Sorenson & Hill: Maybe They Should Flip a Coin

By Robin Ozretich of Corvallis, Oregon. Robin is the editor of

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski was a no-show at a pre-primary gubernatorial candidate debate early last week. Oregon pollster/talking head Tim Hibbitts explained this away with a little conventional wisdom, suggesting that the Governor would have something to lose by appearing on the same stage with his primary opponents. The Governor has now agreed to two debates with his Democratic opponents, but is instincts were clearly revealed by his initial reluctance to debate.

By initially ducking the debates, the Governor sent out a message to voters that he will run and hide from a fight if he feels that it is politically expedient to do so. Some would argue that the previous sentence pretty much sums up Ted Kulongoski’s entire Governorship. If the Governor thinks he can run a stealth campaign, he should think again. He may make it though the primary, but his poor candidacy will hurt Democrats in down-ticket races, and he’ll have a hard race against the guy the Republicans throw at him. The race for Governor is the highest-ticket race in the state this year, and Democrats deserve a candidate who will stand proudly by his record, not run and hide when called to accountability.

While a Kulongoski victory in the gubernatorial primary may hurt the Democratic brand in Oregon this year, his victory remains likely. I don’t have a favorite among the Governors’ primary challengers, Pete Sorenson and Jim Hill.

They both appear to be better candidates than the Governor in that they won’t hide from the public and won’t hesitate to promote a strong Democratic platform. However, I believe that having two strong candidates in the primary race against the Governor assures a Kulongoski victory, a result that Oregon Democrats can’t very well afford. You can’t unseat an incumbent with multiple significant primary challengers.

If there was a single prominent primary challenger to unite the primary voters who were dissatisfied with Ted Kulongoski’s performance as Governor, then he might be beaten. With both Jim Hill and Pete Sorenson in the race, Democrats will likely be stuck with Teddy K as their nominee in the general election. Either Sorenson or Hill needs to drop out ASAP. Maybe they should flip a coin.


  • (Show?)

    If the Kulongoski campaign has been polling, and I'll bet they have, they are getting ready for the general election right now. Hill and Sorenson are probably great guys, just not strong enough canidates against our current Governor. Meanwhile, Kulongoski in just the last week, has welcomed 300 new high paying jobs with GenenTech's move to Oregon. Fortune magazine ranked GenenTech the best company to work for out of the top 100 companies it ranked. Oh yeah, yesterday Kulonoski welcomed MathStar, a high performance chip maker relocating from Mimmeapolis to Hillsboro. MathStar joins more 1700 high tech companies that employ over 66,000 Oregonians in the Portland Metro area. And by the way, ODS announced 120 new jobs in Redmond yesterday. Yep, that Kulongoski just keeps giving Oregon another shot in the arm by growing our economy. Keep cutting those blue ribbons Ted!

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  • OWHN (unverified)

    I was a Kulongowski supporter in last election but am now among the disappointed. I can't go as far as to say 'Anybody but Ted" but I would like to see Sorenson as a viable alternative.

  • LT (unverified)

    OWHN, there is no W in Kulongoski!

    I have seen this scenario before--and anyone who thinks a candidate dropping out in favor of someone will mean all those supporting that person will support the person their candidate endorses don't know human nature. People didn't come this far just for their candidate to drop out, and it is more likely those people who are angry about the dropout will vote for their guy (even it it means a write in) and then leave politics if the nominee is not smart enough to personally recruit that person to join the fall campaign.

    This sounds like either political games or a cynical attempt to manipulate, or distrust of the intelligence of voters.

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    Rachel, Pete was in this long before Hill deigned to offer his services to the party as a "good" Democrat. i think it's clear now that labor leaders in this state, angry at Ted (especially public sector unions), told Hill that if he entered the race, they'd deliver the endorsements. this plan almost collapsed with the OEA which almost let its members vote for the real alternative in this race.

    Pete Sorenson is a viable alternative to Kulongoski. or would be if the media had been covering him fairly instead of prejudging his chances. if anyone should drop out, it's Hill. Sorenson is the only candidate who's been making the rounds, visiting voters all over the states, listening and learning. my only "passion" for Hill would be as an alternative to the GOP. he's not a progressive, and i'm tired of old school Dems. Hill has nothing new to offer, and as a progressive, i'll be looking to the Leg for leadership if he is elected.

