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Posts published in “Harris”

A gubernatorial complication

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Independent Party Co-Chairperson and election law expert Dan Meek says the Independent Party status as a major party could make the anticipated Governor debates Buehler/Brown debates problematic.

According to Meek, under Oregon law, all major party candidates – including the Independent Party nominee for Governor, Patrick Starnes – must be invited to a debate, or the event is considered a campaign contribution to the candidates who are invited. In such case all expenses related to the debate must be reported on ORESTAR as in-kind contributions to the participating candidates. Even advertisements touting such a debate campaign contributions and must be reported on ORESTAR, according to Meek.

The statute Meek points to only excludes from reportable contributions “A candidate debate or forum for a state office, or a communication publicizing a candidate debate or forum for a state office, when all major political party candidates for the state office have been invited to participate in the candidate debate or forum.”

In addition, Meek says that since some types of organizations that typically sponsor debates are not allowed by law or by their own bylaws to make campaign contributions, they could not sponsor, hold, advertise or broadcast any debates, unless the Independent candidates were invited to participate along with the Democratic and Republican nominees. This could exclude as sponsors organizations such as Oregon Public Broadcasting, the City Club of Portland, the Oregon League of Women Voters, and all charitable or educational organizations certified under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3), which are forbidden by federal law from making political campaign contributions to candidates for public office.

While the Governors debates are currently in the news, the law applies equally to debates for any State Legislative race where there is an Independent Party Candidate in addition to a Republican and/or a Democrat.

This law doesn’t prevent a two-person Governor debate; it simply means that not for profit organizations may not be able to sponsor them and that all sponsors will need to report their expenditures for the event (and for advertising it) on ORESTAR, Oregon’s campaign finance reporting system.

The other law that Meek believes will come into play with three major parties is the federal Equal Time rule, which requires that all TV and radio broadcasters provide major party candidates with air time equal to that provided to the other major candidates, on the same terms. For example, if KGW does a half-hour interview with Brown or Buehler, KGW has to broadcast a half-hour interview with the IPO nominee Patrick Starnes at such time as it receives equivalent viewership.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. In 2014 radio stations that broadcasted Democratic State Senator Betsy Johnson’s Saturday radio show had to provide the Independent Party Candidate – Drew Kaza – with an equal amount of radio time on the same terms.

Historically, non-Republican/Democratic candidates have not fully exercised these rights for financial and tactical reasons, though leaders of the IPO have been aware of the rules. However, this years Oregon Governor race may be different, as Starnes plans to run on the central issue of campaign finance reform. And what better way to illustrate Oregon’s lack of campaign finance reform laws and how political operatives and donors seek to avoid what few laws exist than by demanding 100% compliance with existing laws?
 

The new independents

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In the 1960’s over 90% of all voters identified as Democratic or Republican. Today 42% of voters identify as independent.

These independent voters are still more likely to support Democratic or Republican policies. So as rational voters in a two party system they still consistently lean towards one legacy party or another. Which means the growing number of independent voters isn’t all due to policy differences with the Democrats and Republicans. So why are voters who consistently vote no Republican or Democrat policies not joining those party? Something is happening.

American democracy also has foundational values largely informed by the enlightenment. Though it’s true that we have too often fallen short of achieving or honoring these values, these are still American democracy foundational values even if imperfect in implementation. When our government works best, it has adhered to American democracy foundational values. The rights of the minority; hard work; honoring public service ; the democratic process; fairness; equality; equal economic opportunity; justice; fair play.

So how does a person – a voter – react when a political group whose policies she generally supports no longer honors some of the important fundamental moral foundations and American democracy foundation values? It seems logical that they’d quit that organization, though in our two party system, they’d still continue voting in a logical pattern in support if the party candidates due to policy position.

In other words, you’d see the party affiliation trends we are now experiencing. Growing numbers of independents, reducing membership in the Democratic and Republican (legacy) Parties.

The American Values Voter

Today’s independent voter is the modern American values voter. We are identified by the weight we place on moral foundations and American democracy foundational values when making political decisions. Not that partisan voters ignore these foundational values, but there key differences between American values voters and many legacy party partisan voters.

