(Hopefully, that's not a play on a copyrighted phrase that will invite a nasty letter from my friendly neighborhood intellectual property lawyer.)
So I missed all fun this weekend. While I was taking the kids to swimming lessons, working on a project for the office, and sneaking off to go bowling with the Sunday school class, some
of my blogger friends
I haven't met, but still consider friends) were playing at the beach. At the Dorchester Conference
in Seaside, more specifically.
And what a time it was (or so it sounds). Most importantly, Jason Atkinson
came out of the weekend with a big boost. The final straw poll results for governor were:
Ron Saxton - 42% (162 votes)
Jason Atkinson – 39% (151 votes)
Kevin Mannix - 17% (64 votes)
Other - 2% (9 votes)
Yes, Ron Saxton won the poll. Considering the conference's proximity to Portland, and the fact that Dorchester typically draws from the more moderate wing of the Republican Party, this was not a surprise. The surprise was twofold: 1) Atkinson, who keeps getting mentioned as a conservative and has been working for this nomination over the last six months, came 11 votes away from beating a man who has been campaigning for this job for the last five years; and 2) Mannix, who would likely be governor today if not for a third-party candidate in 2002 and was considered the front-runner going into the race, finished third. Not just third, but a dismal, depressing (if you're Mannix), eye-opening third.
And we're still 72 days away from the primary.
So in (hopefully) true Carnival style, here's a roundup of impressions:
At Ridenbaugh Press, Randy Stapilus had a very even-handed review
of the event, and some very interesting reactions to the three candidates. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are some key points:Mannix:
. . . everyone already knows you, and, well, are voters getting tired of you? His response -- noting that Oregon has a history of defeating candidates for governor before electing them -- made coherent sense but may have fallen short as a convincer . . . Still, a lot of people there liked him, and there seemed to be some real affection growing out of his recent tenure as state party chair.
Later, after the straw poll, Stapilus noted, "Mannix came in a distant third; our thought is that his explanation of how his multiple losses can lead to a win now just didn’t satisfy."Atkinson
was asked about his "alternative" campaign approach, and whether that suggested a lack of money, organization or name familiarity:
Atkinson’s response to that was [ed: I think he meant "wasn't"] necessarily a great convincer, either. But Atkinson, though relatively new as a candidate on the statewide stage (and considerably younger than Saxton or Mannix) had something else: Major campaign skills and charisma, and a deft sense of addressing a broad audience. He easily had the strongest campaign skills of the three candidates, and you got the sense that if he loses this race, he could easily still go places in the years ahead.
There was another curiousity about Atkinson. Though he and his father (a former state Republican chair) have a long history of social and religious conservatism, not a smidgen of that was in evidence Friday - in fact, based on his appearance at Dorchester, you’d guess he was the most moderate of the three candidates.
Saxton, who Stapilus said sounded the most conservative even as he was being promoted as the most moderate, was asked this question:
In 2002 you ran against the PERS retirement fund issue, and this time against illegal aliens. Are you running the risk of having the Republican Party tagged as a group of blamers of unpopular groups? It was a great question (and one directly suggesting a Democratic strategy in response), and one Saxton didn’t ever quite answer - he said his criticisms were about failures of leadership rather than attacks on groups, which didn’t quite resolve the matter. Saxton had another problem: Probably in an attempt to very carefully walk a more conservative line this election than he did in 2002, while not abandoning the rationale of why he could still appeal to the great middle, he came across as bland. All that said, he still clearly has some of the mystique of the winner-that-might-have-been-last-time. The prospect is still tantalizing: Is this the guy who could do it?Several bloggers
noted the rumor that Saxton bused in supporters for the straw poll last year (in which he finished third behind Mannix and non-candidate Greg Walden), and was supposedly going to do the same this year, but word got out and he nixed the plan. A Mannix campaign spokesman was quoted by the AP
(and noted by Rino Watch
) as saying Saxton "packed the hall" with his supporters so they could vote for him in the straw poll.
