Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Caving in on principles

UPDATE: please read this post in conjunction with what I wrote below.

From today's Oregonian, we learn that abortion is an issue in the Republican gubernatorial primary. We also learn that Kevin Mannix is trumpeting his endorsement from Oregon Right to Life (ORTL).

No surprise in either case. Abortion is frequently an issue in politics, and Mannix has every right to use that endorsement to his advantage. What surprised me was how Ron Saxton impacted the ORTL endorsement process, and what it says about ORTL. Yes, I mean it the way I said it -- Saxton impacted ORTL, not so much the other way around, and (from my perspective) not for the good.

In 2002, Saxton shrugged off ORTL. As the story in the O indicates, Saxton didn't even bother filling out the ORTL questionnaire. (According to Northwest Republican, Saxton said in 2002 that he would oppose limitations on abortion, including partial-birth abortion.) As a result, not only did ORTL endorse Kevin Mannix for governor, but it actively opposed Saxton. One could argue that Mannix had a built-in advantage because he was the only pro-life candidate among he, Saxton and Jack Roberts, but regardless, Mannix won and Saxton was third.

This year, ORTL acknowledged that Jason Atkinson was a solid pro-life candidate, but the endorsement again went to Mannix because ORTL felt he had a better organization and a greater chance of winning the primary. However, Saxton apparently learned a lesson from '02. He knows his pro-choice position hurt him in the primary, and he wanted to make sure that didn't happen in '06. Even though he had to know he wouldn't get the endorsement, he met with the organization this year and (while maintaining that he is essentially pro-choice) pledged to sign pro-life legislation on partial-birth abortion, parental notice, and informed consent/waiting periods.

And because of that, ORTL decided it wouldn't fight so hard in the 2006 primary because "We were afraid of him winning" in 2002, Atteberry said of Saxton in the Oregonian story. "We're not afraid of him this time." Atteberry taped a message for Mannix to use in a phone campaign, but said her organization is not putting as much money into this year's race for governor.

So essentially, pro-choice Ron Saxton told Atteberry just enough to get Oregon Right to Life to go easy on him.

One could argue that ORTL is making a conscious choice to be a positive player in Oregon politics, and I would count that in their favor -- after all, one of the things I like about Jason Atkinson is that he's refusing to stoop to negative campaigns while his opponents are flinging mud.

But I guess I question the priorities of Oregon Right to Life when they give Ron Saxton a pass. They seem to essentially say, despite the fact that Saxton is pro-choice and others have raised multiple questions about his position on pro-life issues over the years, they will support him should he beat the pro-life candidates. They are essentially saying, "Ah, he's not that bad," because he threw a bone to them.

That's a position to take in the general election, not in the primary. The primary is the time to make clear the distinctions among Republican candidates who are asking for the votes (and the cash) of Republican voters, many of them pro-life.

If Oregon Right to Life is a pro-life organization (and I know they are because -- full disclosure -- my family is a financial supporter of the organization), then it needs to do everything possible to promote pro-life causes. That includes endorsing the candidate who they feel is the strongest ally to their cause, but it also includes explaining in specific terms why the other candidates are not preferable. In my opinion, by leaving the pro-life Atkinson out to dry and ignoring the pro-choice Saxton, they are allowing politics to hold priority over principles. They are tacitly giving Saxton their approval.

Don't get me wrong -- I tend to be a pragmatic voter. I understand the urge to vote for the person who seems most likely to win. But I'm not sure Oregon Right to Life, which is funded by people who believe strongly enough in pro-life issues to lighten their own pocketbooks, is in a position to be that pragmatic. Their role should be to promote the pro-life perspective, and ignoring Ron Saxton because he says he'll do things a little bit differently than he's indicated in the past is like handing your wallet to a convicted thief and believing him when he says he won't steal your cash. Maybe he won't, but that's the sort of thing that needs a little more proof prior to extending that sort of trust.

I saw an interesting story in yesterday's Los Angeles Times that provides another clue into ORTL's thinking. The story talks about the fact that the Sierra Club has been so prolific in handing out endorsements -- it's supporting both Democratic candidates for California governor -- that the endorsements have become almost meaningless. The multiple endorsements demonstrate, the story said, that advocacy groups and unions are more interested in earning favor with candidates than in providing voters with useful guidance.
"It really is about not wanting to annoy someone who might win," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento. "They don't want to make enemies for their future efforts. But I don't think it's a valuable thing for a voter."
Obviously, this is different than the situation in Oregon -- Oregon Right to Life has endorsed one candidate -- but I think Barbara O'Connor's comment is applicable to this race: Oregon Right to Life doesn't want to annoy Ron Saxton in case he wins.