Partisans give more weight than independents to loyalty to the party rather than the moral foundational value voters. Independent American value voters have freed themselves from the loyalty to party value so give more weight to whether a particular candidate adheres to our moral foundations and American democracy foundational values. Polling showed for instance that independent American values voters were reluctant to vote for Roy Moore even if they were closer to him on policy matters. Republican Partisans believed it was more important to have a Republican in the Senate and were willing to overlook his serious violation of moral foundational values.

That’s not to say that policy isn’t important to Independent American values voters or that moral foundational values aren’t important to partisans. But American values voters do care more about how a candidate incorporates moral foundational values and American democracy values into their candidacy, relationships and actions. In fact, for many, it’s the most important trait of a candidate. Modern American values voters can accept a candidate that has a different position than we do on school vouchers perhaps, but we’re unlikely to support a candidate who agrees with us on vouchers but ridicules the rule of law in a tweet.

Some Defining Characteristics of the American Value voter

American values voters may be clustered around the traditional political center, but they also include very liberal and very conservative voters who understand the importance of our American democracy foundational values and their importance to our Democratic institutions.

Core characteristics of the modern American value voter could include:

Fairness and justice: Today party operatives and political advisers – the political industry – have largely ignored fairness and honesty. They use technology, the media, voting barriers and importantly the inherent weakness of our election architecture that allows just two political parties to challenge for power, to divide us into two tribes using hate, anger and fear. They find more success by making us distrust and fear anyone not part of our tribe. Modern Values voters are disgusted by the political games that have undermined our democracy. (In a recent Pew Research poll, they found 71% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats cite the harm from the opposing party’s policies as a major reason to affiliate with their party.)

Character: Protecting minority interests requires the powerful to have good will and to act fairly. Negotiating with your loyal opposition requires honesty. Being a part of the opposition caucus requires loyalty to our democratic institutions. Asking Americans to sacrifice requires the willingness to self sacrifice. Elected officials who lack character seldom veer from established party dogma because doing so may create a primary revolt from the zealot party activist base motivated by fear and anger. Honest disagreement within a party based on a matter of conscience or character or legitimate disagreement on fact is a rare thing today.

Loyalty to American values, Country over party: Independent Value voters honor our democratic process and our men and women in uniform. Most independents recognize and admit to the flaws of our country, including the greatest flaw – America’s original sin – but we also recognize our strengths of institutions, and our people. Importantly, Independent American values voters believe in country over party. They reject tribalism and are loyal to all peoples of America and not just the “ingroup” represented by party affiliation.

Authority and respect: Independents understand the value of our constitutional democratic process and institutions. That we can’t always win but we must respect the authority of the outcome. They know that an independent judiciary is vital to freedom and liberty. They respect wisdom, education, science, and institutions that have those values.

Hope and working together: As contrary as it may seem, independent modern American values voters seek to work together for the betterment of our country and world, and actually have hope in America. It may not always seem that way. Independents will vent, display frustration, or be critical of our governance and elections. But that’s because of our frustration at how the current political elite continue operate in violation of moral foundational values and American democratic values. It’s why we’ve left the legacy parties. And why we’re looking for a new path to restore moral and American democratic values.

What Impact Will American Values voters make?

Independent voters represent an unmet demand for candidates elections and processes that represent American democratic foundational values. But our current election architecture makes viable independent or third party candidacies rare and building a third party difficult because under our current first past the post voting architecture there’s really only room for two parties. There is a possibility that the Democratic or Republican party will decide to focus on character and American democratic values. But the sad fact is, tribalism and fear is more powerful than hope, and the current strategies of dividing us into tribes has worked. And from a business standpoint, no political consultant has ever lost a job by giving the same advice that every other consultant offers.

The best path may be in States that allow citizen initiatives, such as Oregon, where the people can petition for a change to their election choice architecture. This would be vehemently opposed by the entrenched political industry and the Democratic and Republican Party leadership. In Maine the people passed Ranked Choice voting by initiative and both legacy party leadership did all they could to subvert the reforms. But, a modern American value movement could use States as proving grounds for different reforms. There are plenty of new values voters who would support such a path if they could be organized to contribute, walk, talk and work.

The need and demand is out there. Americans have always been innovators. We need some political innovation right now.
 

Understanding the Kruse timing

harris

Senator Jeff Kruse’s resignation is effective March 15th more than a month from now, even though he won’t be voting or participating in the current session. But that date wasn’t picked out of a hat. Working backwards is the best way to understand the timing, and you need to keep in mind statutes, the dates of the next general election and this May’s primary election.

