Dudley vs. Kitzhaber: In Washington County, nerds rule.

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Frankly, I'm thrilled that Oregon Republicans are obsessing about Multnomah County. As long as they keep doing that, they'll be missing the real story in Washington County.

Back in the late 90s, when chain emails actually got read, there was one that went around comparing Bill Gates to Michael Jordan and asking, "Is it better to be a jock or a nerd?" It noted that Jordan made $300,000 a game and $178,000 a day from endorsements. It went on and on and on about how much money that was, and then closed with this note:

"However, if Jordan saves 100% of his income for the next 250 years, he'll still have less than Bill Gates has today. Nerds rule! Nerds rule! Nerds rule!"

In Sunday's Oregonian, conservative columnist Elizabeth Hovde attempts to deliver "the gift of clarity" to Oregon Republicans still smarting from losing the Governor's race. Her column, which is worth reading in its entirety, is an attempt to diagnose what went wrong for Chris Dudley.

Of course, she completely whiffed - missing the major reasons that Chris Dudley lost. I'll start with this laugher:

Dudley rose above most of the muck that characterizes high-profile races, despite appearing just as uninterested as Kitzhaber in engaging the issues via formal debates.

Just as uninterested? Seriously? John Kitzhaber proposed seven debates. Dudley's failure to immediately accept was the biggest strategic blunder of his campaign. There was only one question in voters' minds this election: "Is Chris Dudley ready to be Governor?"

I've never before seen the debate-about-debates become something that voters care about. But in this election, it mattered. Dudley's unwillingness to debate communicated loudly and clearly - he's not ready to be Governor. (An analysis that Jeff Mapes notes is shared by Mark Cushing, a lobbyist who was part of the Frohnmayer 1990 team.)

Hovde also suggests that Multnomah County voters voted tribally, not on the issues:

Dudley was a great candidate for left-leaning Oregon. And his big loss in Multnomah County should make it clear to conservatives that residents there value their liberal association above good fiscal sense or jobs.

I'm always skeptical about suggestions that the voters had no idea what they were doing. And this is where I bring up something Hovde ignored - Dudley's biggest tactical blunder of the race. His "macaca moment": getting caught on tape talking about the minimum wage. We can argue (and we have) ad nauseum about what precisely he meant, the words he chose, and more.

But the bottom line is that Chris Dudley managed to communicate loud and clear that he was a rich guy who didn't understand the everyday challenges faced by working people. And while the Democrats tried to communicate that in 473 different ways over the campaign, nothing stuck - until Chris Dudley did it for us.

Across Oregon, voters know exactly what they want: Someone who will wake up every morning trying to figure out how to create family-wage jobs and never give up trying. In one fell swoop, Chris Dudley proved he wasn't that guy.

(An aside - Hovde says lefties should have liked this "union man". Seriously? Fights between NBA owners and NBA players feature billionaires fighting with millionaires over how to divvy up the spoils of megabucks TV contracts. An NBA union guy is hardly a "power to the people" organizer.)

Like every Republican, Hovde is bemoaning the electoral strength of Mutnomah County. As Carla noted, Hovde completely missed the fact that Benton and Lane Counties also went overwhelmingly for Kitzhaber. As Evan Manvel noted, in a race this close even Kitzhaber's votes in counties he lost, like Klamath and Douglas, made a difference. (It's not like we have an electoral vote system in Oregon.)

I'll add one more note to the county-county-analysis: Dudley lost in Washington County.

Dudley lost Washington County by 1.6% while winning Clackamas County by over 9%. Even setting aside a big win in his hometown of Lake Oswego, that disparity doesn't make a lot of sense. If Dudley had simply won Washington County by the same margin that he won Clackamas County, his vote gap would have closed from 22,303 votes to 2,345 votes - and we'd be talking recount.

Of course, Washington County is one of America's burgeoning suburban tech corridors - a place where there are large numbers of apolitical techies with young families that just want government (mostly schools) to work and be competent. (Note that Beaverton is just a few years away from passing Portland as the biggest school district in Oregon.)

It's in Washington County's nerd culture (and I say that affectionately) that Chris Dudley's jock image and attitude played the worst. Especially when compared to John Kitzhaber.

Frankly, I'm thrilled that Oregon Republicans are obsessing about Multnomah County. As long as they keep doing that, they'll be missing the real story in Washington County.

Just as long as we Democrats don't miss the lesson either. For the last three weeks of an election, Multnomah County GOTV is critical. But the rest of the time, cracking the code in Washington County is job #1.

