State Candidates in Eastern Oregon

By Jack Lorts of Fossil, Oregon. Jack is a retired Fossil School Superintendent and former Democratic nominee for Oregon House District # 59. He is currently Chair of the Wheeler County Democrats and Chair of the DPO Rural Caucus.

I read with interest of the three Secretary of State candidates duking it out in Precinct 1013 in NW Portland. Well, over here in Fossil, we don't have the high tech necessary to preserve their "closing remarks" for posterity, but a few days ago, we were happy to listen to Senators Kate Brown and Rick Metsger strut their stuff for our rural voters. They were joined by Senator Ben Westlund, who formerly ranched here in Wheeler County back in the 80's, and by our local House candidate Mike Ahern (also, a representative of John Kroger was with us). All the state-wide candidates were invited, and it was great to get these "big guns" out here in frontierland.

The most positive thing that took place was Brown and Metsger actually experiencing Fossil, and being questioned by actual small town rural voters. They were sharply questioned by two local political big whigs, former Gilliam County Judge Laura Pryer and Wheeler County's Judge Jeanne Burch. (For those of you who don't know, in most eastern Oregon counties, "Judge" is the title given to the Chair of the County Commission.)

The messages they had to give to us weren't always what we wanted to hear, (i.e., the rural economic development money cut by the last legislature isn't coming back, nor is the Office of Rural Policy), but the voters here in Wheeler and Gilliam Counties appreciated their being here. Out here where we know everybody, voter integrity isn't too much of a problem, so Secretary of State type questions like that were at a minimun.

All the state-wide candidates seemed thrilled that Jefferson County Commissioner Mike Ahern was there and that he was running in House District #59--remember that's the district where Jim Gilbertson lost by 200+ votes last election cycle. With support from the powers that be, this will be the year we can take the 59th district seat back to Salem!

In all events, it was good to have the "big guns" out in the hinterlands. As Kate Brown was leaving she called back, "Do this again after the primary."

We will!

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    Thank you so much for the news from Eastern Oregon -- the more on this blog the better!!!! I'm so glad to know that the super-cool Laura Pryor is still in action.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    I was sorry I was already scheduled at that time, as I would have loved to see the candidates in Fossil.

    Loved your post Jack, but one thing - Wheeler Co. isn't the "hinterlands". Oregon's hinterlands lie north of the Clackamas Co. line and south of the Columbia River. That's where the uninhabitable concrete and asphalt jungle lies, where the air is unbreathable, and where one can perish without the notice of anyone.

  • Dale Thompson (unverified)

    Good job Jack. BTW I've got a few Novick signs if you (or anybody down there in Fossiltown) wants one!

  • Ahern Fan (unverified)

    Mike Ahern will make a great State Rep for HD 59. Experienced, smart, moderate, and a perfect match for a district that has been poorly represented by Republicans.

    Ahern's a rock star.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    Jack told me there there was a turnout of 35, which is about 7% of Fossil’s population (of course there were some folks from out of town, like my parents who live on a ranch.) If 7% of PDX (city not metro area) turned out for an event, that would be about 35,000, which only happens when major candidates like Kerry or Obama show up.

    Jack and other activists have showed what good candidates with local help can accomplish. Although Gilliam CO. leans R and Wheeler Co. is heavily R, State Sen. candidates Wayne Fawbush and Kevin Campbell carried both easily back in the day, and Jack and Jim Gilbertson both carried Gilliam and did very well in Wheeler (I think Jack tied there). Jim, as Jack said, almost won by carrying Wasco and Jefferson as well.

    Having worked for both Kevin and Jim, and having helped Jack, it is so frustrating when there is no organization or an "organization" that is dysfunctional. I think Jack in Fossil and Dale Thompson in Condon were the only activists in Dist 59 who actually planned a day for Gilbertson where they took him around their towns to events, introduced him, put up signs etc... To give Wasco Co. credit, they have a good organization and did help with walking, phoning, signs, and newspaper ads- and they actually had a HQ which is impressive for a small county.

    As Jim Carville says, "those who can do, those who can't meet." (In some counties like Morrow I’m not aware of either occuring insofar as Democrats are concerned, although I could be missing something. ) Helping candidates isn't rocket science; it is all about contacting voters with a winning message vs. talking amongst ourselves. I hope that activists in rural counties will step up and help candidates like Ahern, VanOrman, Gilbert, etc... WIN.

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