The Ashland Daily Tidings has a story detailing how Jackson County is no longer a conservative stronghold. Democratic candidates are increasingly having success in Southern Oregon, and that success has attracted attention from candidates for statewide offices:
Jackson County, once seen as a conservative bastion that was often sidestepped by Democrats seeking statewide office, has emerged this election cycle as a regular stop on the campaign trail.
Three candidates vying for the chance to unseat Republican Sen. Gordon Smith have made swings through the Rogue Valley, and Democrats running for Oregon secretary of state and attorney general have made campaign announcements in Medford recently.
Paulie Brading of Medford, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Party, said "a lot has changed" in the local political climate over the last few years.
"There is a blue tinge now to Jackson County, and now when Democratic candidates come here they see that we can now lay out the red carpet for them and voters turn out to hear them," she said in a telephone interview.
Senator Alan Bates of Ashland offers his take on Democrats' success:
Take Democratic state Sen. Alan Bates' win in the 3rd State Senate District, which has a Republican voter registration advantage. Then there is Dave Gilmour, the Central Point physician who won election to the county Board of Commissioners in 2002 after running on a solidly Democratic, pro-environmental platform in a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 10,000 voters.
In an interview earlier this week, Bates acknowledged that Southern Oregon's Republican roots run deep, but he said locally Republicans are "thoughtful, socially judicious and fiscally conservative," much like centrist Democrats are in the region.
"When you get a moderate Republican from this area and a moderate Democrat from this area lined up with each other, we're pretty similar," Bates said. "That's why I was probably able to get elected as a Democrat — because I am fiscally I am quite conservative and socially I'm pretty progressive."
Bates said that political mix "rings a common bell for both Republicans and Democrats down here," noting that the county is still a Republican stronghold, but not a wellspring of neo-conservatism that some have said it is.
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