  • Varner (unverified)


    You stated that elected union leaders offered Hill a quid pro quo for entering the race. I don't believe there was any such thing. SEIU members had a really tough decision in the last gubenatorial race as Ted seemed like a very strong candidate and Hill also had a very strong record as supporting workers.

    Ted has not followed through on what I heard him say to members of SEIU during the last election and those members decided to go with a candidate who has a very strong record of supporting workers.

    You also imply that the folks making this decision were back room cigar chomping goom-bahs.

    In fact, the people making this decision for SEIU were elected leaders that represent members throughout the state. SEIU has over 40,000 members in Oregon, so it makes sense that with that many people a representative democracy would be needed.

  • Robin Ozretich (unverified)

    T. A.,

    I believe that you are mistaking me for my mother. My name is Robin, her name is Rachel. We are both active in Corvallis, and although I haven't met you in person yet, we did exchange emails a one point last year. I don't get out of the house much these days (I have a three-month old daughter), but I've been meaning to drop by Drinking Liberally soon - when I get a chance to, I'll introduce myself.

    As for the column, my point is that although Kulongoski sucks, he won't be beaten with both Hill and Sorenson in the race. I guess I do like Sorenson better than Hill, and will probably vote for Sorenson in the primary. However, my priority is replacing Ted Kulongoski because he is bad for the Democratic Party. That's not going to happen with two primary challengers.

  • josh (unverified)

    In Lane County there are several elected officials that say if they want to get on TV they will shadow Mayor Leiken of Springfield. He probably has more influence with the local media than anyone in Lane County since Jim Torrey left office. If Peter cannot get traction in Lane County why would you think he would get traction statewide? As for Ted and welcoming new business, in Lane County he welcomed Molecular Probes recent expansion, Royal Carribean siting their West Coast operation that will employ 1000 employees and Symantec's recent expansion to employ another 1000 on top of their nearly 1000 they are currently employing.

    Bottom line. Sorry Pete, it's over.

  • LT (unverified)

    my point is that although Kulongoski sucks, he won't be beaten with both Hill and Sorenson in the race

    People who make such sweeping predictions are sometimes proven very wrong by election results. Example: In 1980 I worked for a woman who said "You poor deluded person, thinking a black man has a chance to win in S. Salem". She thought it was obvious a white person would be elected to that state rep. seat overwhelmingly.

    As we now know, Jim lost that election by 61 votes (one of the W. Coast folk who lost elections because Carter conceded early). It is often forgotten that the woman Jim defeated in the 1982 general election had been Reagan's campaign manager in 1980 and the district then was known as one of the 3 most Republican in the state. He became the first black legislator elected from outside Portland, and after being state rep. was elected state sen. and then state treasurer.

    Which is why I seldom make or believe election predictions.

  • Hill supporter (unverified)

    A recent poll conducted by Survey USA ranks our current governor 45th out of 50 in the nation with an approval rating of just 35%, making him a liability for Democrats who want to hold onto the governor's office. I don't know anyone who isn't disappointed in our current Governor. If we elect Ted we will just get 4 more years of the same lack luster performance. Much of what I am hearing from Ted is election year rhetoric. He has had 4 years. I'm not impressed.

    Jim Hill in an independent poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports states that Jim has the highest favorability rating of any candidate runnning for Governor. And he has the ability to make history once more by becoming the first African American elected as Governor in Oregon.

    It's time to move forward. It is time to unite behind someone that has the smarts and determination to move our state forward - Jim Hill. He's not an incredible speaker but he is an incredible man who is honest and determined to make Oregon better. I like Pete a whole lot but his numbers remain at 4% even after over a year of campaigning. Don't waste your vote.

    Hill has the best chance of winning the election in November.