Unfortunately, that means giving Saxton a pass, and hoping he doesn't steal our figurative wallets.


  • At 5/03/2006 1:31 PM, Anonymous Gullyborg said…

    I suppose next thing you know, ORTL will go out of its way not to upset Ted Kulonogski. You know, in case he wins the election.

    ORTL is not an organization worthy of respect. They care more about raising money and sharing political power than they care about actually stopping abortion.

    Remember, if all abortions were ended tomorrow, ORTL would stop getting money from concerned pro-life voters...

  • At 5/03/2006 4:04 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello someday things have to be about principal not Money or political power But principal and Morals....
    Gods blessings

  • At 5/03/2006 9:44 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    good group in illinois
    Delivering the pro-life message

    Realwomensvoices_1 by Fran Eaton

    Last Wednesday, 46 U.S. Senators heard from home when a coalition of conservative women from 22 different states traveled to DC to urge support of three Senate bills: 1) the Child Custody Protection Act, 2) the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2005 and 3) the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act.

    (Seen in the photo to the right are IR Editor, Concerned Women for America's new President Wendy Wright, CWA-IL's acting State Director Karen Hayes, and Dr. Alveda King, now on staff at Priests for Life.)

    IR's editor shares her experience in delivering a prolife message to Illinois' U.S. Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin's offices. . .


    Our assignment was to convince our senators to support legislation that would make it a federal offense to transport a minor across statelines for an abortion. We were also to ask for their help in banning human cloning and requiring mothers be informed about the pain their unborn children will experience during an abortion.

    You can imagine how warmly the Illinois delegation of REAL Women's Voices was received by U.S. Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin's offices.

    Senator Obama had time only to shake our hands as he was whisked into the elevator with his posse'. If it wasn't for the gracious assistance of Dr. Alveda King (Martin Luther King's winsome niece) and two members of Democrats for Life, Obama's aide may not have endured the conversation.

    When Dr. King asked Obama's staffer if she was concerned about the destruction of their race's next generation, the staffer remained cold. When the Democrat for Life emphasized the public polling support for protecting minor girls from strangers taking them across state lines for abortions, she listened politely, but didn't comment. It was obvious that she, nor her boss, was open to the discussion. Nothing different from Obama's days in Springfield.

    When we visited Durbin's office, we were met by two associates. One was a staffer assigned to "reproductive rights" and cloning legislation. The staffer offered what she thought was a reasonable compromise proposed by Senator Feinstein -- one that would ban cloning that would result in a human baby but allow cloning that would result in a dead embryo. Interesting.

    Durbin's other designee serves as his counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He resisted the idea that "fetuses" (never "babies") felt pain before 20 weeks, information we were requesting be conveyed to expectant mothers before their abortions. Frankly, his comments gave me the most hope of any all day. It was immensely encouraging that Durbin's office rep had come to the realization that indeed, these "fetuses" "felt" something, making them little humans, or at the very least alive, not blobs, and with a capacity to "feel."

    With that, it was clear that the incremental approach in legislation was working. We are making progress with education and science in hand. Here, in the office of the Democratic Minority Whip who has sold his soul to the pro-death siren song, I was hearing these unborn babies may "feel" something, albeit when was debatable.

    I left Durbin's office wondering how anyone, even hard-hearted Dick Durbin, can defend abortion at any time realizing that sometime -- sometime during development -- those babies were "feeling" the unspeakable agony of being ripped apart, limb from limb.

    How can they so fiercely defend that "reproductive right"? How can they sleep at night?

    Even though the Democrats for Life with us ridiculed Republican majority for making promises to push through pro-life legislation and not successfully doing so in this session, a message from the tens of thousands of pro-life women in Illinois was carried once again to our pro-abortion U.S. Senators.

    Everyone should do it at least once in their lives.

  • At 5/03/2006 10:31 PM, Blogger I am Coyote said…

    I was at work today and could not do a post on ORTL.

    But you basically hit the nail on the head. I had an exchange all day with some friends of mine over at ORTL.

    My question: So you are comfortable not opposing a pro-abortion candidate?

    The response? "why don't you get mad at the folks on the tax side like Don McIntire?" So, I take that as a yes.

    Heavy sigh.

  • At 5/04/2006 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is ridiculous.

    The Oregonian is trying to downplay the importance of the ORTL endorsement, and take a shot at Kevin by reminding general election voters that he is pro life, which they do to he and Atkinson at every opportunity in debates or in their papers.

    But the ORTL endorsement is critical. Perry Atkinson admitted it, by saying that Jason's candidacy had been "aborted" by their endorsement of Kevin. What is he saying? Jason's candidacy was dead before it ever had a chance to breathe. Why? The power of the ORTL endorsement. So he and Jeff Mapes are basically saying that the articles' premise is completely wrong! Their endorsement is mighty!

