Tuesday, April 25, 2006

2006 Endorsements

Gentle Reader(s), Oregon's 2006 primary election is coming up May 16th, and mail-in ballots should be going out within the next few days. Here's the online version of the Voters' Guide, in case you didn't get one, or don't want to get cheap newsprint ink all over your fingers reading the dead-tree version. The online guide for Multnomah County races is here.

So it's time for my all-important, much-coveted Cyclotram Endorsements '06. Because nothing matters more than the fickle zeitgeist of the blogosphere. And because "I endorse X" sounds so much fancier than "I'm voting for X".

I don't normally believe in or practice protest voting. Now and then, though, there's a situation where I just can't bring myself to vote for the safe incumbent when a halfway reasonable alternative exists. There are an unusual number of these this time around.

I've ranted on several occasions about Gov. Kulongoski being a useless bozo. In the 2002 primary I voted for Jim Hill, but the Hill campaign this time around has been deeply unimpressive. He jumped into the race very late, for what seem like purely opportunistic reasons, and his campaign so far has been pretty weak and disorganized. As far as I can tell, the only reason he's running is because the incumbent looks vulnerable. If Vicki Walker or John Kitzhaber were running, I could vote for either of them, but they aren't running. If Walker was running, I'd probably donate and volunteer, things I basically never do for anyone. Meanwhile, Pete Sorenson doesn't have a lot of money or name recognition, but he's right on the issues, and he's actually in the race, so I'm voting for him this time around.

I can't bring myself to vote for David Wu either. Unlike Ted, it doesn't come down to issues or competence. He didn't jump on the Iraq war bandwagon back when it was popular, and he's even cosponsoring an impeachment resolution against GWB, so it's not that. And he's a Democrat in an ultra-partisan Republican Congress, so you have to have reasonable expectations about what he's going to get done in DC other than reliably voting against the crazy/evil stuff they keep passing.

You can argue whether Wu's 1976 assault case at Stanford is relevant or not. For me, it was just the last straw. The guy's always rubbed me the wrong way, and has always struck me as just another oily, donor-friendly career politician. I don't know what I'm going to do in the general election yet, but in the primary I'm going to vote for Alexa Lewis instead. If enough of us do, we'll actually be doing Wu a favor -- he can turn right around and get himself a nice cozy job as an insider beltway lobbyist, with a big paycheck to match.

And then there's the Multnomah County Sheriff's race. Sheriff Bernie Giusto is a liability for a lot of reasons. First off, I'm sick of the political gamesmanship and constant fighting with the county commission over money and jail beds. No, I don't know where the money's going to come from, but I'm certain the county's financial woes won't be solved by the everyone-in-a-room-screaming approach. And then there's the fact that Bernie's a longtime member of the Goldschmidt mafia. He absolutely must have known about Neil's so-called "affair" with that 14 year old, and he did nothing, even though he was a law enforcement officer at the time, and had direct knowledge of a felony being committed. That would be more than enough reason to vote against him all by itself.

Donald L. DuPay is the other candidate on the ballot, and a serious write-in campaign is happening on behalf of a third candidate, Paul Van Orden. Either would be a better sheriff than the current guy. It just stands to reason. Right now I'm leaning towards the write-in candidate, although I appreciate DuPay's concerns about the new uniforms the county's adopted. From his Voters' Guide statement:

I have watched the increasing militarization of the police with great dismay. The unfortunate image of the police in the publics mind is a bald head, a jump suit and jack boots. I want to change it. Citizens don't want soldiers they want police. It wasn't that way when I worked the streets in the 60's, and it doesn't need to be that way today. It contributes to the “we/they” disparity between the police and the folks they police! The swat team has a place, but every deputy doesn't need to look like GI joe.

That's not a trivial concern. It's an outward sign of the department's culture. If they dress like soldiers, they'll probably act like soldiers, too. Of all the things this county needs, an occupying army is not one of them.