By far, the best roundup of the whole weekend came from MAX Redline
, who had 13 different posts over the weekend. Here's my favorite quote from him:
. . . I've never been involved in politics at all. Like most of you, I imagine, I've voted - but it's always been a matter of pinching my nose and selecting the candidate I thought smelled the least. For me, that all changed when I encountered Jason Atkinson.
I'd always thought, "politicians are all just lawyers and snake-oil salesmen". And then, I somehow ran across Atkinson. A guy with business experience and a desire not to be your governor, but to serve as governor. A guy who really seems to speak from the heart, not from what the cue-cards in the acting classes that they make lawyers take. And yes, Saxton and Mannix both come across as caring guys when you bump into them - but they're both lawyers. They got the training. Atkinson just seems more real. Meet them all once, at least, and talk briefly with them before you decide.
At Resistance is Futile
, Gullyborg makes a prediction
: by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Mannix will drop out of the governor's race and endorse Atkinson. If so, the next question is: will Mannix run
for the Oregon Supreme Court instead?Capitol 3 Republicans
has some nice photos
of the event, including a few of the bloggers listed here.
Michael Smith from Corvallis, who is a moderate Republican running for president in 2008, has some interesting reactions
to the event, starting with the meaning behind the straw poll: "It’s probably only an indication of each camp’s ability to fill a venue in Seaside." As a self-described moderate, it's no surprise that it sounds like Smith is leaning toward Saxton because of a "good balance of business/organizational experience and creative ideas," he said. "I think he can bring focus to Oregon’s challenges and doesn’t carry as much of the right’s social agenda that might alienate a state-wide constituency."
(Is he talking about the Ron Saxton who was in favor of abortion rights before he was against partial-birth abortion? Or maybe the one who was against illegal immigration before supporting a guest worker program? Or perhaps the one who supported tax increases before he opposed them?)
Regarding Mannix, Smith echoes the observation of Ridenbaugh Press, saying he was "turned off" by the argument that people should support Mannix because he was so close before. "The argument can be reversed to say the people have spoken twice, now move on," he said.
Smith claims he's still considering Atkinson, while expressing concern over the "zealousness" of his supporters, and linking that somewhat negatively to Atkinson's Christian faith. What Smith calls zealousness, I call excitement. It's not too often that a political candidate inspires such a thing.
I'll finish with the Oregon Catalyst
blog. The OC's coverage of the event was good because it showed the strength of the Blogosphere: real-time reporting. But the thing that caught my eye was a comment
at the end of a post titled, "Who won the Dorchester debate?
" Here's "Leyla" on why she voted for Atkinson in the straw poll:
Disclaimer: While I voted for Atkinson in the straw poll, I was undecided at the debate - leaning toward Saxton or Atkinson.
Five bucks says the Mannix campaign sent their volunteers to the OregonCatalyst booth at Dorchester to blog that he won the debate.
Said volunteers, by the way, are wrong.
By my count, and the current and former elected officials and operatives sitting around me (even those who have endorsed Saxton) agree with me, Atkinson won four out of five questions. Saxton won one. In case you were counting, that means Mannix won none.
I was still undecided while sitting at my table this morning, looking at my ballot. The mics were open and Saxton's supporters were doing a good job of talking up their candidate. Atkinson was at my table, and I was watching him for his reaction. For most of the open mic time, he was pretty laid back, talking with the people at the table and laughing at the jokes of those speaking. Then, during a barrage of Saxton-supporting comments, he looked down, and I could tell he was worried. The next minute, he looked around the table and held up his hands.
They were shaking.
It was the most personal display of emotion and caring that I had witnessed from any of the candidates.
Atkinson cares. He connects with audiences - and you can tell he means what he says. He's not making any bold promises about what he's going to do as governor, because he knows it's not easy to capitalize on those promises given the current political situation in Salem.
I voted for Atkinson because he doesn't want to be a politican - but he believes he can make a difference, and I think he can.
That says it all. You can call it touchy-feely if you want, but if you don't believe the word of a candidate, there's no point in ad nauseum policy proposals.