Upper Left Coast

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Saxton wins. Saxton wins. Saxton wins...

OK, so sue me. I'm not excited about Ron Saxton.

But there are a few interesting thoughts (interesting to me, at least) rattling around in my head this morning that surprise me.

I think Jason Atkinson's third-place finish demonstrates the importance of name recognition. I believe many of the people who supported Atkinson did so because, when they were exposed to him and his ideas, they were excited about the new face of Oregon conservatism and the energy it could provide to the state. He just couldn't get his face in front of enough people to overcome the name recognition that Kevin Mannix and Saxton had from the '02 campaign, not to mention Mannix's stint in the state GOP and Saxton's mug on KATU. That translated into dollars, or a lack thereof.

For Atkinson to do as well as he did in spite of his name recognition and fundraising says he is something special, and will have an important impact on the future of Oregon Republican politics.

While I am saddened that Atkinson finished where he did, I find myself relieved that Mannix did not win. Do I have some animosity toward Mannix? No. Do I think Saxton would be a better governor than Mannix? Not necessarily. But I think a Mannix-Kulongoski rematch would have guaranteed four more years of Teddy K. Sorry, Kevin -- I appreciate the efforts you've made toward bettering the state, but I think your time is up. Your name recognition is now a detriment.

While I'm not excited about Saxton's victory, I'm also not in despair. Saxton sounded some good themes in this campaign, and if he holds to those themes, I will support him. There are several people who supported Saxton who have my respect -- people like Rob Kremer and Dave Reinhard -- and I am willing to give Saxton further consideration out of respect for them.

Despite his inaccurate diss on Atkinson ("he has neither a record nor an agenda -- he's all young attitude"), there was one thing Reinhard said in his Sunday column that stood out for me. He said, "I'll confess. I once feared Saxton was a Portland liberal -- or, at least, a RINO (Republican in name only). But that was before I met him."

As I said above, Atkinson earned his support (including mine) because when people met him and heard him, they were excited about him. I have met Atkinson. I have met Mannix. I have not met Saxton. So when someone of Reinhard's stature says they held some of the same fears I held, but those fears were alleviated by speaking with Saxton, that means one of two things: either Reinhard (and Kremer and a host of others) are easily duped by Saxton, or he's more impressive in person. And I'm willing to give that due consideration.

However, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Saxton is much more, um, moderate than his '06 campaign would suggest. From his last-minute emphasis on capital gains tax relief to his sudden hardline stance on immigration, Saxton paints himself as a political opportunist, swaying whichever way the political winds are blowing. He has also held more liberal policy positions in the past. It is for those reasons that I approach any support for Saxton with some hesitation; I will be listening to Saxton throughout the summer and fall to see if he's really a conservative or if he's been blowing platitudes up our rear-ends.

If it's the latter, I may consider supporting Ben Westlund (assuming he gets on the ballot), but it will be a tougher sell -- Westlund supports universal health care, same-sex marriage and a sales tax, and while I recognize the need to address health care and the tax situation in Oregon, his positions don't impress me.

In the wake of Saxton's victory, some conservatives are already lining up against Saxton for this reason or that one, including some people I respect. I can respect some of their reasons, but there's one that I cannot quite grasp: because he has held more liberal positions in the past, he presents too big a risk that he'll turn into a liberal once in office. I'd rather, they say, support someone I know will be a liberal (Kulongoski) than someone who might end up promoting some liberal positions.

Even assuming that Saxton is the Portland liberal so many fear, do you really think Saxton would be more liberal than Kulongoski? If you believe that, you need to refill the prescription on your meds. Is he going to pull left in the upcoming campaign in order to appear more moderate? Of course. Despite his insistence that he's always held the same position on the political spectrum, no one else believes that -- maybe not even Saxton. But he'd have to pull hard left to match up with Teddy K.

But hoping that Kulongoski wins in order to "teach those impure Republican conservatives a lesson" is insane. The whole reason our state is adrift is because of more than two decades of Democratic "leadership" in the governor's mansion; those who argue that four more years of a Democrat is preferable because the Republican alternative isn't "pure enough" are, quite simply, in need of a reality check.

Will a Gov. Ron Saxton be a consistent voice of conservatism? I doubt it. But if it comes down to a Democrat who will consistently oppose our principles vs. a Republican who will likely support some of our principles, it's no contest. I will support a wobbly Republican over a consistently-liberal Democrat any day.

To November we go.


  • At 5/17/2006 6:08 PM, Blogger MAX Redline said…

    Jason ran an excellent campaign; never once slung mud at his opponents, and stayed true to his principles. And to be able to pull in 22% on a shoestring budget really says something, as Saxton spent around $2 million to garner 42%.

    Good post!


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