chris Dudley and John Lim. The race upcoming seems likely to revolve heavily around either those three, or maybe evolve into a de facto two-way between Alley and Dudley.

STATE TREASURER The unexpected race (noted in previous posts) will feature three Democrats: new incumbent (and former Multnomah County chair) Ted Wheeler, state Senator Rick Metsger, and former Treasurer Jim Hill. We'll start with an incumbent's presumption, but there's plenty of room for surprises here. Republican state Senator Chris Telfer of Bend will face one in November.

LEGISLATIVE Not many stunners here - we'll cut short this too-long post before getting into the details - but will note generally that Republicans have improved their candidate filings for legislative seats, a roster than sank to mediocre levels in 2008. In fact, if an initial check is right, Republicans have filed candidates for all but one of the 60 House seats, which means more ballot lines filled than the Democrats have done - a real achievement. And they've done not badly with filling slots on the Senate side too.

A treasury of candidates


Ted Wheeler

And with the speed of superglue - hastened by the 5 p.m. candidate filing deadline - a whole section of Oregon politics for the months ahead is snapping into place.

The reason, as noted here earlier, is the combination of a candidate filing deadline today, plus the death on Sunday of state Treasurer Ben Westlund. He was probably one of the most-liked people in Salem, but the law didn't allow for time to pause and grieve, only time to decide and file.

The first key action today was Governor Ted Kulongoski's appointment to treasurer for the period from here until after a new treasurer is elected. That went (in what felt like a small but not large surprise) to Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler. Wheeler hadn't been much involved in politics on the state level up to now, but he has gotten good headlines at Multnomah since he took office there in January 2007, leading a commission which had been a trouble spot for some years, and smoothing out and broadening its activities. He was already running for re-election to the county office this year, and had drawn only slight opposition. The appointment is likely to get positive media attention.

It is professionally defensible. From Wheeler's own statement on the appointment: "I imagine in some corners of the state, people will ask: 'Who is Ted Wheeler?' The short answer is that I currently serve as the chief executive officer of the largest county in Oregon, that I was a senior manager of an investment firm in my private sector career and that I have graduate degrees in government and business. In short, I’ve got a good resume for this job. Frankly, I’ve thought for some time that I might run for Treasurer at some point in the future. I never expected it to be this soon."

He is also running for it, and as an incumbent is likely to be well-positioned. His ties to the Portland business community are likely to generate a large campaign treasury, and he probably will be able to look to labor for substantial support too.

Not of that is stopping other candidates from entering, two of them state senators: Democrat Rick Metsger of Welches and Republican Chris Telfer of Bend. And there's former state Treasurer Jim Hill, who can point to his past experience there. Al three can be considered serious candidates, but our guess is that Wheeler will enter as front-runner.

Wheeler's departure at Mulnomah leaves open his seat at the chair, and another commissioner, Jeff Cogen, and a former state senator, Margaret Carter, are in for that.

More on candidate filings once the deadline is past, later today.

ID: And they’re off

Some of them, anyway. This is the first official day of campaign '10 in Idaho, because it's the first day candidates were allowed formally to file for office. (In Oregon, they've been doing it since last fall.) A good many of them did that on Day 1, but the deadline for filing isn't until a week from Friday.

The names listed so far on the sheet released twice-daily by the secretary of state offers no big surprises so far. The biggest Day 1 splash was the filing by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred, and three others - Republican Rex Rammell, independent Jana Kemp and Libertarian Ted Dunlap - also filed for the office. But the incumbent, Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter, who generally is expected to run, hasn't shown yet.

No U.S Senate candidates yet (Republican incumbent Mike Crapo hasn't turned in yet), but both U.S. House incumbents have filed. And while no one is in yet for lieutenant governor or superintendent of public instruction (where both incumbent are expected to run), the incumbent secretary of state, controller, attorney general and treasurer all filed their papers, and all were unopposed (as of the end of day 1).

Nothing yet by way of judicial challenges, though a couple have been rumored.

If my count is right, 49 of the current 105 legislators have filed for re-election - close to half on day one, a strong showing. But (will this hold up?) only a few challenges, primary or general, materializing as yet.