March 15 is more than 61 days before the next general election (November 2018,) but less than 70- days prior to this May Primary.

Even though Mr. Kruse was elected to a four term in 2016, which would expire in 2020, because he resigned more than 61 days before the next general election in November 2018, there will be an election in November 2018 to complete the remaining two years of Mr. Kruse’s 4 year term.

ORS 171.051(4): Notwithstanding any appointment under the provisions of subsection (1)(c) of this section, when a vacancy occurs in the office of a state Senator before the 61st day before the first general election to be held during that term of office, the remaining two years of the term of office shall be filled by the electors of the affected legislative district at the first general election.

This is similar to when Governor Brown was elevated to Governor near the beginning of Governor Kitzhabers term and had to run in the next general election to complete the remaining two years of Kitzhabers 4 year term.

But unlike most general elections, since Senator Kruse made the effective date of his resignation just 61 days prior to the May primary election, there won’t be a primary election to select major party nominees for SD-1. Here’s the applicable statute.

ORS 249.200 Nomination by major party to fill vacancy in partisan office; exceptions; rules. (1) A major political party may nominate a candidate to fill a vacancy in a partisan elective office in the following manner:

(a) If the vacancy occurs on or before the 70th day before a primary election, by selecting a nominee at the next primary election; or

(b) If the vacancy occurs after the 70th day before the primary election but before the 61st day before the general election, by selecting a nominee as provided by party rule.

If Senator Kruse had resigned effective March 5th rather than March 15th, then nominations would have been decided in this May’s primary. That would have obviously caused havoc and I suspect neither the Democrats nor the Republicans wanted that. So don’t get bent out of shape because he delayed his resignation. It was done for election timing reasons. Not because he wanted to squeeze a few more dollars out of taxpayers.

Republican candidate selection: Because Senator Kruse is a Republican within about 30 days of his resignation, SD-1 will be filled by an appointed Republican who will serve until January 1, 2019. That person will be running – we assume- as the nominee of the Republican Party in November to complete the final two years of Kruse’s term.

Democratic Party candidate selection: The Democratic Party will nominate it’s November 2018 candidate under the same process as it uses to select three to five candidates to fill a vacancy in office, excepting that rather than three to five candidates, they will select only a single candidate as it’s nominee (Standing Rule 2, Section II).

Both of the legacy parties require that the nominees be members of their parties and the nominees will be selected by party officials.

The Independent Party: (You may want to refer to a new lexicon for independent voters to better understand the meaning of terms used here) Independent Party of Oregon rules don’t require that a nominee be a member of it’s party, and it’s leadership is intent on letting party members – and possibly even non affiliated voters – help select the Independent nominee. It’s rules for nominations are more flexible to take into account a variety of situations and to maximize the party’s ability to offer alternatives to voters and to influence election outcomes.

One input to inform IPO’s nominating caucus would be to utilize an online ranked choice voting architecture that could include not only independents or non affiliated candidates, but also the legacy party nominees and candidates. That could for instance maximize the influence of i/Independent voters by offering the Independent nomination to a Democratic or Republican candidate that most closely aligns with the voter center of SD-1. That nominee may also be the nominee of the Democratic or Republican Party.

Creatively Using election rules that legacy party elected officials wrote is one path for i/Independent voters and the IPO to influence elections. Guerilla politics.
 

General interests, special interests

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What do Public employee union leadership, industrial polluters, traded sector (the largest) corporations, and social conservative organizations all have in common?

They want to impose policies on Oregonians that most Oregonians don’t support.

How do they do that? They exert control over some part of the Democratic or Republican agendas ( or in some cases, such as traded sector corporations both Democratic and Republican policies on special tax breaks.) They all understand that the more expensive political races are, the more money politicians need, and the more beholden they are to their largest contributors. That means the contributors can ask for virtually anything regardless of whether it’s good public policy. They also seek to narrow the number of actual powerful decision makers by making entry into the decision making club as difficult as possible.

Their tactics:

    They all support the undemocratic way we elect people to office (closed primaries, first past the post voting, major/minor/non affiliated differentiation)

    They all support gerrymandering

    They all oppose campaign finance reform

These “special interests” all oppose any attempt by independent voters to organize into a political force for “general interests”.

They support the revolving door the regulators and the regulated by financing the political operatives who make their livings running the Democratic and Republican Parties, through lobbying and consulting agreements and offers of private employment.