    For him or anyone else to say that ORTL "abandoned its principles" or for ORTL's motives to be called into question here is outrageous and only calls THEIR dedication to the cause into question (he insinuates that endorsing someone over his son is an abandonment of pro-life principles? Pathetic!). They made a TACTICAL decision, saying they were confident that Saxton was not going to win this time, so they didn't have to spend as much time attacking him. Hello! Has anyone noticed they are keeping a relatively low profile this time so as to not be too much of an issue in the general election? Could THAT be why they are not doing a high profile campaign, so as not to become the issue?

    As for Atkinson's great support of the pro-life cause, yes he has been a solid vote...until this last year, of course, when he supported Kate Brown's "poison pill" to kill the Laci Peterson inspired legislation making it a crime to kill an unborn child. No, he didn't end up voting for it, but he mixed his bill with hers and voted it out of their committee, after which ORTL had to go take the Senate Republicans to school. Gee, do ya think this lack of judgment may have had something to do with their lack of an endorsement?

    I havent been hard on Atkinson in the last month or so because I thought this primary was getting too nasty and I let it cool off. But this hit on Right to Life is nothing but an attempt to marginalize a group that does great work on behalf of the unborn in this state, and I am not going to let Jason's supporters, from his dad on down, tarnish their good name in order to help the Oregonian marginalize their endorsement. Thats uncalled for and beyond the line for this primary. Just support your guy and let the best man win.


  • At 5/04/2006 7:07 AM, Blogger I am Coyote said…

    You need to call up and ask ORTL why they won't let the Mannix campaign use the endorsement against the pro-abortion candidate Ron Saxton.

    You need to ask ORTL why they are not going to spend any money to help elect their endorsed candidate defeat the admitted pro-abortion candidate Ron Saxton.

    This is not about Atkinson. This is about ORTL's cozy relationship with Ron Saxton.

  • At 5/04/2006 9:29 AM, Blogger Ken said…


    I agree that the endorsement is critical. Equally critical is that ORTL fights against candidates who conflict with the organization's goals.

    I can't decide if you're criticizing me or Perry Atkinson, as you confuse the two, but please don't question my dedication to the cause simply because I'm critical of ORTL on this issue. As I noted, my wife and I support the organization with some of our finances. But blind loyalty does not equate to dedication.

    If they made a tactical decision to ignore Saxton because they didn't think he could win, they are being foolishly hopeful. They are also saying, as I argued before, that Saxton's pro-choice position is not that big a deal because he pledged to bend in a couple of areas. That, in my opinion, is not staying true to the organization's principles or its supporters.

    Frankly, my post wasn't so much about Atkinson as it was about Saxton and ORTL. Was I disappointed that Atkinson didn't get the endorsement? Sure. But I don't fault ORTL for wanting to endorse one candidate or for choosing Mannix.

    I think ORTL made an impact because it convinced Saxton that he had to meet with the group this year, and make some concessions toward their cause. But they were so happy to have a slight impact that they didn't realize (or didn't care) they got worked by Saxton. They allowed themselves to be marginalized instead of fighting for the pro-life candidate in every manner possible.

    In no way is my post intended to "marginalize" the endorsement. It is intended to ask ORTL to think about what it means to fight for the unborn when involved in the political arena.

  • At 5/04/2006 3:22 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello Remember also that oregon right to life did say that they liked Atkinson so I don't understand why they didnt endorse Atkinson if they like him also.
    I got a copy of the christian voters guide from oregon family council and Atkinson was yes all away across the board was very Happy to see that of course that had to do with a close friend of mine I think John belgarde he does not question Senator Atkinson so Why should we.

  • At 5/04/2006 3:29 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello I believe that when you start questioning or asking questions on things or post like this it makes companys like oregon family council and oregon right to life be held more accountable it never hurts for groups like these to be held more accountable for what they are doing especially when it comes to issues such as Marriage between a man and or a women and the issue of valueing life

  • At 5/04/2006 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Taking unrelated information and piecing it together to support an already pre-conceived idea is not wise. Has anyone stopped to think that maybe ORTL isn't dumping a bunch of money in this governor's primary because they are in the middle of a parental notification ballot measure push? What about the idea that they took an edgy position of endorsing one prolife candidate over another because of the concern that if the prolife vote was split we could have pro-choice candidate Ron Saxton? Just because you may not agree with a decision or tactic, doesn't mean that all the people involved are a bunch of sellouts.

    Quit reading more into a situation than is warrented. This continual beating up the people we should be on the same team with is getting really, really old.


Post a Comment

<< Home