More as it comes.

For Oregon Treasurer

A sense of whiplash today, so soon after the sad and shocking news of Oregon Treasurer Ben Westlund's death yesterday: An immediate, hard, fast for a job no one had expected to be on the ballot this year: Oregon state treasurer.

There are two races right now, in fact: One for appointment to the position, which could happen very quickly, and the other for election to the (partisan) job. That second will play out from here to November, of course, but the participants will have very little time to decide whether to enter. While candidate filing has been open since last September in Oregon, it ends tomorrow. The space of about 48 hours, the office will have come open for election, and the field of candidates for it will be closed. A weird state of events. And the key participants will mostly be people who counted Westlund as a good friend, and really would rather not be contemplating all this just now.

There is also this to consider: When Governor Ted Kulongoski appoints a new treasurer, that person is likely to be given an inside track on election to the job. If, that is, that person is a candidate. No immediate word on a choice from the governor's office, but the timing puts unusual pressure on his decisionmaking, since running for the office as an incumbent could be a huge advantage.

The first in was state Senator Rick Metsger, D-Welches, who ran for secretary of state in 2008 and is leaving his Senate seat this year (that is, not running for re-election to it). A strong, appealing candidate who came across pretty well in the sec-state race, said he's running for the office whether appointed to it or not.

At Blue Oregon, Carla Axtman spins out several other prospects too, including Greg Macpherson, the former state representative from Lake Oswego, Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin, activist (and 2008 Senate candidate) Steve Novick, and Multnomah County Commission Chair Ted Wheeler. Any could be solid candidates for the job. Macpherson and Novick have experience running statewide.

But that doesn't necessarily exhaust the field. We picked up talk this afternoon about another prospect as well, a highly-regarded officeholder, said to have a strong shot at the governor's appointment. Of course, many such rumors could be circulating at this point.

MIA so far: Serious prospects for treasurer on the Republican side. But there's no doubt some scrambling to get that ballot line, for an open office, filled quickly.

All of it is happening quickly. Feels as if, too quickly.

Ben Westlund


Ben Westlund

Ben Westlund, 60, the Oregon state treasurer who died today of cancer, had a cancer outbreak years ago. Part of his response to it was to bear down on developing a serious statewide Oregon medical care program. He was a state senator, and with another senator, Alan Bates, they toured statewide, developed it over a period of time and got it through the Oregon Legislature - an almost astonishing achievement.

Westlund was among the most immediately impressive legislators we spotted when moving to Oregon some years ago, on a range of fronts. He stood out for party, for one thing - he was a Republican, an independent and a Democrat in the legislature. He ran for governor as an independent, and was elected in 2008 as treasurer as a Democrat.

His subject area knowledge was strong enough that you could call him wonkish, but for his manner and approach - energetic, direct and even charismatic. He was a natural to run for a higher office, had he lived longer.

Westlund's switch to the Democratic legislative caucus prompted a witty comeback from the Republican Senate Leader, Ted Ferrioli, to the effect of: I hope the Democrats get all the joy from him that we did - a reference to how he wasn't always among the most loyal of troops. But you can read the comment in more than one way. As it stands, Oregon got a good deal from Westlund during the too-short time he was here.

Another power source

As energy providers look around for new sources of electric power - wind gaining special popularity in the Northwest - here's one that could be highly useful and available all over the region:

Tapping into methane gas found at landfills, and converting it into energy.

The Kootenai Electric Cooperative, based at Hayden, is planning to use methane gas emerging from the Fighting Creek landfill. The Spokesman Review quotes its marketing manager as saying, “We have a unique situation here, which makes this a wonderful project. We have fuel in close proximity to the power lines. Basically what we’re doing is putting a generator in between the two. So it’s very economical. The power will go right to the power lines.”

That may be a better-than-average situation, but it probably could be managed at many other locations as well. There's a neat efficiency to the concept, and useful environmental cleanup alongside.

