By Sarah Carlin Ames of Portland, Oregon. Sarah describes herself as "a Northeast Portland mom, voter, one-time journalist and current flack."
I'm a true-blue Democrat, never been anything else, but did any of the rest of you ponder that party nomination ballot that's slipped into your primary ballot? (Mine was on green paper.)
Once upon a time, a dozen years ago, my then-colleague Roger Auerbach prevailed upon me to become a Democratic precinct person, so that I could spend a morning in McMinnville, vote for him, and thereby ensure his ticket to the national Democratic Convention. I was happy to do so. But since then, I'm not sure I've spent more than two minutes thinking about the local D structure, and that mainly to toss the ballots into the recycling.
I now live in Northeast Portland, where we have not two but five serious D's running for Steve March's legislative seat. My neighborhood is not far from the precincts that are so heavily Democratic that local campaigns nickname them 'The Kremlin.' And yet, of the 136 open slots for precinct committee people on my ballot (you can vote for between 6 and 9 candidates of each gender in each precinct) there are a whopping 26 candidates. Enough candidates to fill less than one-fifth the openings. In almost half of the precincts on my ballot, nobody even wants the job.
This raises a bunch of questions for me...
1) In this Democratic stronghold, why doesn't anybody want to take part in the prevailing party structure? (I bet more people go to the House of Blues Dick Celsi Dinner than run for precinct committee people.)
2) Who ARE the self-nominating few who get to give the imprimatur of the 'Multnomah County Democrats' endorsement to candidates? How much weight should the rest of us give that endorsement if we're not even willing to run/volunteer/vote for committee people? (I thank the active precinct people for their service to the party, by the way, and hope they have ideas of how to invigorate the local party to make it more relevant.)
3) In this day and age, is it necessary (even legal?) to have separate races for men and women?
4) Especially in areas of the state that are so heavily partisan (D in central Portland, R in much of Oregon), wouldn't all of us be far better off with a non-partisan primary, so that the best two candidates can square off in the fall? Choosing among Ben Cannon, Lynn Partin, Mary Botkin, Cindy Banzer and Mary Lou Hennrich is tough enough -- wouldn't it be nice to have two of those D's go head to head in November? (I know, I sound like a shill for the One Ballot Initiative, but it's intriguing....)
5) Why is our county elections office running the party precinct person selection process anyway? Is that election to pick officials for political parties supported by our tax dollars, and if so, why?
BlueOregonians -- you have answers, I'm sure. I look forward to them.