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    Josh, my point exactly. Kulongoski has been working overtime to bring jobs to Lane County and other counties across the state. The state of Oregon competes with several other states for the jobs Ted brings to Oregon. His "business friendly stategies" of recruiting companies with personal calls, and personally meeting with businesses has resulted in revitilizing Oregon's economy. Ted wants to see towns like Redmond be able to revitilize; bringing 100 plus good ODS jobs into a community does that. Last year, Kulongoski's creative mixed-use development resulted in the grand opening of a new downtown ODS complex in La Grande which also included a new public library. It is hard not to notice the good relationships Ted has developed between County, City, and State governments working together to grow Oregon. Ted has harvested a great many jobs during his first term. I'd like to see him plant more in his fields because I don't believe this state is ready for crop (Governor) rotation yet. Ted's fields remain fertile.

  • Wake Up (unverified)

    Hello everyone - Ted is doing 2 debates against his primary challengers and had agreed to do so before this column was posted.
    - robin - "By initially ducking the debates, the Governor sent out a message to voters that he will run and hide from a fight if he feels that it is politically expedient to do so." - your qualifier of "initially" shows that you knew this and shows that you knew that your argument that the governor was ducking a fight doesn't make anysense if said this way "the governor missing the first debate and yet agreeing to two others shows that he is hiding from a fight." i personally think your article is dishonest and a mischaracterization of the facts - i don't think you lied. i just feel you misrepresented the facts to mislead the readers of your article and are thus dishonest.

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    Robin, i should have known i was not talking to your mom by the name difference, but my head isn't working too well these days. your mom is terrific, so you have to be dang good. (you are also welcome to contribute to, btw. we'd love to have you.)

    your point about 2 challengers is probably correct, unless the "Chariots of Fire" thing happens (the 2 faves split the majority vote and the "3rd place" finisher slips past with 40%). i hate to give into peer pressure, but i'm almost thinking that to defeat Ted (who i don't hate & will vote for in the general, if necessary) i should go with Hill. ugh. where's my IRV????

    ps, you going to the Alt Media thing here in C. on april 1?

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    I'm a Hill supporter - that's no secret to anyone around here. I've thought Jim was the best man for the job since he announced in 2001, let alone recently.

    But let's look at it from a tactical standpoint - the only person in this primary who has a good chance of beating Ted is Jim. He's won statewide before - twice. He has solid name recognition statewide and outside of political circles - Sorenson, no matter how much you like the guy, does not. He has very little chance of winning with or without Jim in the race. His electability is nil.

    The icing on the cake is the SEIU endorsement last weekend. SEIU was HUGE for Ted in the general in 2002 and now they're willing to make this bold move in an historic primary? That should say a lot to people.

    I've been a Democrat since I was old enough to understand my views had a party. If Kulongoski wins in May I will, for the first time in my life, either vote for another candidate (God help me) or - more likely - not vote in that race in the general. Oregon needs a change and we'll either get it backing Jim in May or we will get it the hard way in November and suffer for four to eight years with a Republican governor. Our governor has a 36% approval rating. That's pathetic. The way I see it, there is only one way to ensure that we elect a Democratic governor in November and that is to vote for Jim Hill in May.

  • josh (unverified)

    This is a mid-term election for Pete. His seat is safe and most down here are speculating this is about getting his name id higher to eventually make a run at 4th CD when DeFazio retires.

    Paulie, I agree. 8.3% economic growth, unemployment falling from 8.2% to 5.5% and the dems want to hang Ted out to dry. I don't get it.

  • LT (unverified)

    unemployment falling from 8.2% to 5.5% and the dems want to hang Ted out to dry. I don't get it. doesn't mean much to people who were employed in 2002 and are unemployed now.

    And lest people forget, those of us who supported Ted in 2002 did not sign a contract saying we were obligated to support everything he did from then on. He has done a lot of things people questioned. He has not explained those actions--campaign manager saying "Gov. had to make a lot of tough decisions" is not the same as Ted saying "I did that because.....and I will be willing to answer your questions".

    The debates Ted has agreed to will be interesting. Will he answer every question responsively and explain his actions? Or will he quote statistics as if everyone's life is as the statistics say "people" are living? Will he say "I thought that necessary, therefore I..."?

    Will he explain why a cigarette tax is good this year but not during a legislative session?

    I could go on. I was impressed with Jim Hill and the way he answered questions at Marion County Democrats. You could tell some were tough questions by the way he started his answer--but he did give responsive answers, incl. in at least one case "no, I don't agree with that".