And then we come to two races where the main challenger is even more of an "establishment" candidate than the incumbent. It would be really easy to vote against Diane Linn. The petty bickering at the county commission is pretty disgusting, and everyone on the commission deserves a share of the blame for that. The more I read about Ted Wheeler, the main challenger (including here and here), the more suspicious I am. He hasn't been a registered Republican since 2001, but my gut feeling is that the guy's more conservative than he's letting on, and we wouldn't find out just how much until after the election. If he was running for, say, state treasurer, I'd give the guy serious consideration, but it just doesn't seem to me like he's a good fit for the county job. Still, this is about the toughest call of anything on the ballot.

The race for Portland City Council position #2 is a much easier call. Everyone knows Ginny Burdick is running against Erik Sten for one reason, and one reason only. Certain rich, well-connected insiders absolutely hate public campaign financing. They hate it because they're afraid it'll work, and they'll lose the disproportionate influence they hold over city hall. They tried to get rid of it by referendum, but that failed. So now they've bought themselves a candidate in the council race. They managed to find someone who has impeccable liberal bonafides, and yet is eager to do their bidding and cater to their every whim. If you're sick and tired of the city doing sweetheart deals with greedy developers and handing out tax breaks like candy to big campaign contributors, I doubt Burdick is the candidate for you. If you're really still holding a grudge against Sten over the water bureau billing system thing from a few years back, feel free to vote for one of the other non-Burdick candidates. Maybe not Emilie Boyles, although you have to admit that would be an entertaining circus. Do that if you like, but I'm voting for Sten.

In contrast, I actually have no opinion about the other council race. Dan Saltzman? Amanda Fritz? In the end I may just flip a coin and see what happens.

If you'd like to express your unhappiness with the county commission, there's a perfect opportunity on the ballot. I'm talking about measure 26-78, which just renumbers a few sections in the county charter. Whether it passes or not, nothing bad will actually happen. No schools will close, nobody gets let out of jail early.
The commissioners' explanatory statement reads like they're rather miffed they have to go to the voters to get this approved. They start out by saying "This is a housekeeping amendment", and while that may be true, it just seems like a needlessly condescending way to put it. So put that rubber stamp away, and vote NO on 26-78.

Finally, the most interesting race in the state is one I can't vote in. The Republican primary for governor is a three ring circus. As a Democrat, I'd like to encourage the Republicans to continue with their hallowed tradition of nominating whoever's the most extreme wingnut in the primary. I'm actually having trouble figuring out who that is this time around. Kevin Mannix is obviously a wingnut, the same wingnut who got creamed in 2002. Jason Atkinson is more wing, less nut. Ron Saxton's the real enigma. In 2002 he seemed like the party's token moderate, pro-business, non-fundie-Taliban type, someone who might be electable for a change, so naturally the R's picked Mannix instead. This time around Saxton's lecturing everyone within earshot about how incredibly religious he is, and bashing immigrants every chance he gets. I'm sure this is tasty red meat for Republican primary voters, and maybe he's got a chance -- if he can convince them he's for real, anyway. For my part, after this performance in the primary, there's absolutely no way I'm voting for the guy in November. Even if he's faking the wingnut stuff. He used to be chair of the Portland school board, but now when he debates the other guys, he's not even willing to take a stand against creationism in the schools. Just yet another unprincipled career politician.

If somehow I woke up tomorrow morning and I was registered as a Republican for some reason, I'd vote for one of the lesser-known candidates, Bill Spidal. He describes himself as a liberal Republican, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and against the war in Iraq. These are considered fringe positions in the Oregon Republican Party these days, but it wasn't always so. As recently as the late 1980s he'd have fit snugly into the party's mainstream. Since then the religious right has been hugely successful at driving everyone else out of the party, and they haven't won a single race for governor since then. I know a fair number of people who re-registered as independents after deciding the Republican party no longer stood for what they believed in.

This concerns me as a Democrat because the absence of viable competition means that the top jobs keep getting filled by lazy, incompetent third-rate Democrats, like Kulongoski for example. They know that no matter how much they screw up, they'll be facing some crazy black-helicopter/flat-earth medieval nutjob in the general election, and it'll be a cakewalk to victory. Don't get me wrong, I want the D's to keep winning, I just want them to have to worry about it a little bit more.


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