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OR-Gov: Kulongoski Survives

Oregon's Democratic governor, Ted Kulongoski, beat back two primary challengers Tuesday to win his party's nomination. He now moves on to face Portland attorney Ron Saxton (R) and state Sen. Ben Westlund, a Republican until recently who is expected to run as an independent, in this fall's general election.

Kulongoski took 54 percent of the vote, well ahead of the 30 percent garnered by former state treasurer -- and 2002 gubernatorial candidate -- Jim Hill. Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson received 17 percent. Saxton avenged his 2002 primary loss to former state party chairman Kevin Mannix by securing 42 percent of the primary vote. Mannix placed second with 30 percent and state Sen. Jason Atkinson took 22 percent.

Kulongoski's win should give him something of a re-election boost, but the fact that he was forced to spend time and money simply to secure the nomination speaks to his potential vulnerabilities. He has had a rocky relationship with traditional base elements of his own party, including environmentalists and public employee unions. The Service Employees International Union backed Hill in the Democratic primary while the Oregon Education Association chose not to issue a primary endorsement, a move seen as a slap at the sitting governor. Why? The unions were unhappy with Kulongoski's proposal to reduce benefits in the public employees pension plan -- a necessary step, he insisted, to keeping the fund financially solvent.

So strong was the disaffection with Kulongoski that liberals within the party strongly urged former governor John Kitzhaber (a political Hamlet if ever there was one) to jump in, but after much mulling he backed out -- leaving Democratic opponents of the governor without a first-tier challenger. Hill ultimately made it a race, but was handicapped by a late start and a fundraising disadvantage.

On the Republican side, Saxton used his fundraising strength and a strong emphasis on his conservative credentials to best Mannix. Saxton was seen by many neutral observers as the more electable of the two Republicans in November due to his base in Democratic-friendly Portland and his image as the more moderate candidate. By running to the ideological right in the primary, however, Saxton will now need to move back to the middle if he hopes to seriously challenge Kulongoski.

The "X" factor in the contest is Westlund who, according to local press reports, is gaining momentum with a candidacy aimed at building a coalition of Democrats still unhappy with Kulongoski and moderate Republicans who don't feel as though the party nominee reflects their governing philosophy. Although Westlund is a former Republican, many of his stances (he favors abortion rights and is pushing for a sales tax to help fund public schools) could attract voters who might side with the governor in a two-way race.

Westlund must first qualify for the ballot, however, by gathering about 18,000 signatures from Oregonians who didn't vote in either of Tuesday's primaries.

Given the last two seriously contested statewide elections in Oregon, Westlund could have a major impact even if he receives only 5 to 10 percent of the final vote. Kulongoski beat Mannix 49 percent to 46 percent in 2002 (a Libertarian candidate took another 5 percent) and in 2004 Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry defeated President Bush in Oregon by a similarly narrow 51 percent to 47 percent margin.

Make sure to check this space Friday morning to see whether the results of Tuesday's primary in Oregon earn the state a place on the latest gubernatorial Line. (For the last Friday Governors Line, click here.)

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 17, 2006; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Comments

Right now, what the GOP fails to realize is most Dems want to find their GOP opponents, rip their hearts out, tear off their heads, and spit down their throats.

I find this remark entirely mislaeading.
The last line, "spit down their throats,"
well do some acrostic and think of another bodily orifice.
When GOP activists can go around saying that "we haven't been attacked since 9/11/01," while body bags come home daily from Iraq and Afghanistan.....
Well re-read the top.

Robert Chapman
Lansing, New York

Posted by: robert chapman | May 20, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

It appears that Senator Kerry has given more money to the candidates than any one else, if that is correct than you at least need to mention that - also if correct; that would put him on the top of the list of donors. Another important note - it appears we have a list of other candidates that fail before and now trying again such as McCain, Edwards, Clark etc, in turn they now join a list of others who fail previously but persisted such as President Reagan, President George H. Bush, not to mention Nixon - why who could forget those Nixon - Kennedy debates! Nixon lost but eventually went on to win - had he not chosen to engage in lies and deception - history would be quite different as we know it today. This country is in dire need of experience leadership and healing, in my humble opinion we don't need another new comer or name sake. The Hawks have had their day and what a day it's been, we have to deal with the mess they have made, a mess where no one has been held responsible, in a country where even Martha Stewart was sent to prison for lying; these guys were told they are doing a "HECK OF A JOB "- unless our world has been turned up side down - that does not make much sense to me. We have to deal with protecting this country - that's for sure, but in my opinion we are not served by using trumped up intelligence to start a war against a country we may not like but had nothing to do attacking us and where thousands of innocent lives are lost . 2 wrongs do not make 1 right - do the math. Engaging in torture, lies , leaks & deception while at the same time saying we don't condone them makes us look like - feel like and act like hypocrites and that undermines the respect of our country - also disregard for our allies as well as the UN weakens us substantially on the fight against terror. Would you help someone you did not trust, like or even respect? Some one you know that does not abide the rules they promote - I don't think so.

