With the selection of Chris Dudley as the Republican candidate for governor, it seemed as though the GOP was continuing the Ron Saxton strategy. You know, find an affable nice guy who doesn’t conjure images of a dark lord (Kevin Mannix) or, uh, well, a criminal (Bill Sizemore). Dudley, to be sure, seemed like a nice guy who would come over for a beer and to teach your kid about zone defense. With his lack of experience, policy knowledge or significant leadership credentials, his nice guy image was perhaps one of the few things going for him.
After this week, I’m not so sure. Does a nice guy, after all, talk about cutting the wages of our lowest paid workers? Does a nice guy refuse to answer questions, and refuse to give voters the most basic clue about his ideas? Probably not.
First, let’s review his minimum wage comments. This week, he stated that he thinks that Oregon's wage is too high, and while he wants to cut it, he will deign to let it slide. Wow, thanks. He not only got his facts wrong when he said Oregon’s minimum wage was the highest in the country, he delivered a kidney punch to all of those working so hard for the lowest paycheck possible. And who are those folks?
Well, think about it. While, sure, they’re the teenagers working to save for their first car, more frequently they’re college students trying to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of tuition or parents working more than one minimum wage job, trying to support their families.
Nearly everyone I know, myself included, has at one point in their lives, earned a minimum wage. Apparently, Chris Dudley has no empathy for us. He has no empathy for those that wait tables, pick crops, take care of children and the elderly, and clean up after the rest of us. How friendly.
His comments reflect something more, though – derision toward what is an Oregon tradition and history of protecting and supporting minimum wage workers. We are one of only four states that tie the minimum wage to inflation, ensuring that low wage workers get a cost of living raise like so many of the rest of us. What’s more, Oregon legislators, in 2005, fought back against an Oregon Restaurant Association attempt to remove minimum wage indexing for food service workers. Finally, Oregonians have voted repeatedly and as recently as 2002 to increase our minimum wage. Dudley rejects our history as well as the will of Oregon voters and legislators. Nice guy, huh?
Now, as to his stonewalling. Not a week goes by when we don’t hear about how John Kitzhaber has shown up for a debate that Dudley refuses to attend. Then, this week, the Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes published a story that detailed Dudley’s refusal to be interviewed regarding his environmental views. Mapes said that it was essentially unprecedented in his years of experience covering gubernatorial electoral politics.
Given Dudley’s NBA past, it doesn’t make sense that he’s debilitated by performance anxiety or a fear of being in the spotlight. No, instead it seems that he just doesn’t think that we, as voters, deserve the answers. While he had seemed like one of the guys, a man of the people, he is now acting as though talking with the rest of us is just below him. His pure dismissal of a voter’s desire to be informed sure doesn’t fit with the gee shucks image.
So, let’s review. No governmental experience. No innovative policy initiatives. Very little experience in a formal position of leadership. And now, what is appearing to be a distaste for the rest of us. Remind me, what does this guy have going for him? Certainly not my vote.