The available candidates


A Dudley greeter at Dorchester, early on/Stapilus

There was a tea party and Sarah Palin presence of sorts (the latter being a cardboard cut-out) at this weekend's Republican Dorchester Conference. But they weren't in the Necanicum Room, where most of the candidates, organizers and vendors could be found; they were toward the end of a hallway off to the side.

The tea accoutrements weren't especially visible elsewhere either, at least on Friday, at the Oregon Republican (unofficial but highly established) event, held again this year at Seaside. They didn't have their kind of candidates much in evidence, either.

Dorchester felt like a contrary mix. More optimism than four years ago, and on surface impression a bigger turnout. (A positive indicator for Republicans - House Minority Leader Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, said at the Dorchester opening that candidates for 58 of the 60 House seats were present; an impressive display.)

But not some other things.

The nominees for governor (speaking at Dorchester) are Allen Alley, businessman and former staffer for Democratic governor Ted Kulongoski, legislator (Senate and House) John Lim and former NBA basketball player Chris Dudley. Their approaches, and the distinctions among them in the crowd, were clear enough.

Dudley got the loud response - a snap response for him personally. He had a visual advantage, physically towering over the other two. (In his opening statement he added to it by standing in front of the podiums, poised there tieless and coatless in white shirt, the image of Jimmy Stewart. It was a strong image. (more…)

The semi-remembered past

I was involved once with a political campaign in which the candidate had a long history of newspaper columns. One of the first jobs out of the launch: Review them all. Who knew what ticking time bombs might await? In that case, as it happened, there weren't any big ones; or at least, his campaign (and the opposition, which must have been doing some due diligence too) never came up with any shocking.

Already, though, Oregon U.S. Senate candidate Jim Huffman, who looks like the probable Republican nominee against Democrat Ron Wyden, seems to have some issues with writings from the past.

Word that Huffman might run has been circulating for a while, and no sooner had the deal been done than Democrats pounced. They posted a page called "Meet Jim Huffman," with some strong opening shots:

"When the Wall Street and bank executives who caused the financial meltdown started taking billions in taxpayer-funded bonuses, Huffman defended them in an April 2009 Oregonian essay titled "Outraged at Those Bonuses? Get Over It." . . . Huffman signed a FreedomWorks petition supporting President Bush’s risky scheme to gamble Americans’ retirement money on Wall Street – a plan that would have given investment firms an additional $240 billion in management fees. . . . Huffman believes the only way to reduce health care costs is to restrict patients’ access to care, stating in an Oregonian essay that the 'rationing of health care is unavoidable.' . . . Huffman joined a 2007 FreedomWorks letter arguing that federal action to avert the mortgage meltdown was unnecessary because 'market corrections have already begun.'”

And so on. When the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes interviewed him, he was described as "disheartened" about the early shot and said, "I've got such a vast amount of stuff I've written, much of which, frankly, I don't remember."

He or someone on his campaign probably had better, quickly. Wyden is a very strong favorite for re-election anyway, but shots like this threaten to wipe out Huffman before he even gains a beach head.

Why they died

Washington state has released its first annual report on the death with dignity" law that took effect a year ago tomorrow. What it says reflects closely what the law's advocates have argued.

As the report defines it, the law (passed by initiative) "allows terminally ill adults seeking to end their lives in a humane and dignified manner to request lethal doses of medication from medical and osteopathic physicians. These terminally ill patients must be Washington residents who have six months (180 days) or less to live."

Concerns about mass abuse were unfounded, as they were in Oregon. From March 5 through the end of last year, fatal doses were prescribed to 63 people, a number roughly mirroring (allowing for population differences) Oregon's. Of those, 36 people died after taking the medication; of the others, some died without ever taking it, and some haven't taken it so far. About four of five of the 63 had cancer; 89% were insured. Only one indicated that financial concerns played a role in asking for the medication.

So what was the motivation? Of the 44 who responded to that question, all replied, "losing autonomy." 40 of them: "Less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable." And 36 of them: "Loss of dignity."

"Death with dignity" may be a catchphrase chosen for political acceptability, but it actually does seem to mirror the attitudes for the people who use the law.