Comments

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    Full disclosure: My firm built John Kitzhaber's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    What data back up these assertions? On what basis was it determined that the "debates debate" mattered this time? I don't necessarily disagree that Dud's failure to engage in debates was poor strategy for a candidate who needed to prove his qualifications, but it is just as easily demonstrated by his utter lack of public service experience.

    More centrally to this article's thesis, what analysis was done to conclude tech nerds were the difference in WashCo? There is certainly an influx of such professionals there, but it doesn't necessarily follow that theirs were Kitz votes. In fact, that would tend to diverge from larger trends in the results, including Duds' performance with men--who make up a large majority of those young family nerds, and who were solid for Dudley.

    But I also think the analysis ignores the possibility of a different WashCo demographic change: nonwhites, particularly Latinos, particularly immigrants legal and otherwise. I have a hard time believing that young tech pros really cared deeply about the level of the minimum wage except in the abstract. I find it much easier to theorize that people most likely to take jobs at or near the minimum wage were highly interested in Dudley's comments; after all, they'd be the most likely Oregonians affected. And there's no shortage of documented analysis that the Latino community is scared and appalled by positions taken by the GOP nationally, regardless of the mostly silent Dudley on immigration issues.

    I don't think Hovde's got it right either, but if there's some empirical information that's guiding Kari's assertions, it would have been better to include that.

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      The other issue in Washington County that's not talked about much when it comes to the election results is land-use. I've been to several nonpolitical events in the County since the election, and have heard discussions in Commission District 2 about the election of Greg Malinowski. There is a LOT of concern from locals about what's going on in our county with urban and rural reserves, the North Bethany project and the attempts to widen Bethany Road. People deliberately voted against the pro-development conservative and FOR Malinowski because of it. With the closeness of the Guv's race, I wonder how much of this trickled upward to Kitzhaber.

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        I think that's a distinct possibility as well, Carla. Smart suggestion.

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        How does this square with the Washington county vote in the Metro exec race between Tom Hughes and Bob Stacey?

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          We'll see once precinct level results come out, but it's worth noting that Malinowski only represented one district in Washington County. The two results may square very nicely together if Hughes did especially well in the non-Malinowski part of the county.

          Beyond that, I suspect that Hughes/Stacey was more about Washington County self-identification than anything. For WashCo voters, Hughes was "our guy" while Stacey was the "Portland guy".

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            That's Hughes was "their guy" while Stacey was "our guy" (i.e. Portland vs. Washington county) is only good as far as it goes IMHO. While only anecdotally I know numerous Portlanders who didn't view it that way and were true-tossups between the two. I myself was vacillating between them and I had a Stacey sign in my front yard.

            Hughes is not an ideologue, and will make a good commissioner IMHO.

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          Tom had the support of a lot of the major elected officials in WaCo, and I think that carries a great deal of weight (as did Malinowski). I also think that Hughes being from Washington County helped too.

          Honestly, I thought that the Stacey campaign didn't spend that much time in the County and didn't work it in person nearly as much as Hughes. I got lots of mailers, but not a lot of face time from Stacey. Hughes was everywhere, and I think that made a big difference.

          I also think that a lot of people don't understand what Metro does--which is a factor as well.

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          Tom Hughes went to great lengths (and I posit legitimately) to make clear he is not an UGB expansionist who is in the hip-pocket of developers and absolutely did not frame or view Multnomah county (specifically Portland) voters as the opposition to be 'overcome'.

          Many people (myself included) vacillated between Stacey and Hughes, but were 100% in Kitzhaber's corner vs. Dudley's.

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        While land-use may have come to the fore in the Malinowski race, I doubt very much it had an impact on the Governor's race.

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          I don't mean to say that the election for Guv had to do with land-use, sorry. I mean to say that those in the district concerned about it were very motivated to vote for Malinowski and that those people were more likely Kitz voters than Dudley voters.

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      Hey Mark -- Yeah, that's a fair criticism. I don't have any empirical data that demonstrates why Washington County voted for Kitzhaber over Dudley, in contrast to Clackamas County. My headline perhaps oversteps my post. That said, I'll stand by my analysis - and offer it here for discussion.

      I do think you're right - that the failure to debate is tied very closely to the lack of experience. Those are two sides of the coin -- that Dudley failed to cross the threshold question, "Is he qualified?".

      And while you're likely right about techies and the minimum wage, I don't think the minimum wage thing was really about the minimum wage per se. I think it crystallized and named an intangible that people were feeling -- that Chris Dudley doesn't "get it" because he's "not one of us."

