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Posts published in “Harris”

Oregon Republican nearly out of cash

harris ROBERT


We know that the Oregon Republican Party is in financial crisis. Not necessarily individual candidates or officials, many had well funded campaigns and were able to raise money and had money spent on their behalf by independent expenditure organizations.

But the Republican Party of Oregon itself has done little in the way of fundraising or candidate support. Here is some data from ORESTAR for December, 2014. And while the graph above displays cash balance, just as important is the data on money raised and money spent in support of organization and candidates. If the GOP had raised and spent $2,000,000, their cash balance wouldn’t be concerning.

PARTY 2014 Income 2014 Expenses Current Cash

Democratic $ 2,359,768 $2,328.974 $ 148,201
Republican $22,436 $29,836 $ 600
Independent $15,553 $11,050 $15,562

Of course each county has a local Democratic and Republican Party. Perhaps the Republican focused their party building efforts locally? A spot check of the larger counties dispels that theory. (more…)

Drawing a lesson from Maine

harris ROBERT


In the Governors election in Maine this year, voters had three candidates to chose from:

Current Governor Paul LePage of whom USA today wrote:

“Brutal” is also how critics describe LePage’s record since 2010, when he became governor with 39% of the vote in a three-way race. LePage cut welfare rolls, vetoed Medicaid expansion, passed an income tax cut and then reduced municipal revenue sharing to pay for it — all the while calling legislators “idiots,” state workers “corrupt,” and telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” “He’s piggish and bullheaded and not really listening to what the people are saying,” says Rebecca Kowaloff, 30, a doctor and Democratic voter in Portland.

Democratic candidate Mike Michaud described in that same article:

A third-generation paper mill worker who never attended college and stayed on the job until he went to Washington in 2002, he can compete with LePage for blue-collar and Franco-American loyalty. He criticizes LePage for kicking people off welfare — he wants to provide some benefits for people in low-wage jobs — and for “the negativity he keeps spewing.” Michaud has won six terms by hefty margins in the northern, more conservative half of Maine and before that served as president of the state Senate.

And Independent Candidate Eliot Cutler.

Cutler lost the Governors race to LePage back in 2010 by less than 2%. Cutler is an environmental lawyer and active in independent rights movement. In his 2010 campaign for Governor he was endorsed by virtually all the major newspapers.

Despite Cutlers nearly winning in 2010 in a one on one contest against LePage,this year in a three way race he received a meager 8% of the vote in 2014. Could his support have dropped that much? No. The reason is that our current system of voting – you select one candidate – means that in a three way race if you believe your favorite candidate can’t win, then you cast your vote against your least favorite.

It’s a sad form of Democracy that doesn’t let voters vote for their first choice.

But, luckily The Center for Election Science was on the scene in Maine on election day. They polled over 600 voters as they left the voting places and had them vote on the Governors race using approval voting and Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) with ranked choice. They also have them vote in head to head races between the three candidates.

The results should simply shock us and make people really think about whether the current voting method serves the people, or the Democratic and Republican parties. (more…)

Best news by approval voting

harris ROBERT


The Strategic Decision:

In early 2014, as a group of election reformers were strategizing on their best chances to change our voting system they made a critical decision.

Mark Frohnmayer, one of the chief architects of the four different draft initiatives, favored initiative 54 which included an open primary with approval voting and a top two final election.

newsApproval voting is a scientifically tested model of voting that according to voting experts will produce a more satisfying result for the most voters and is not as subject to manipulation as other types of voting. (For more on voting theory go to The Center for Election Science).

Jim Kelly, an active and generous supporter of election reform, favored initiative 55. I-55 included the open primary with a top two general election, but not approval voting. It continued our current system known as first past the post voting. All electors would vote for a single candidate in an open primary and only the top two would move onto the final general election.

Kelly and his supporters believed that including approval voting and an open primary would be too big of a leap for voters. Kelly’s argument won the day and all the money coalesced behind Initiative 55 which won a place on the Oregon General election ballot as Measure 90. (Note: Frohmnayer believed that M90 included an implicit charge to the Legislature to implement a form of approval voting or IRV as well. Others contest that mandate)

When A Door Shuts a Window Opens:

Measure 90 was crushed. It wasn’t enough of a change to inspire many independents, it ignored the legitimate concerns of minor parties who felt marginalized, and it went too far for major parties and their base who believed an open primary threatened their influence.