    I don't care if the unemployment rate in this state were 2.4 and the growth rate were 10%. I would still vote for the person who answers questions from the public over the person who doesn't.

    Paulie and Josh seem involved in peer pressure politics, and that has been shown not to work.

  • hill supporter (unverified)

    Jobs? At Taco bell? Come on, most of the public is not seeing the benefits of all these new jobs. Oregon has lower unemployment but they are service jobs with low pay and no benefits. Our energy costs are out the roof and our health care costs are killing average Oregonians. Is Oregon's economy better? I don't think so. The Governor attacks public employees wages and benefits instead of finding ways to bring the average joe up to a living wage. What type of strategy is that? A race to the bottom?

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    Nevermind the fact that unemployment rates do NOT reflect those who were claiming unemployment and have exhausted that resource. Once their unemployment runs out, they fall off the charts. That statistic does not account for the unemployed and the underemployed who do not use state unemployment funds. Wait long enough without extending benefits and unemployment rates will always drop. Far too many people in Oregon fall into the "underemployed" or "working poor" category. That's not economical improvement - that's just masking the problem.

    Think about it - 70,000 people have been dropped from the Oregon Health Plan - that's 70,000 people who were poor enough to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan. Most of these people are people with SOME income which means they have jobs - low wage jobs that offer no benefits. Now they have no help from anyone and when they get so sick that they have to go to the emergency room that cost is passed on to someone else when preventative care could have solved the problem in the first place for far less money. We're going about this all wrong and our governor is largely to blame - if for no other reason than failing to stand up for Oregonians and for using band-aids to solve problems rather than looking at longer-term solutions.

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    Yahoo, Keen Shoes, Wacouva Financial Services, Royal Carribean Cruise Line, Lowes, Amy's Kitchen, Yahoo, Google, Geen Tech, and MathStar are some examples of companies Ted has recruited to Oregon since becoming governor. Ted has also helped Oregon businesses expand, such as: Knowledge Learning Centers, Garmin AT, ODS, North River Boats, Molecular Probes, Sun Micro Systems and on and on..

    Ted came into office with a national and state recession, PERS was on the verge of bankrupting the state, and the Oregon Health Plan could not be funded. The revenue stream for local and state governments clearly needed a boost. Boosting Oregon's economy statewide has been Ted's focus since he was elected. Attracting 300 high paying jobs in Hillsboro or 120 in Redmond, over 500 new jobs in Lebanon, a couple of hundred in Eugene add up to a lot of jobs!

    Most voters vote for fiscal responsibility and bread and butter issues. I'm guessing that Kulongoski will continue as the Governor of Oregon.

  • LT (unverified)

    Most voters vote for fiscal responsibility and bread and butter issues

    Yes Paulie, concern for fiscal responsibility and bread and butter issues--that includes cc and hill supporter, and the folks who wanted more public discussion of the 2005 budget, and people who wonder what was wrong with a cigarette tax in 2005 if it is OK for Ted to support one this year---not to mention copying Minnis's school funding plan.

    Ted was supposed to be the outgoing, charismatic governor who spoke to the public and interacted with legislators more than Kitzhaber did. Instead we got "I'm doing what is best for Oregon and shouldn't have to debate my opponents more than twice".

    People who like Ted should vote for him, but people who have questions or are disappointed have the right to support Hill, Westlund, Sorenson, or anyone else.

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    Paulie, what does that amount to? $100 in corporate taxes? Yeah that's what I thought. Give me a break. And the jobs you mentioned do not even add up to 1200 jobs. 1200 people making fairly livable wages compared to tens of thousands who are underemployed. You just don't get it. Big named companies do not solve the big problem. No matter what you say I will not be voting for Ted Kulongoski this year - May or November - and there are a lot of Democrats who feel exactly the same way as I do.

  • josh (unverified)


    Considering 80% of all the corporations of Oregon are Sub-S corps they are alreay paying their fair share. As for the larger corporations are concerned that is called property taxes. If services are important to you, especially within the local government frame, then larger corporations are necessary.

    I wish you luck in whomever you support. I will continue to support Ted and your candidates can destroy small business by raising corporate income taxes.

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