The problem is somewhat bigger than it first seemed, and it started as a problem. It has sort of unwrapped, getting more pungent.
If you're Chris Dudley, the Republican nominee for governor of Oregon, your biggest problem is this: You're untested in public - governmental and elective - life, and questions both about how well informed you are and about how you react to various pressure stimuli are real questions voters and the people who advise them on voting will be considering. Dealing with that concern will be a main thread of the upcoming gubernatorial contest with Democrat John Kitzhaber, whose issues are in other areas: He has broad mastery of the subject matter, and his reactions to various challenges have been documented for a long time.
One way Dudley could spike the problem is by going right at it: Putting himself out there, answering questions, providing detail, exposing himself to the pressures so people can watch him in action. If, that is, he would leave a good impression afterward. There's the risk of falling on his face, and avoiding the risk is a way of conceding that those problems people wonder about really are, you know, problems.
So far, Dudley has been practicing avoidance. He has been arguing for fewer (and Kitzhaber more) debates. The traditional first one is the summer newspaper publisher's confab, where since 1986 the party nominees faced off in front of the state's newspaper reporters. Dudley begged off, saying he had a family vacation to tend to instead.
That sounded pretty weak. And the vacation wasn't even in Oregon, also not wonderful.
Then it turned out that while in Colorado, Dudley was not just relaxing with the family. Instead of speaking to newspaper publishers in Oregon, he was at Aspen at a Republican governors' meeting, speaking to the lobbyists and campaign finance people who were there.
As Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian wrote, "When the Dudley campaign declined an offer to debate Kitzhaber before the annual meeting of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association - which has a more than two-decade-old tradition of holding the first gubernatorial debate of the general election campaign - no mention was made that Dudley would be at another political event."
That's not likely to be forgotten. And it raises another dimension to the problem he has to deal with headed into the last three months of the campaign. Kari Chisholm at Blue Oregon outlined it:
"Dudley's now in a position where every time he tells folks that he has a seemingly-legit schedule conflict, they're going to wonder: What's really going on? What's he really doing? This is no longer just an issue about whether Dudley is willing to answer tough questions from the press and for Oregon voters - though it is still that - it's now also a more fundamental issue about his credibility and trustworthiness."