..and how the minor parties are naderizing the Oregon SOS race.
It happened in 2000, and we know the results - in the death-by-1000-cuts election, Bush oozed by Gore with 537 recorded votes. Ralph Nader played a role in drawing from Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore's base in Florida and the result was a George Bush selection to the Presidency. Nadarites will argue that it wasn't Ralphie's fault - there were many other issues with FLA 2000. Sure there were, but everything Ralph Nader DID do in 2000 worked against Gore; had Nader not been engaged in his usual high-level ego stroking, we would not now be suffering the legacy of Bush.
Fast forward to Oregon 2012. In the SOS race there is a small force of minor party candidates and the 2 traditionals: incumbent Dem Kate Brown challenged by wealthy GOP orthopedic surgeon Knute Buehler. Buehler, a candidate with no legislative record, portrays himself as a moderate, and has the charisma to pass. Much discussed initiative activist Bob Wolfe entered the SOS race with the nod of the Progressive Party in late August. Also running is Seth Woolley of the Pacific Green Party, a GP activist and officer who received his own Party's nod. These 3 fellows in the race seem to be engaged in a nuanced dance with one another with the sole intent of unseating Brown... which would, in a most Nader-esq fashion, elect Knute. A third minor party candidate, Libertarian Bruce Knight, seems to be making little noise and has not even filed any campaign finance reports.
The Progressive Party, according to latest records available (Sept. 2012), boasts less than 2000 registered voters. PP nominee Wolfe, of course, is the most notorious of the minor party candidates; his schlocky signature gathering operation on behalf of IP 24 came under scrutiny when he self-reported apparent forgeries done by a couple of individuals on his team. The SOS signature examination process found significant problems with the IP 24 signature sheets - duplicate signatures, non-extent or inactive voters, signatures that didn't match those on file, and the alleged forgeries. IP 24 failed to obtain a sufficient number of verified signatures, did not make the ballot and the SOS levied a hefty $65k fine against Wolfe's operation. Wolfe cried wolf, got lawyers, filed suits, lost a restraining order to put IP 24 on the ballot, and easily slid himself on to the ballot via the Progressive Party. He's been busy purchasing ads on metro radio, including Portland's progressive station KPOJ, via Coast Campaign Group. Financial backing for of Wolfe's campaign is from the Foundation for Constitutional Protection, the out-of-state group which supported his initiative.
Seth Woolley, Pacific Green Party Candidate came to the ballot by way of Nominating Convention. The Green Party online features minutes and notes of past meetings and Conventions. A 2010 Nominating Convention nominated a US Senate candidate with 9 attendees. "Draft" minutes submitted at the time by Secretary Seth Woolley noted that the 9 attendees nominated Candy Neville as their Senate nominee-to-be as soon as she registered with the Green Party. 2012 Convention minutes do not seem to be available, but Woolley has stated on this blog that he was nominated via Convention, and additionally stated that it was pretty easy and that he'd had no competition. Wooley ran for SOS in 2008, and is also listed as a Co-Director of Oregon's Green Party, which has 11,000 voters statewide. As in 2008, Woolley appears to be entirely self funded.
Enter Dan Meek, longtime activist, local attorney and co-founder of the Independent Party of Oregon. Meek has teamed up with conservative attorney and activist Ross Day to represent Bob Wolfe. Meek, of course, adamantly defends Wolfe and defends the integrity of "our membership" in the Progressive Party nomination processes (Blue Oregon, Day of the Wolfe, comments 10/24). To be fair, Meek's name is no longer among the listed contacts on the Indy site, and as an attorney, he is certainly not limited in who he can represent, but the cross pollination between the Progressives and the Indies certainly merits attention. Meek had been a driving force behind worthy progressive causes in the past; campaign finance reform, for one, but since the founding of the Indy Party, Meek's focus has/had been the paternal care-taking and development of the Indy Party. The Indy's major issue is its own existence, which it bolsters through a clever nomination system that has candidates from all levels and various parties scrambling over one another to obtain an Indy nomination, which brings us to Knute.
Knute Buehler successfully attained the SOS Indy nomination with a whooping 348 votes statewide. In this top-of-the-ticket race, the Indy's cast 661 votes, less than 1% of their total registration at the time (July, 2012). Under Oregon's quasi fusion voting law, candidates can seek the nomination of multiple parties. If successfully nominated by a particular party, that party's moniker appears by the candidate's name on the ballot - up to 3 can be listed. This is a particular boon to the Independent Party, which rarely offers it's own candidates. In this year's process, 47 candidates appeared on the Independent Party nominating ballots, apparently attracted to the thought of "Independent" being printed next to their names on Oregon General Election ballots.
During June and July, the Indy's contacted their 76k registered voters, received 1264 ballot requests and had just the 661 ballots returned - a rate of less than 1%.
Both Meek and Indy Secretary Sal Peralta have vehemently defended their nomination process AND "their" candidates, but trying to find a cohesive theme or philosophy that unites the candidates is futile. Generally, the Indy nominee reflects the flavor of the particular District, the amount of effort a potential nominee puts into attracting Indy votes or simply reflects the fact that a potential nominee's opponent did not apply for Indy nomination. They are Dems, Republicans, liberals and conservatives - oh, and there IS one Indy. One candidate actually received the Indy nomination with one vote - her opponent didn't apply.
So how does all of this tie together with the SOS race? Woolley, Wolfe, Meek and Day are spoilers, and in the political world, the defeat of Brown would give them chops. The biggest winner in a Brown defeat (other than Knute) could potentially be conservative Ross Day. While Meek is out and loud along with Woolly and Wolfe, excoriating Kate for the terrible wrongs of invalidating non-signatures, Day can happily and quietly watch progressives pave the way for a new GOP SOS. It's rather brilliantly Rovian.