Writings and observations

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has been in the forefront of, well, an unusually large number of significant efforts over the last years, for newcoming senator. (Now he won’t be in the crop of the most-new.) One of the most useful, not to downgrade others, is his current effort to change (not end) the filibuster procedure in the Senate.

Merkley is actually a national leader on this, organizing the vote and often serving as the public voice. Here, he does a neat bit of framing: Restoring the filibuster to something like what it was in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” instead of what it’s like now, which is essentially filing a document with a clerk. Won’t be easy to argue against that.

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Tiernan
Bob Tiernan

Not all the dynamics are public, now or maybe ever, for this sort of thing. But the departure of Bob Tiernan as chair of the Oregon Republican Party, a job he’s held basically for the last cycle, merits a little pondering.

The move wasn’t entirely unexpected. A number of other candidates have been circulating, the most visible of those being Allen Alley, who ran for governor last year and treasurer in 2008.

Often when a party chair opts out, the idea is that his (or hers) is the head to poll after an unsuccessful election. And you could say that Oregon was one of the minority of states holding back last year’s Republican tide, what with the ongoing failure to elect (ever since 2002) any statewide elected official.

But that would be a crimped view. Oregon Republicans actually have improved their situation significantly over the last couple of years. The biggest indicator was their return to clout at the legislature, where they now control an even half of the House, and picked up a couple of seats in the Senate. And then there was the almost-win for governor, the party’s best showing for a major office since 2002.

There’s more than that. Even more significant, maybe, than the even split in the state House was the candidate recruitment party people (including legislative leaders) did to fill legislative ballot slots. House leaders came close to filling the Republican line for all 60 seats, a remarkable achievement for a party in a significant minority, and probably a big part of the reason they did as well as they did in the general election.

The Republican press release on Tiernan’s departure also includes the usual list of achievements during his tenure; taken together, you have to say they add up to some real rehabilitation in organization and structure.

Opened a new ‘state of the art’ Republican headquarters in the heart of the Portland Metro area;
• Paid off over $200,000 in past vendor debt, the majority of the debt incurred by former party leaders;
• Hired an extremely talented and experienced staff (Brandon Danz – Executive Director, Julia Miller – Chief Administrative Officer, Greg Leo – Communications Director, Kevin Hoar – Field Director, Mark Krsak – Office Manager);
• Implemented a complete State Party Re-organization plan, which resulted in a stronger, broader-based party effort in the 2010 election, and lays the foundation for a stronger Oregon Republican Party in the 2012 Presidential election cycle;
• Launched an aggressive communications program featuring improved Press Relations and an aggressive outreach to the news media, giving the Oregon Republican Party a strong, clear voice during the 2010 elections;
• Implemented ‘state of the art’ technology, including an updated Republican Party website, used social media including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to connect directly with Republicans and conservatives, and initiated a VoIP phone system;
• Convinced the RNC to invest over $500,000 in Oregon to help Republicans get elected in last election cycle

Of course, the party still has problems – some big ones. Maybe a couple of the House seats Democrats lost were ceded because of campaign mistakes. And Republicans in Oregon still haven’t matched up in statement or vision, or image, with the population center of the state, which may be an ongoing problem.

Still, as Carla Axtman at Blue Oregon (a Democratic-oriented blog) noted, “it’s being reported that a number of GOP political leaders are ready to hand the party’s keys to Allen Alley. Alley is somewhat prochoice and has a reputation for generally being a moderate. This would be a major departure for the Oregon GOP, which has been in the ideological throes of far right conservatism for years.”

That, together with some of the structural repairs, could position Republicans somewhat better in the cycles ahead. The January 22 results will be worth a close watch.

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