Posted by: TY HINES | May 19, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

It is so important for the Democrats to take at least one house of Congress. Without a Democrat majority, there is no subpoena power. Without a Democrat majority, there will be no oversight over an executive branch run amok. Without a Democrat majority, there will be no meaningful investigation into rendering and torture, warrantless wiretaps, and defacto suspension of habeas corpus. It has started here in Pennsylvania with a State Senate seat in Chester County going to a Democrat for the first time in over 100 years. I can only hope the momentum builds across the nation.

Posted by: CCYD | May 19, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I've found this blog to be very interesting and informative from "all" sides, everyone has some good points but based on the level of emotions from most of you - I'd have to say the republicans are in serious trouble; George Bush in the end may be the WMD that destroys the Republican Party. Seems he not only found the CIA Leaker but the WMD as well.

Posted by: TY HINES | May 18, 2006 9:08 PM | Report abuse

As a recent former Oregonian, I'm surprised independent Westlund thinks he has a chance while favoring a sales tax, for whatever purpose. Oregonians used regularly to vote down anything like a sales tax by large majorities--just as Washingtonians opposed an income tax.

Posted by: Kakuzan | May 18, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

To Kas: The reason he would not have used Chem. weapons in the first Gulf War is the fact that he knew he could lose the war and retain his life and job...this war he had no such illusions. Make no mistake...he had chemical weapons during the first conflict. We found them after the war. He had no problem using them against Iran and against the Kurds. If we had gone towards Baghdad, there is no doubt in my mind he would have used chemical weapons in the first Gulf war.

Posted by: FH | May 18, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

As a moderate Oregon Democrat I fear Westlund's candidacy will give Saxton the governorship by about 40 to 35 percent, with Westlund getting 25. Without him, Kulongoski would win about 51 to 49 percent. Take warning: Lincoln and Wilson were both elected with about 40 percent, and what happened? America fought its two most tragic wars. If Saxton wins, will Oregon invade California?

Posted by: Ralph Beebe | May 18, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

FH,

You must be very gullible. If he was going to use chemical weapons on US troops why wouldn't he have done so in the first Gulf War. Lost confidence? That's putting it mildly. The fact is - Bush and his entire administration are nothing but bold face liars and fear/hate mongers. Everything they've said about the war (and everything else for that matter) has been wrong or dishonest. Believe them if you want to but they have zero credibility as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: KAS | May 18, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Please tell me which BLOOD-RED congressional district will have Republican voters either not vote for their RED congressman or switch to the BLUE candidate? Where in Nebraska or South Dakota or Oklahoma or Texas will this happen? It is always someones district that people want to turn BLUE. Well, I suggest that people within these RED districts look themselves in the mirror and do what America wants - turn BLUE and vote BLUE!!!

Posted by: SJR | May 18, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Kulongoski will be serve another term in November. Manix has tried before and even with more financal resources will not win.

Posted by: Scott | May 18, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm an independent from Portland OR; in terms of leanings, I voted Democratic in four of the past seven presidential elections.

I voted for Kulongoski for Governor in 2002, but I sure don't want to vote for him this time. I can't for the life of me figure out why he's even running again; he seems to have little interest in being governor, and about the only thing he's accomplished during his first term is go to funerals for Oregon soldiers.

I don't know much about Saxton, but I'm glad the Reps didn't nominate that lunatic Mannix.