They will not support any potential candidate for office that threatens their power.

Most of the media has been cowed into believing reform and change is impossible. Derision towards reformers by insiders and “experts” and concerns about continued advertising and access play a part.

The result: Oregon has some of the biggest gaps between policies the people want, and what policies we get.
 

Winning by blasting Trump

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Rep. Knute Buehler this week posted a message on his facebook page calling for an independent investigation of President Trump:

As a Republican, I feel a special obligation to speak-out against the actions of the President of my Party – even a candidate I didn’t support.

He also revealed that he didn’t vote for Trump in November

It’s no secret that while President Trump ran as a Republican, he was never this Republican’s choice for President (I wrote-in Ohio Governor John Kasich).

While the majority of commentators were Republicans who criticized Rep. Buehler a large number also applauded him for speaking out. But here’s why Rep. Buehler’s position will ultimataly pay off.

Math.

Take a look at this poll that we ran last week, and remember, Oregon as a whole is a safe Democratic state.

If our poll results are accurate, then Rep. Buehler could lose 30% of self identified Republicans. While the Republican vote statewide runs around 43%, that includes both Republican party members (about 29% of all voters) and Republicanh leaning non affiliated and independent voters who make up another 13-15%.

It seems unlikely that 30% of Republican leaners would refuse to vote for Dr. Buehler because of charges of being a RINO. And in any event, those Republicans who do refuse to support a non conservative Republican certainly aren’t going to vote for Kate Brown. And the fact is, regardless of a conservatives vow to not support a RINO, are they really going to skip the Governor race if the polls show Buehler and Brown neck and neck? I don’t think so.

So yes, Buehler will lose some voters, perhaps 30% of the Republican membership. Lets call these “skippers”. That means that rather than starting out with 43% of the vote (Republicans and leaners), he starts out with 33%. But, by sitting out the race, that 10% doesn’t move into the Brown column, they just skipped it. So Brown still has a starting point of 57%.
How many Democrats and Democratic leaners will Buehler gain?

The poll results showed that 57% of Democrats – which also likely includes registered Democrats and Democratic leaners – could support a “liberal” Republican in a safe Democratic district. That means 32% of all Oregon voters are Democrats or Democratic leaners who could vote for a “liberal” Republican. I call these voters “switchers” Because they aren’t likely to skip the race.

That was a lot higher than I expected, and shows the extent of the unhappiness with the people that responded to the poll.

The real significance of these Democrats and Democratic leaners is that because they are more likely switchers than skippers The value of their vote to Rep. Buehler (or any liberal Republican in a blue district) doubles because for every vote Buehler gains, Brown loses a vote.

Lets assume my poll overestimated the number of switchers in a Buehler / Brown race. What if Democratic switchers is merely equal to Republican skippers.

First, just taking into account skippers but not switchers, Brown starts at 57% and Buehler at 33% and 10% are skippers. (I realize there is no way to vote to skip, but I use the 10% as a placeholder. The winner of a Buehler /Brown race where 10% are skippers is therefore 45% plus 1.)

If the switchers are also 10%, then Brown’s share is reduced to 47% while Buehler gains that 10% and his total share climbs to 43%. Now we’ve got a race. And that’s assuming a rate of switchers only 1/3 of what our polling indicated.

If we were to assume a 12% rate of switchers – still much less than the 32% predicted in the poll, the final vote would be Brown 45%, Buehler 45% and skippers 10%.

Now what happens when those skippers realize that in the race for Oregon Governor, Republican Buehler and the Democratic Brown are in a dead heat two weeks before the election.

If Rep. Buehlers statement regarding President Trump is a gamble, it’s a pretty good one. In fact, it’s the only path to a Republican win against Governor Brown.

Leaning the other way

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Independents (IPO and NAVs) generally support reasonable compromise for the betterment of all Oregonians. This last election provided significant evidence (see Dennis Richardson for Secretary of State and Ron Noble in the House) that i/Independents can swing close races. While i/Independents currently lean about 45% Republican and 55% Democratic, the vast majority are moderate, and in the right race at the right time can be persuaded to lean another way. Hence Secretary of State Richardson.