But while M90 failed it did stir up a lot of debate and ideas by opponents, many of whom did agree that there were ways to improve our democracy through election and voting reform. While it may have been a cynical position, the meme from many major party activists during the election was that they weren’t against election reform and getting more people involved in voting per se, but that M90 was not the answer. The most common theme was that an open primary wasn’t real reform. Real reform would be some form of instant runoff voting (IRV), or ranked choice voting, or some other similar voting method. One that would empower more voters while respecting the rights of major and minor parties.

These major party activists who were fighting against M90 were making some of Frohnmayer’s argument. It isn’t necessarily the top two feature that is the critical reform, it’s the voting mechanism that is critical to making reform work and empowering voters.

So, in continuing that conversation with open minded Democrats and Republicans I’d like you to consider this. (more…)

Voting options for Oregon

harris ROBERT


Almost a hundred people attended The Equal Vote Conference held at the University of Oregon Law School Saturday October 4th

Former Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer greeted the attendees/ The conference focused on election reforms and featured a debate between proponents and opponents of Measure 90 (top two primary).

The conference opened with explanations of two main voting reforms. Rob Richie Executive Director of presented the case for preferential voting with instant runoff elections (IRV), while Aaron Hamlin from the Center For Election Science, argued the benefits of Approval Voting as a superior voting system.

That session was followed by Jackie Salit, a national figure promoting the rights of independent voters and President of Salit humorously recounted listening to OPB’s “Think Out Loud” while in her rental car driving to Eugene from Roseberg, where she had met with an organization of independent voters the day before. The OPB analysts had seemed confused how the pro top two primary coalition could include both major candidates for Governor, the Working Families Party, wealthy philanthropists, independent voters and businesses, while opponents included the leaders of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. She was not shocked about the inability of the political establishment to understand the independent voter movement. However she noted the movement’s positive influence on politics already. “We’ve brought the Democratic and Republican Parties together and reduced partisanship” Salit joked.

A panel discussion followed Salit’s presentation. Salit Joined minor party leaders Barbara Hughes of the Working Families Party, Blair Bobier of the Pacific Green Party, Dan Meek of the Independent Party of Oregon. Hughes said the Working Families Party was in favor of M-90. Bobier explained that the Pacific Green Party was in favor of election reform, but not M-90. Bobier beleived it would lead to the elimination of smaller minor parties and business interests would dominate the general election.

Dan Meek said the Independent Party platform focused on anti corruption and that election reform was a major part of the anti corruption efforts. Meek said that the inability of non affiliated voters to participate in the May primary would be addressed by 2016. By that date, according to Meek, the IPO would have reached major party status and participate in the May primary along with the Democratic and Republican parties. The IPO intended to allow non affiliated voters to participate in IPO primary elections. Given the growth of the IPO and non affiliated voters, and the decrease in GOP membership, it’s likely an open IPO primary would have more eligible voters than the GOP primary. (NOTE: Shortly after the conference the IPO formally endorsed M-90)

The next main session was a debate on Measure 90 between proponents Chief Petitioner Jim Kelly, and co draftsperson Mark Frohnmayer and opponents Rep. Phil Barnhart and Lane County Democratic Chair Julie Fahey. There were two memorable things from the debate. First, Barnharts continued refusal to answer questions he finds difficult. He simply labels them red herrings. And Second, Barnhart revealed that Democrat Rep. Val Hoyle was drafting a Democratic Party election change that would allow non affiliated voters to participate in the May primary election. They would simply have to request a Democratic of Republican ballot and wouldn’t be required to change party affiliation. This is actually a more restrictive type of semi open primary.

While the Hoyle proposal is a concession to voters unhappiness with Oregon’s closed primary, it’s worth noting that in New Hampshire, the only legally recognized political parties are the Democratic and Republican. How any election changes based on a State where the election laws have resulted in only two legally recognized political parties can fairly be characterized as “reform” I’d like explained to me. (1)

Some observations/comments: (more…)

Doctor pulls the plug

harris ROBERT


Dr. Monica Wehby is a smart person.

While we speculated that her campaign going dark in July and August was a strategy to let things die down before a big post labor day push, it could alsoWehby v Merkley have been her exercising her discretion to let things play out during the summer and see how things the polling looked in September. Sort of like filling a patient full of antibiotics and seeing how they deal with the infection before taking more serious measures.

Her training makes her analytical, weighing the options, determining the cost and possible outcomes, and not prone to taking courses of action that are expensive yet likely to lead to undesirable results.

She also isn’t a career politician, while that’s a good thing in many ways, it also means she doesn’t have a much to lose by quickly ceding an election she can’t win. A “strong showing” is meaningless to someone who isn’t interested in running for office again.