I beg to differ that Westlund has no chance. We independents don't vote in the Oregon primaries, and you Democrats and Republicans have a bad habit of taking us for granted. Westlund interests me -- I don't agree with him on every issue, but I'm utterly disgusted with how the Democrats and Republicans have been unable to manage the running of this state. If the election were held today I'd probably vote for Westlund. In any event, he's going to be a bigger factor in this race than you think, and is likely to draw support away from both parties. The country is in an anti-incumbent mood, and both major parties have poor approval ratings. I think people may just be willing to take a look at electing an independent governor. Stranger things have happened.

Posted by: BZ | May 17, 2006 7:41 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like you've lost complete confidence in your govt., and I'm sorry to hear that. Let me just say that when the military went in to Iraq...they honestly believed Saddam was going to use chemical weapons on them. As a former soldier I know the added degree of difficulty it is to conduct operations in a chemical suit...and I just can't believe that the commanding generals would have made toops wear those suits if they did not believe they were going to face those weapons. As for your son, I will be praying for his safe return.

Posted by: FH | May 17, 2006 6:41 PM | Report abuse

FH. The Democrats, at least those honest enough to admit it, say the reason they voted Bush the authority to go into Iraq was that they were out and out lied to, just like the Amercian people were lied to. Now I know most people don't like admitting they were fooled by a con artist (or a group of them in this case), but the "facts is the facts" and virtually everything I have heard reported tells me that Bush and Cheney simply piled lie upon lie upon lie - from the yellowcake uranium story, to the WMD's, to Saddams cooperation with Al Qaida, right up until today and the garbage we hear about what is going on there (my son IS in Iraq, by the way. I DO hear from him about the nonsense over there. I also have several Kurdish friends living in Northern Iraq and I hear A LOT from them -- Turkish and Iranian regular troops! Shiite Militia! All bent positioning themselves to grab a piece of Iraqi territory and ensuring that Kurdistan doesn't happen; that they get control of the oil fields). Couple that with the phoney economic reports from the Commerce Department -- I mean, give me a break, they roll into the jobs creation numbers jobs created in India and China? And they count "guest workers" on H1-B visa's in their employment statistics? The fact is, there is NOTHING you can believe from this Whitehouse. Everything they say, every press release, every news conference, is just a new collection of lies to add to the pile they already have created. I have had my fill.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 17, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

FH. The Democarts, at least those honest enough to admit it, say the reason they voted Bush the authority to go into Iraq was that they were out and out lied to, just like the Amercian people were lied to. Now I know most people don't like admitting they were fooled by a con artist (or a group of them in this case), but the "facts is the facts" and virtually everything I have heard reported tells me that Bush and Cheney simply piled lie upon lie upon lie - from the yellowcake uranium story, to the WMD's, to Sadsams cooperation with Al Qaida, right up until today and the garbage we hear about what is going on there (my son IS in Iraq, by the way. He is in the Army and I DO hear from him about the nonsense over there. I also have several Kurdish friends living in Northern Iraq and I hear A LOT from them -- Turkish and Iranian regular troops! Shiite Militia! All bent on murdering Kurds and positioning themselves to grab a piece of Iraqi territory and ensuring that Kurdistan doesn't happen that they get control of the oil fields). Couple that with the phoney economic reports from the Commerce Department -- I mean, give me a break, they roll into the jobs creation numbers jobs created in India and China? And they count "guest workers" on H1-B visa's in their employment statistics? The fact is, there is NOTHING you can believe from this Whitehouse. Everything they say, every press release, every news conference, is just a new collection of lies to add to the pile they already have created. I don't know why people even both to listen to Bush or anyone else from the Whitehouse any more because we know in advance it is going to be another load of cr*p and I have had my fill.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 17, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Mike B: I understand your frustration. I am also a moderate who has voted for both parties. I just don't think the world is as bleak as you say. I have 3 kids and have been able to do some great things with my family with the extra money I'm seeing at tax time...so I don't buy the argument that the tax cuts are only for the wealthy. As for Iraq...it's a mess. Can't argue with that. But I don't see any dems with any good ideas on that front. And fact is...they voted to give Bush the authority...any way you slice it...their hands are bloody. Immigration did not just crop up in the last 6 years. It's been a problem that was not dealt with when Clinton was in charge either...so don't just put that on the Republicans. As for NSA spying. Let me just say...if the dems take charge and stop all the covert action that the Bush administration has started...and we have a terrorist attack...you will see massive repercussions towards the dems. Don't get me wrong, Bush has made more mistakes than I can count. And some of them, Katrina for instance, have just made him look like he does not care about the poor in this country. More importantly, his inability to compromise on big initiatives like social security and energy have been painful to watch. But don't just be a lapdog to one party. Listen to each sides ideas and make a dicision based on information...not disdain.