The well informed Independent voters- making up perhaps 5-10 percent of the total voter population, will watch this legislative session as Democrats and Republicans make their cases and offer their alternative Oregon futures. If the Democrats push through the Our Oregon proposal and 2017 ends up being the blood bath many expect, it holds the possibility that many Democratic leaning i/Independents, especially those that voted for Richardson, could end up more often leaning Republican. But if i/Independent voters believe both parties are equally to blame, i/Independent leanings will remain the same. A pox on both parties attitude.

At this point, the Senate Republicans are the only ones channeling i/Independent voters. While the more rabid Oregon House Republicans may not like it, for Republicans to win over Democratic leaning i/Independents the GOP will have to compromise and work with the majority Democrats to get the best deal they can.

That will not make the far right Republicans happy. But here in Oregon, the Trump or Tea Party or social conservative strategy isn’t going to work. A moderate pro i/Independent path is the only way the Oregon GOP has ever reached majority status.

The sortition solution

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One of our readers, Michael Pitts-Campbell has a interesting suggestion. And while some may think it’s a new and different idea, the idea is actually old and has an elite pedigree. Thanks for reminding us Michael.

Here’s what he sent me when I asked for reform suggestions

“Here’s one that probably stands as much chance of passing as the others suggested, but would accomplish term limits, removal of campaign money, and probably other goals: for Oregon, make the position of State Representative a civic duty. Just like the Selective Service draft of the bad old days, this would read “Greetings from the Governor. You have been randomly selected to serve as Oregon State Representative for District ?? for the next two (2) years.” The list used for random selection would probably be the list of those holding drivers’ licenses. No partisanship, no political debts owed, no sleazing your way into office as was done in Klamath and Curry Counties, just “You’re drafted.”

We certainly wouldn’t have any campaign contribution limit or spending caps to worry about, or be concerned about special interest candidates buying their way into office.

The method of position by drawing lots is called Sortition. The following is a brief history of sortition’s implementation, (from wikipedia – yeah, I’m lazy, but I did edit it a bit for brevity).

Ancient Athens: Athenian democracy developed in the 6th century BC out of what was then called isonomia (equality of law and political rights). Sortition was then the principal way of achieving this fairness. It was utilized to pick most of the magistrates for their governing committees, and for their juries (typically of 501 men). Aristotle relates equality and democracy:

Democracy arose from the idea that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are alike free, therefore they claim that all are free absolutely… The next is when the democrats, on the grounds that they are all equal, claim equal participation in everything.

It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.(emphasis added)

In Athens, “democracy” (literally meaning rule by the people) was in opposition to those supporting a system of oligarchy (rule by a few). Athenian democracy was characterized by being run by the “many” (the ordinary people) who were allotted to the committees which ran government. Thucydides has Pericles make this point in his Funeral Oration: “It is administered by the many instead of the few; that is why it is called a democracy.”

Northern Italy and Venice – 12th to 18th century: The brevia was used in the city states of Northern Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries and in Venice until the late 18th century. Men, who were chosen randomly, swore an oath that they were not acting under bribes, and then they elected members of the council. Voter and candidate eligibility probably included property owners, councilors, guild members, and perhaps, at times, artisans. The Doge of Venice was determined through a complex process of nomination, voting and sortition.

Lot was used in the Venetian system only in order to select members of the committees that served to nominate candidates for the Great Council. A combination of election and lot was used in this multi-stage process. Lot was not used alone to select magistrates, unlike in Florence and Athens. The use of lot to select nominators made it more difficult for political sects to exert power, and discouraged campaigning.

Florence – 14th and 15th century: The scrutiny was employed in Florence for over a century starting in 1328. Nominations and voting together created a pool of candidates from different sectors of the city. These men then had their names deposited into a sack, and a lottery draw determined who would get magistracy positions. The scrutiny was gradually opened up to minor guilds, reaching the greatest level of renaissance citizen participation in 1378–82.

Switzerland: Because financial gain could be achieved through the position of mayor, some parts of Switzerland used random selection during the years between 1640 and 1837 in order to prevent corruption.

India: Local government in parts of Tamil Nadu such as the village of Uttiramerur traditionally used a system known as kuda-olai where the names of candidates for the village committee were written on palm leaves and put into a pot and pulled out by a child.

Today: In the political realm, sortition occurs most commonly in order to form policy juries, such as deliberative opinion polls, citizens’ juries, Planungszelle (planning cells), consensus conferences, and citizens’ assemblies. As an example, Vancouver council has initiated a citizens’ assembly that will meet in 2014–15 in order to assist in city planning.