This week Dr. Wehby didn’t show up for the Willamette Week candidate interview. Her campaign also refused a televised debate between her and Sen. Merkley sponsored by KGW and the Oregonina. The type of even that a candidate like her would beg to feature. But debates and joint appearances take prep time, and while I don’t doubt she could handle the debate with Sen. Merkley if she prepared well, debates are challenging and uncomfortable.

This all leads to one conclusion. She just isn’t into it anymore. She’s minimizing her energy. Maybe making appearances at the local Chambers of commerce, or glad handing at community events. An investment of time at friendly events, but not much psychic energy or putting herself into situations that are uncomfortably confrontational. She’s a short timer in politics and she wants to spend time and energy on thing that matter to her. Her patients and her practice.

If correct, her course of actions is a rational one for a non politician. This is the exact reason why the OR GOP would have been better off with Jason Conger as it’s nominee. This was always going to be a difficult pick up for the GOP. Back in April, we argued that a Conger losing candidacy would be better than a Wehby losing candidacy for the OR GOP. If a loss was inevitable, at least Conger would have a reason to fight to the end. He’d want to build on this campaign and seen as a tested candidate with a ground game and volunteer base to make a run for statewide race in the future. While if Dr. Wehby lost, she would likely fade from the scene and not leave any guiding philosophy or infrastructure for the GOP to use going forward.

At this point, it appears Dr. Wehby may be fading from the scene even before the election. A rational decision by a trained decision maker. And frankly, one many of us would make as well given today’s politics.

A failure of consideration

harris ROBERT


When there is a mutually bargained for exchange for value, and one side is unable to deliver the promised value, in legal terms it’s called a failure of consideration.

What should be done if the Oregon Supreme Court overturns the PERS reforms that were part of the 2013 Legislaure’s “Grand Bargain” ?

In 2013, the State faced a budget crisis. State retirement costs were taking an ever increasing part of State and local budgets and Oregon education spending was losing ground and we continued to dwell in the bottom third of all states in per student spending. The solution was the Grand Bargain. The key elements of the deal were:

PERS changes. Reduce COLA’s, remove future legislators from coverage. (and other fixes)
Taxes: increase taxes on higher income Oregonians and eliminate the special medical tax deduction for higher income seniors. Increase cigarette taxes. Decrease taxes for pass through (S-Corp and LLC) business owners
Eliminate the power of local entities to regulate GMO’s
One time spending bump for schools

The GMO bill was a pay off for someone and not a key to the bargain. The key bargain- or exchange of consideration – between the Democrats and the Republicans was the trade off between PERS changes and taxes. And the key result was the school spending bump.

Immediately after the Grand Bargain was passed, the PERS changes were challenged in court. The challenge was fast tracked to the Oregon Supreme Court. All briefing was to be complete by early September and arguments are to be heard in October 2014. Unfortunately, the Oregon Supreme Court will not be able to issue an opinion before the November election.

But what if the Courts strike some or all of the PERS changes? If it does, the Legislature will have to address the huge gap the Court will have blown in the budget. (more…)

Is Starr race a dead heat?

harris ROBERT


Last week Chuck Riley was busy working the phones telling voters and supporters that his campaign’s internal polling showed a dead heat between he and Sen. Bruce Starr for SD-15 in Washington County.

Riley lost to Starr in 2010 in SD-15 by 4.5% – or 1,849 votes. The 2014 match up features the same candidates while the Democratic voter edge in SD-15 has actually decreased. So how can the Riley camp be optimistic? Because Senate District 15 will feature Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchell-Markley.

Ms. Mitchell-Markley is an attorney and a member of the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors. A not insignificant position. She is also married to Kyle Markley, Libertarian candidate in House District 30. Kyle Markley also ran for HD-30 in 2012 and was blamed by some Republicans for the defeat of HD-30 Republican incumbent Shawn Lindsay. Mr. Markley received 1,441 votes in 2012 and Lindsay ended up losing to Joe Gallegos by less than 1,200 votes.

However, there are some big difference between the HD-30 2012 race and this years SD-15 race.

In 2012 Kyle Markley ran a vigorous race. This election Caitlin Mitchell-Markley didn’t put a statement in the voters pamphlet and has raised less than $1,000 dollars. And, while Shawn Lindsay was a first term Representative Bruce Starr has been a high profile State Senator and Representative for over a decade. He has much better name familiarity, and deeper roots in the community, than Shawn Lindsay.