Posted by: FH | May 17, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Mike Brooks -- From an issue standpoint, sounds to me like you represent the average Democrat pretty well. Hopefully the party can convince you to stay even after Bush is history. :)

Posted by: Colin | May 17, 2006 5:13 PM | Report abuse

FH, I consider myself to be a moderate. I am registered Independent and have voted for both major parties in the past (I even voted for George Bush...once). This time around, let me be very very clear, not me, no one in my household, not one of my friends, no one in my Evangelical chuch (Calvery Chapel) will vote for ANY Republican. Everyone I know has only one goal right now and that is to stop George Bush and roll back every change he has made. If you have read my posts, you will know I don't much care for Clinton nor Kerry nor any other Democrat, but I WILL vote for any of them if they will rid us of Bush and the current crop of Republican's and begin the process of rolling back every bit of their insane legislation. They will start by rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthy, get us out of Iraq immediately, tax the snot out of companies that outsource jobs, close down the borders to the hords of illegal immigrants, and initiate some form of national healthcare. Anything else is just gravy.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 17, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Re: "The Impact of Instant Poliing"

I find it simply incredible that The Washington Post is aiding and abetting the statistical and journalistic fraud, consisting of equating the views of 1,000 randomly selected individuals with the opinions of nearly 300 million Americans.

Posted by: Leslie L. Alt | May 17, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

You dems better hope it's wholesale slaughter come election time...because if you can't win back at least one house of congress - that would be a disaster for the party. If not now, when? As for the race in Oregon...yea, the unions are going to support the Republican candidate? You know that's not going to happen, so I'm not sure why that was even included in the story?

Posted by: FH | May 17, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

This is off-topic. I apologize.

Phone Jammers Found Guilty

Charles McGee, executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Republican National Committee regional political director James Tobin and GOP consultant Allen Raymond "have been found guilty of criminally violating federal communications law" for their part in a 2002 Election Day phone jamming scheme in New Hampshire, according to the Washington Post.

"The New Hampshire Republican Party, burden by legal bills, is virtually broke, with $733.60 in its federal and state accounts."

Add these three convicted criminals to the long list of ethically bankrupt repiglicans who are unfortunately in control of our government.

Posted by: Ohio guy | May 17, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The Public Employee Unions will go back to Kulongoski before November. Saxton's veiws on PERS are too strong (he has even gone as far as saying the solution was to fire every employee and rehire them with a different retirement program).

Posted by: Ken | May 17, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Right now, what the GOP fails to realize is most Dems want to find their GOP opponents, rip their hearts out, tear off their heads, and spit down their throats.

And that's in the moderate swing states.

Just look at Pennsylvania (grew up near Jonestown from 2 to 10). Sure, it looks on the surface like local issues, but with a 10 to 20 point advantage on virtually any issue, GOP just look like white-tailed male deer in the scopes of the Dems.

Get ready for the wholesale slaughter of the GOP in both the House and Senate nationwide - including supposedly safe GOP districts.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | May 17, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I live in Oregon and your analysis can be greatly simplified. Although Kulongoski isn't well liked here, he at least isn't hated by anyone; except for his proposal to have illegal immigrants pay instate tuition at Oregon schools. Kevin Mannix has recently been perceived as a creature of the Fundimentalists and the lunatic right wing fringe. His endorcement in the RNC controlled "christian voters guide" was the kiss of death here. Ron Saxton, on the other hand, is simply not known. Westlund has no chance whatsoever. In the runnup to the general election, look for the same national food fight we have experienced in recent years - the Fundimentalists will side with Saxton and try to make abortion, gay marriage, etc. THE key issues (they have lists of voters who attend "Evangelical" churches and automated telephone banks that call them with this tired message). This, and Saxton's actually reponsible stand to fix our bankrupt PERS system, will cause the public employee unions to side with Kulongoski. Look for the abortion proponents, gun right/gun control activists, and every other sort of fruitcake in the state to take sides and warn everyone of the dire consequences of voting for the other side. In the end, nothing will change.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 17, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

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