We’d have to update the Sortition process by including all eligible voters, though we could impose an age limit or other minimum requirements. But our dear reader is absolutely correct, a Sortition, just for the State House of Representatives perhaps, would eliminate campaign contributions that cause undue influence and the fear of perpetual oligarchy class of politicians, political operatives, and consultants.

Interesting idea. And one that the founders of western democracy and some of the most famous democratic societies in history embraced as a way to defeat corruption. If that’s one of the goals of a Democracy.

De-rigging the system

harris

This year's election has convinced voters that we can’t trust our electoral system.

The Sanders campaign was undermined by insiders of the DNC. Trump and his fake news reporters from Russian territory made up conspiracy theories and the Trump camp treated the truth as optional.

The candidate who got the most votes for President didn’t win – again. And money money money money, at both the State and federal levels, played kingmaker in most races in those few districts where there was competition. In most legislative districts the results was a foregone conclusion due to gerrymandering.

De-Rigging the system is crucial

The Independent Party will be working on a Anti Rigging platform. A handful of proposals that to empower voters by changing some processes and rules. The goal is to give voters more options and reduce ability of special interests to rig the system using big money and insider status.

While the Democratic and Republican insiders will hate this everyone else, from American constitutionalists to progressives, should band together and demand changes.

If we allow those in power to put party success – even your own party – above a healthy functioning Democracy, we’ve failed our ancestors and our children.

Will Democratic and Republican legislators support an Anti Rigging Platform in the 2017 session? Will you?

Stay tuned. We’re about to find out.

Democratic fatigue?

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There is evidence that Oregon voters are showing some fatigue over Democratic management of the State.

It appears M97 is going to be defeated. Perhaps handily.

A poll released October 17 conducted for OPB by DHM research shows 48% would vote no while, 43% would vote yes. with only 10% undecided. The cross tabs show that 38% are certain no votes and 30% are certain yes votes. This is consistent with the Survey USA poll released last week showing 44% opposed the measure while 28% supported it with 29% undecided.

The Governors race: The DHM poll showed Brown with a comfortable 46% to 33% lead, but the Survey USA poll showed a tight contest, with Brown leading just 46% to Pierce’s 42%. The DHM poll showed the same level of support for Governor Brown, though still under 50%. The Survey USA poll was conducted October 10-12 while the DHM poll was done October 6-13. That could mean that many undecideds are breaking towards Pierce. However, Brown can easily break the 50% mark by capturing only a few undecideds.

If the race continues to tighten, the wildcard here may be Independent Party candidate Cliff Thomson who is polling at about 4%. Thompson has an eclectic platform including support of a sales tax and reduction of real estate tax (to produce a reliable revenue stream) Support for the marijuana and hemp industry, and returning local control to various State functions. Of course, his voters may also be swayed by the name of the party, promising a break from the Democratic and Republican Party feuds.

With Oregon’s looming fiscal crisis, general voter unhappiness and the fact that Democrats have been in charge of Oregon’s State government for some time, could the 2016 results reflect some Democratic fatigue? There is some data to suggest that could be the case.

In the Secretary of State race, DHM poll shows that Republican Dennis Richardson with 34% and Democrat Brad Avakian with 29%. There are still a lot of undecided voters in that race and a lot of support for various third party and Independent Party candidates. It appears many Democrats and Democratic leaners simply don’t want to vote for Avakian. Avakian has been one of the more partisan candidates this election as well.
Both polls also show that the POTUS candidates are viewed more negatively than positively by Oregonians. Trump is viewed negatively by 66% and Clinton by 54%.
Finally, the DHM poll shows that 44% of Oregonians believe the State is headed in the wrong direction while only 40% believe it’s headed in the right direction.

Maybe the 8 year cycle will manifest itself down ballot

Historically, when a party has held the White House for 8 years, it has a down election cycle. But this is an unusual year in the POTUS race and while many voters were prepared to vote Republican for President this election, given our options, we are going to end up electing a Democrat again.

In State races, particularly in a State like Oregon where Democrats have controlled the State for years, voters may be showing their frustration with the status quo by with holding their votes from Democratic candidates. There is evidence of that in the number of voters opting for third party or alternate candidates not just in the Presidential election, but also in the races for Governor and Secretary of State. While there is no risk that the Governors race will be won by a third party candidate, The Republicans have a great shot at the Secretary of State race, and we should watch the State Houses of Representatives to see if in some of the swing seats the Democratic candidates don’t do as well as they historically have.

