Radiant Art is Back

OK, enough about Oregon’s February legislative session. Nothing happened except the minimum wage increased and Oregon banned coal as an energy source. Democrats bragged about those issues and about fixing Portland’s affordable housing crisis. In their press releases, Republicans described February as “the most destructive month in Oregon legislative history,” and predictably bragged about their obstruction and attacked the “one-party” Democrats. Whatever. I’m still pissed that the Democrats used a Trojan Horse bill to make Canis lupus a sacrificial lamb. Bad biology, governor.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get to the sexy, slimy and expensive season of ballot measures and the May primary, followed possibly by the most bizarre presidential race in U.S. history in November. It’s obviously too early to tell whether either party will nominate at this point. As we get closer to Oregon’s May 17 primary, we may have a clearer picture. My focus will be the down-ticket effect of the presidential race on the November general election here in Oregon. Whether it’s Hillary or Bernie vs. Trump, Cruz, Rubio or Kasich, any combination could impact turnout and the results of our governor’s race, our secretary of state race, and our contested local legislative, County Commission, mayoral and City Council races. 

Let’s say it’s Clinton vs. Trump. What would turnout look like? The key to Democratic success in November is turnout, especially women and young voters. Given that the top three contested campaigns in Oregon could involve women — Hillary, Kate Brown in the governor’s race and (probably) Val Hoyle in the secretary of state race, there shouldn’t be much of a gender problem — especially in the shadow of Justice Scalia’s departure. I would hope students, as well as women, will see how important it is to have the correct successor on the U.S. Supreme Court for the next 30 years. The fear that Donald Trump might get to make that call should help turnout among young Democrats, independents and reasonable Republicans.

Hillary is no shoe-in; Bernie blindsided her in the Michigan primary. Combined polls expected Hillary to win by a 20 percent margin, and predicted Bernie had only a 1 percent chance of victory. Nate Silver, editor of the polling website FiveThirtyEight, called it “among the greatest polling errors in primary history.” He says pollsters got the results wrong in part because they underestimated both student turnout and student enthusiasm for Sanders. Also, no one predicted 62 percent of Democrat males over 50 would vote for Bernie in that primary.

In Oregon, controversial ballot measures could have an effect on November’s turnout. With minimum wage and anti-coal initiatives probably off the table, the only legislative business left undone was the perennial issue of an inadequate state tax system to support K-16 public education and programs for our most vulnerable citizens. Our Oregon, a progressive network backed by public sector unions, is circulating Initiative Petition 28, which would raise $2.6 billion for schools, health care and senior services through a gross receipts tax that would only affect companies with sales over $25 million. Even though Oregon ranks 11th lowest nationally in corporate tax burden, the business lobby will fight hard. I smell a lot of money being spent on both sides in that fight.

Speaking of money, one other initiative petition appears headed for the ballot, a move by the grocers to privatize liquor sales in Oregon. Willamette Week recently reported Albertson’s has already given the campaign $1.6 million, probably the most ever spent in Oregon on a measure that hasn’t even collected the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Crazy.

Speaking of crazy: How did Congressman DeFazio get so lucky? He might draw Art “Radiate Me” Robinson as an opponent for the fourth consecutive time! Friggin’ Groundhog Day! Art only lost to Peter by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent in 2012 and 2014. In 2010, Art got 44 percent of the vote, but that was only because it was his first run and nobody knew how batshit crazy his views were on background radiation and race.

This time Art has a primary opponent, Jo Rae Perkins, who finished fourth in a five-way Republican primary for the 2014 U.S. Senate seat, losing to Monica Wehby (remember her?). I want Art to win the Republican primary for the same reason I want Trump to win his primary. Why? Because as comedian Ron White once said: “You can’t fix stupid.” Voters of both parties know that. Stay tuned.

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