      The two threshold questions in every election are, "Is s/he on my side?" and "Is s/he qualified?" The two big stories of the campaign put Chris Dudley on the wrong side of those questions.

      The minimum-wage thing resonated so strongly precisely because it captured so easily something people already felt -- like Dan Quayle and the "potatoe", George Allen and "macaca", Howard Dean and his "scream", Al Gore and "inventing the internet". By themselves, they mean nothing -- but as a quick shorthand, they mean everything.

      Check out this bit from Steve Duin:

      As I left breakfast at Fat Albert's in Westmoreland on Tuesday, I asked the woman who delivered the oatmeal whether she had reached the same impasse with the ballot that I had.

      She looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. "I'm a waitress," she said.

      'Nuff said.

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        This was an election marked by a desire of the voters to punish someone for the crap that has been going down. At the national level, the Democrats were the obvious choice. In Oregon, not so much. If it was Kulongoski instead of Kitzhaber that was running I have a feeling we would now be talking about what kind of governor Dudley will be.

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        Nuff said about Steve Duin's politics, anyway! Thanks Kari. You are likely spot on about the two crucial questions.

        But one has to ask: you could make the case that Dudley "got it" and was "one of us" at least as well as Sizemore, Mannix or Saxton. Why did he do so much better--just the times? We know there wasn't much of an enthusiasm gap in Oregon, so the national zeitgeist seems incomplete as an explanation.

        It's fun to speculate and create theories; I just wanted to establish whether these were informed by anything other than being, well, informed. :)

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    Blowing a $800 million dollar hole into the already hemorrhaging budget, with no way to pay for it except with the GOP magic asterisk that somehow tax cuts pay for themselves despite it demonstratively a failure to do so every time its been tried in human history, is not "good fiscal sense" nor doe it create jobs.

    That alone proves Hovid has drunk the trickle-down flavored Kool-Aid™ and simply doesn't live in reality.

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    Dudley had to answer 3 questions in the minds of swayable: Is he qualified; does he care about ME; and if he cares about me, does he have better plans and policies than the other guy who cares about me?

    Dudley had a decreasing percentage of positive answers to these questions in voters minds. A good many of people who thought he was qualified didn't think he cared about them - he didn't create the empathy people need to feel. People didn't even go on to question 3 because he didn't pass questions 1 or 2. Those voters who made it question 3 didn't like his positions. Because he didn't engage in debates he didn't have the chance to answer these questions for people who pay attention and can influence their friends.

    I think we will see a defined break in the Gov-Metro-Commissioner races precinct returns because the issues are different at each level. Where Malinowski's district is very concerned about land use, Malinowski won because hehad the correct answer on these issues and he demonstrated competence (where his opponent was on the wrong side of the issue and did not demonstrate compentence). The county issue in Terry's district swings more towards transportation and not so much for land use - I think you will see Hughes had a better result in there than in Malinowski's district because of this difference, and Washington County voters know first-hand Tom Hughes' success at building jobs - #1 issue for most voters.

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      Respectfully, I think part of the reason Hughes won in WaCo was because lots of people don't understand the job of Metro. So the "jobs" thing, while it played well, has very little to do with the actual role of Metro.

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        So, the people of the state aren't smart enough to understand the effect of a high min wage and now the people of the tri-county area aren't smart enough to understand Metro.

        Ouch!

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          It's not about being "smart" enough. It's about a media that rarely informs and the need to have to dig up all the information on their own, because of this.

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          I remember attending a presentation at Metro sometime around 1999 or 2000. Adam Davis, of Hibbits and Davis, was on hand to share some polling data about Metro with the Metro Council.

          He said, "I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that people love Metro. The bad news is that they think you run the bus system."

          People have no idea what Metro is, what it does, or how it affects their lives.

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        I think the people of Washington County do understand that Metro plays a huge role in creating an environment that is attractive to both business and people. Where Metro doesn't have direct authority, it has a great deal of influence and people in WaCo felt Hughes can balance authority and influence to enhance quality of life and build an environment that is conducive to attracting and building jobs.

        Regardless of the true vs. perceived authorities of Metro, Hughes did a better job on the politics and marketing of the election.

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          Metro plays a "huge" role in creating an environment that is attractive to business?

          How, exactly? Please be specific.