And, in races where an Independent Party candidate has a one on one race against either a Democrat or Republican, voter discontent at the status quo -regardless of party – may result in some surprises. In particular I’m watching these races that don’t appear to be on the radar of the main stream media:

House District 17: Incumbent Republican Sherry Sprenger against Sweet Home City Councilperson and Independent Party Jeffrey Goodwin.
House District 23. Independent Jim Thompson running against very conservative incumbent Republican Mike Nearman.
House District 35: Independent Party candidate Jessica Cousineau is running against Incumbent Democrat Margaret Doherty
State Treasurer: This is a three way race between Independent Chris Telfer, career politician Democrat Tobias Read and Republican Jeff Gudman.

With the overwhelming voter registration edge and munificence from the Public Employee Union treasure that the Democrats enjoy, it’s not likely that there will be too many upsets this election. But Trends are important. If the Democratic majority, or total vote, is chipped away this year when Oregon falls over the fiscal cliff in 2017, the Democratic brand will be battered in the next Legislative session. 2018 could be tough for many Democratic incumbents. That could open the door to some modern Republicans or well funded Independent candidates.

The importance of Oregon’s SOS

harris

Since Oregon became a State three Secretaries of State have ascended to Governor when the sitting Governor resigned (1877, 1909 and 2015).

We may be looking at another ascension of the Secretary of State to Governor if Hillary Clinton is elected President.

There’s been speculation in Salem that a President Clinton could tap Governor Kate Brown for a position in her administration. Brown seems a natural fit. She was an early supporter of Hillary. While most Democratic voters were favoring Sanders she came out as a Clinton super delegate.

Like Hillary Clinton, she is wonkish and policy driven. And like Bill Clinton she is one of the most affable and likable pols you will meet. You’ll find few Republicans who actually dislike the Governor. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton will appreciate this balance.

Her trajectory and ambition are similar to Hillary’s. From a USA today profile published the week after she became Governor, former Oregonian cartoonist and grade school classmate Jack Ohman described Brown:

She made friends easily, was an athlete in high school, made good grades and ran for student council, he (Ohman) said.

They met in seventh-grade math class, back when she sported a 'Nixon Now' button ….Brown was a smart, middle-class kid from a small town outside Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Not exactly an ambitious middle class Illinois Goldwater girl, but close. She is an ideal candidate for a high ranking Clinton administration official.

The latest iCitizen poll showed Democrat Brad Avakian with 29%, Republican Dennis Richardson with 26% and 36% undecided. Should Richardson win, Brown may have to decide between a job in Washington DC with the administration of the first woman President, or staying in Oregon to assure Democratic dominance.

The Secretary of State candidates recognize this. They are already running as if they may be governor. A quote from Avakian as reported by the Bend Bulletin: “When folks evaluate who should be their next secretary of state, you should think in terms of that in case it were to happen,” Avakian said of the prospect. “Where do the candidates stand on other positions that you would like to see or not like to see as governor?”

Her decision on whether to accept a DC position could be influenced by the fate of Measure 97, the large tax increase on the November ballot.

Should M97 pass, then Legislative Democrats are going to be calling most of the financial shots in any event regardless of who the Governor is. Brown may feel Oregon Democratic priorities are safe.

However, should M97 fail, then a Republican Governor Richardson would veto any revenue increase or tax reforms that don’t include Republican priorities on issues such as PERS reforms.

Supporters of M97 need to prepare for potential downsides and mitigation should the measure lose. As of today, Avakian has $478,000 in his campaign chest while Richardson has $602,000. A pretty even money race.

What this means is that an ambitious and talented Governor Browns and the powerful backers of M97 (Public employee unions) have an intense interest in the outcome of the Secretary of State race.

While Richardson may have a money edge in his official campaign account, should the Secretary of State race remain tight and the Governors race against Dr. Pierce to remain safely Browns (she currently leads by 12 percentage points), voters can expect to be inundated with negative “independent expenditure” negative ads aimed at Richardson.

Because is the Secretary of State race isn’t just about Richardson v. Avakian. There’s much more at stake for our Governor and the public employee unions who fund the Democratic Party.