Dead heat? Yes, I can see a poll result with Starr holding a 3%- 4% margin advantage being within the margin of error and therefore a “dead heat”. Riley and Starr ran against each other last time and it was close. But While Ms. Mitchell-Markley’s name on the ballot will make some difference, with her less active campaign she won’t get the number of votes Kyle Markley was able to attract in 2010. And combined with the fact that the Democratic voter edge has compressed since 2010, and the familiarity of these two candidates, it means we’re likely to see a repeat of the 2010 election.

Unless that is . . . some dark money independent expenditure group decides to help out Ms. Mitchell-Markley with her campaign.

And a point on Measure 90 may be in order here. If 90 were in effect for 2014, the November race would feature Starr and Riley, with Mitchell-Markley knocked out in May. Instead we’ve got a general election with a Libertarian who has no chance of winning on the November ballot who could effectively “spoil” the election for the preferred candidate. The point being there is a cost to always allowing non viable minor party candidates on the general election ballot rather than requiring them to compete in a preliminary election.

A Kansas lesson for Oregon Republicans?

harris ROBERT


Independent candidate Greg Orman (Kansas) has just received a huge boost in his race for US Senate in heavily Republican Kansas.

Democratic nominee Chad Taylor dropped out of the election leaving independent Orman to face Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts in November.

The key takeaway from this for Oregon Republicans should be that in a jurisdiction tilted heavily towards one major party, the smaller major party can strategically choose not to field a candidate if there is a viable moderate in the race. And good things will happen.

In a Multnomah County State House race a moderate independent would likely outperform a Republican candidate. If nothing else this would force the Multnomah County Democrats to spend on their own general elections and prevent the leadership from shipping their campaign treasuries off to swing districts.

There is current precedent in Oregon. But it’s the Democratic Party who “got it”.

Democrat Ryan Howard was set to run in heavily Republican Oregon House District 25 (Yamhill Co). But once Independent Party member Chuck Lee entered the race, Howard switched and is running against Republican Kim Thatcher for Senate District 13, which isn’t quite as Republican. Chuck Lee won the Independent Party nomination and won the Democratic write in vote and will be one on one against Republican nominee and very conservative talk show host Bill Post. (more…)

More IPO candidates ahead?

harris ROBERT


Under Independent Party of Oregon rules, the nominating caucus may fill vacancies for any elective position.

Following the July online primary vote which nominated numerous candidates to office, The IPO has declared several House and Senate positions vacant. These seats are ones where no candidate applied, or was qualified by the caucus. Applicants have until August 15th, 2014 to apply.

IPO leaders indicate that they are particularly interested in candidates in districts where currently only one major party candidate will be appearing on the November general election ballot.

They say that in heavily gerrymandered districts where the winner of the dominant party primary is the presumptive winner in November, an independent candidate would offer independents, voters from the non dominant party, and even moderate voters of the dominant party, more choices.

Two of one party in November?

harris ROBERT


Critics of Oregon’s proposed top two open primary say one weakness is that in some districts the top two who advance to the general election may be from the same party. A report from the Independent Voter Network, takes a look at California Senate District 28, where two Republicans advanced onto the November general election.

Their conclusion? It’s a good thing. With Republican voters making up just 40% of the voters in SD-28, it means that the two Republican finalists will now be forced to appeal not just to Republican primary voters, but to all voters. This has caused the candidates to minimize ideology and focus on local issues that matter to more voters.

Wedge issues aren’t nearly as effective when you have two candidates from the same party.

Frankly, all the wailing that a top two open primary will occasionally result in two Republicans or two Democrats taking the top two spots is a red herring. In fact, it’s one of the strengths of the proposal.

In Oregon, under the current closed primary system heavily Democratic or Republican districts produce a single candidate in November. In 20 of the 60 Oregon House races this November voters will get one major party candidate to vote for. In the 66 Oregon Senate seats up for election, 6 of them will likewise feature one major party candidate. Over one third of Oregon’s Legislature is basically uncontested and features a single major party candidate.

At least under the open primary system there’s a likelihood that these 26 races would feature two major party candidates, even if they are from the same party. This would give voters a choice. And for candidates in heavily R or D districts, they couldn’t just pander to either the public employee unions leaders or the Chamber of Commerce in their respective primaries and then prepare for their coronation in November.

When Our Oregon supporter or a tea party member claims that a top two open primary may result in two Democrats or two Republicans advancing to the November ballot. Say…GREAT! That doubles voter choice of major party candidates in a third of our Legislative districts.

Note: This isn’t an endorsement of the open primary initiative, on which I’m undecided. It is a critique of the Democratic and Republican hypocrisy in their criticism that the open primary reduces choices.