Eugene Weekly : Insider Baseball : 5.8.08

‘Electability,’ Dang It!
Obama fervor will carry over to local races

Anytime you turn a verb or an adjective into a noun, you got some ‘splainin’ to do, especially if you’re Irish. “Electability” usually means you’re so friggin’ angry and cynical that you’ve set your standards very low in the upcoming primary: any Democrat that can win. I like Barack Obama; I’ll tolerate Hillary Clinton — just show me a damn candidate that can beat McCain the Militant.

But this primary and the general election is about so much more than the presidency. Here in Oregon, it’s about thousands of nonaffiliated voters and Republicans re-registering to vote in the Democratic primary. More importantly, this time around it’s about the hearts and minds of young folks registering to vote in droves for Obama. As local Democratic activist George Greer points out: We haven’t seen such excitement since the candidacy of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. The Bush war criminals have pushed us too far; they’ve tarnished America’s good name with their preemptive war and their torture; the electorate is pissed and paying attention.

A record 2.2 million ballots went out for Oregon’s May 20 primary. In Lane County, 10 percent of registered voters have changed their affiliation for this election cycle. Over on the east side, Oregon House District 54 in Deschutes County has switched from a Republican majority to a Democratic one! Go, Bend!

Voter turnout is expected to be high in the primary and in the general, and I’m very hopeful the presidential frenzy will help some candidates down the ticket. The one’s that really stick out here in Lane County are:

U.S. Senate: This is another “electability” race. Who has the best chance of unseating Gordon “I’m-a-Bush-Republican-Most-of-the-Time” Smith? Steve Novick or Jeff Merkley? There’s no doubt in my mind that Novick has a much better chance to defeat Smith in the general election.

Oregon Secretary of State: It’s a three-way race in the Democratic primary, now that Senator Brad Avakian left for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Kate Brown should probably benefit the most from a good progressive turnout, as she faces Rick Metzger and Vicki Walker. Both Metzger and Walker are mid-term Oregon senators, while Brown gave up her Senate seat to run.

Oregon Attorney General: Politics makes strange bedfellows, but never as kinky as these two. John Kroger, a law-and-order “Eliot Spitzer” prosecutor who supports Kevin Mannix’s horrible Measure 11, received $150,000 from one public sector union. Why? Because his opponent, Greg MacPherson, had the political courage to support the reform of PERS. Today, due in part to those reforms, PERS is healthy and viable, and cities and counties aren’t having to take out loans to finance benefits. MacPherson is highly respected by his colleagues; he is principled and bright. His father, Hector, is the father of our seminal 1971 land use planning legislation in Oregon.

Mayor of Eugene: Jim “I’m-Still-a-Republican” Torrey must be defeated. He and his developer gang, who’ve held Eugene’s pockmarked downtown hostage for public tax breaks, have made this a personal attack against current Mayor Kitty Piercy. I had to laugh when Torrey was quoted as saying he was “worried” about Eugene’s future. He should be; it was under his leadership that the Connor/Wooley/Asterholes tore up downtown in the first place!

Piercy can’t afford to face Torrey in the general election; he’s got too much money from his rich friends. Piercy has to get 51 percent in the primary, and she should benefit from progressive turnout.

Eugene City Council: Andrea Ortiz should also be helped by progressive turnout in the primary election. Like Piercy, Ortiz is facing another well-financed developer stooge, John Crane.

Lane County Commissioner: I’m neutral in this race. I’ve known Bobby Green for years. He’s a good man who has not always voted correctly, but his courageous vote on the county income tax earned my respect. Having said that, Rob Handy will probably benefit the most from a progressive turnout in the primary.

There are many other contested primaries across the state that will be affected by a strong progressive turnout. Up north, Steve Marks should benefit against Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary for Darlene Hooley’s 5th Congressional District. Sam Adams will be helped against Sho Dozono in the Portland mayor’s race.

There is so much at stake in this election cycle, here in Oregon and across the country. Progressives are banking on Obama’s electability; I’m banking on his multiplier effect in these other important races. Remember: Vote early; vote often!


Tony Corcoran is a member of the state Employment Appeals Board and co-founder of the Hot Air Society of South Lane, Eugene, and Springfield (HASSLES). The views expressed herein are those of a private citizen of Oregon.