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            Manufacturing and logistics business are impacted by transportation networks and solid waste management frameworks. Metro has responsibility for the Regional Transportation Plan and Regional Solid Waste Management. The hi-tech industry relys on adequate clean water and adequate land to build manufacturing facilities, and adequate land and water to support spin-off and supporting businesses. Land use planning is a big factor in both of these areas and falls under Metro. And the broad responsibility for metropolitan concerns that cross local boundaries gives Metro a large podium and microphone to influence issues outside its core charter.

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              I'm not disagreeing that Metro impacts those things. But "huge" when it comes to attracting business? I'm not seeing that. Metro plays a role in pulling together a very large, long-term vision. But transportation infrastructure and water are impacted in a much greater way at the County level. You admit yourself that Metro "doesn't have direct authority." It's kind of difficult to have a "huge" impact on something with which they don't actually control.

              I don't think that the "I have experience creating jobs so therefore elect me to run Metro" by Hughes helped clarify this, either.

              I plan to spend some time getting to know and understand Hughes' vision in the coming months. And I hope that he will do a better job explaining what he actually CAN do at Metro.

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                Carla, would love to talk about all these issues over a cup of coffee sometime - much easier than trying to hash-out between written exchanges.

                I think a large portion of our differing views over the role and capabilities of Metro rest on that I don't have the same view of the limits and possibiities of the organization and office as you...and I would bet that both Hughes and Stacey have a more expansive view of what is possible, as well.

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    Are we confusing being a skilled orator with being qualified for the position.

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      Skilled oratory goes a long way to building the perception of being qualified. Regardless of Dudley's actual qulaification for job (which I don't believe he is), skilled oratory could have gone a long way to making people believe he was qualified.

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        Witness: Obama.

        And as a political consultant advised me more than once this past campaign season, "Perception IS reality." It took a while for that to sink in. Now I think they're some of the wiser political words I've heard.

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          Except of course President Obama being actually qualified for the office he ran for, unlike Dudley.

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            Dubious. Count me among the dubious disappointed independent Obama supporters. He's sure got the oratory thing down, though. I saw that the first time several years back when he was on stage.

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    Kari Chisolm posted, "I'm always skeptical about suggestions that voters had no idea what they were doing."

    As evidence against Kari Chislom's contention I would offer the 1984 U.S. presidential results (Reagan wins 49 states- would anyone here seriously suggest that Reagan was a good choice?) and, this month, the best US Senator (Feingold) having been beaten and, generally, the US House results in the Rust Belt.

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    Intended to mean that if voters thought they were voting in their own interests in the cases I mentioned, the results show that they did not know what they were doing.

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    This is right on the spot Kari.....

    ".....Of course, Washington County is one of America's burgeoning suburban tech corridors - a place where there are large numbers of apolitical techies with young families that just want government (mostly schools) to work and be competent."

    I think the key thing for many Washington County voters in the Governors race was that when it came down to filling in that oval, they simply couldn't vote Dudley because of his lack of experience.

    So it wasn't the message as much as it was the experience factor. The Republicans did run a couple of relative republican moderates in Washington County (Eyre Brewer and Lindsay) who won handily in normally Demo. House Districts.

    Washington County has 14% of Oregon's population (Multnomah County has about 19%) but repreents about 20% of its economy. It has one of the most diverse populations in Oregon and the highest average household income in the State. Hillsboro is larger than Beaverton and is getting billions in solar and high tech investments in the next several yars. And, as we read about here often, Metro has designated a large portion of the metro area economic growth for Washington County.

    While I agree, Hovde doesn't "get it", the Rep's do "get it" in Washington County and are building a solid bench of officeholders here who, in 4-10 years, won't have Dudley's problems, lack of experience and engagement. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see the next Republican governor whenever that may be, come from Washington County.

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    Kari, I understand you were allowing for it rather than asserting it, but Mapes reports this evening that Dudley did NOT in fact win LO big. In fact, he lost by almost 400 votes out of ~18,000. Devlin won by 1,400, Schrader 2,000. So don't blame us LO Libs for Dudley doing well in Clackamas! :)

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    "I don't have any empirical data that demonstrates why Washington County voted for Kitzhaber over Dudley" -- I do. As Washington County Chair, I witnessed firsthand every day for the past few months our army of canvassers and phonebankers who fought hard for every Kitz vote. None of us out there on the campaign trail saw a single Duds canvasser or evidence of lit drops or any voter to voter work (altho' I am assured there was phonebanking and robo-calls a-plenty on the R side). We won Washington County for Kitz simply because we worked harder and worked smarter than the Dudley minions. We knew it would take that kind of gargantuan effort and we rose to the occasion.

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    Karen, don't give away our secrets!

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