The $150 Million Snit

Jeff Alworth

I'll admit from the outset that I don't know my keister from a hole in the ground when it comes to understanding the motivation of the Oregon GOP.  But looking at things from my perch here in the People's Republic, I'd say that the reason we don't have a final budget deal is because Karen Minnis and her merry band of crazy men can't bring themselves to sign off on a Democratic budget plan, no matter how popular it may be.

Let's review: both Senate Dems and House Republicans agree on spending for human services, public safety, and economic development.  The bone of contention is education, the Democrats' long-standing highest priority (and, incidentally, voters').    Instead of ponying up that final $150 million, the GOP argue that it should go into a patchwork of other pots.  Some of these are standard Republican priorities--a prison in Madras, for example.  But others strain credulity: putting additional money into reserves, spending more on seniors.  Wait a second--seniors?  Aren't these the same seniors the GOP threw out onto the street two years ago?  And reserves?  The party of kick-backs (err, the kicker) and tax cuts now argues for fiscal prudence?  Come on.

Looks to me like Karen Minnis just can't bring herself to give the Democrats a win, never mind whether they're right.  Is it too early yet to accuse a party of radicalism when it's willing to screw school kids just to score a political points?  Then again, maybe I misjudge Karen's motivation.  It wouldn't be the first time.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    It's called a negotiation. Karen feels she can get more mileage for her own side out of a snit than a quick compromise. If she caved too quickly, she'd have the stereotypical ranchers in Xmas Valley up in arms about caving in to us city slickers too soon.

    Go ahead and accuse her of radicalism if you think that will improve matters. I actually think the best thing for Dems to this point is to hold their tongues with that stuff and just keep stressing the point about how education is the highest priority. We have the voters on our side, why go off the deep end and start pissing people off with insults?

  • LT (unverified)

    Great line! We have the voters on our side, why go off the deep end and start pissing people off with insults?

    How right you are, esp. since the Sen. Republican Leader already did that in a press release yesterday The ‘game’ is played merely to whip up support among union members.” right before a paragraph saying the answer is the Minnis plan (no bill number yet) and Atkinson's SJR 6 which would have to be passed by voters.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Geez, LT, if you and I keep this up we're going to need to get a room.

  • Jon (unverified)

    $150 million more for schools? I just heard a report that schools have $500 million in reserve already. Why do they need the $150 million? Just curious.

    And yet they are working on legislation to have a time limit on gift know, the important stuff.

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    Keep in mind the the slogan on every GOP candidate's direct mail in the 2004 election was "Fund Education First".

    Guess not.

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    We have the voters on our side, why go off the deep end and start pissing people off with insults?

    Oh come off it. Karen Minnis is slightly less diplomatic than Dick "Go #&$* yourself" Cheney. "Start" pissing people off? That water went under the bridge a LONG time ago.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    By "people" I meant voters, not Karen.

    Like I said, if it will make you feel better, by all means, insult Karen. I'm just saying there are better things to do with your energy.

    It clearly makes you, and perhaps other BO readers, happy to pop off on Karen's activities. I'm just saying, she has her reasons for doing so. She's not speaking to you, she speaking to those in towns like Xmas Valley. Like it or not, those voters exist and they like to be catered to, just like ours in the "Kremlin."

    If we're going to bash the other side, let's do it smartly and without capriciousness.

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    With all due respect to ranchers in Christmas Valley, the behavior and motivations of the speaker and the rest of the far right who have hijacked the Republican Party, is worth noting.

    We should surely note how and why she has taken positions in the past to inform us as to why she takes certain actions in the present.

    Maybe Jeff's just correct on this one.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Do Karen's actions really affect the ability to get a deal done in the end? I question that. I think the Dems in the legislature know better than to reward her childish taunting with attention -- or at least they should.

    A vein of thought within BO seems to have taken the opposite tack -- let's pay MORE attention to Minnis' antics so we can puff ourselves up and show the world how much better we are!

    That's mental masturbation in my book. It serves no purpose. It certainly doesn't put another dollar in the school kitty (meow). It's just Blue Oregonians talking to each other about how great they are.

    That's not my style, but follow your bliss, the time it took to write about how childish Minnis is, you could have contacted [X] number of swing voters to tell them how Dems are trying to fight for more school funding for their children. Oh well.

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    Ralph, I actually agree with you in some key ways. I've long argued (see archives at the Oregon Blog) that divisiveness is far more beneficial to those who have an innately smaller constituency, as do the far right of the GOP. By creating dissention, they boil down the electorate until they have a majority.

    But we're not talking voters here. The GOP's ploy here is pure hardball. They ran on schools, on being a friend to "the people," and on the grossly misrepresented notion that their views are the majority views. Then something like this comes along that disproves all the contentions, and what happens--the GOP cleaves to the radical line.

    On an entirely different tack, I think Blue Oregon is exactly the place for snark and caprice. Isn't that a niche blogs were invented to fill? I mean, if Blue Oregon can't be snarky about Karen Minnis, who can? It doesn't mean we don't also comment on public policy with intelligence and insight (as a glance down the page demonstrates).

    (And as a matter of record, I've posted 80 times on this blog and mentioned Minnis in maybe ten of those posts. And I'm the one with the Minnis fascination. One could argue we're actually not holding up our end of the liberal bargain here.)

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    I think I've said multiple times snarking about Minnis is fine, if it floats your boat. I think it betrays a certain lack of perspective, however.

    The Minnises of the world will always exist, snark or no snark. So snark away, but don't pretend it will have any effect. Pissing into the wind, as it were.

    I see other posts on BO that say we (Dems) need to get serious about messaging, etc. Do snarks help that?

    And are you saying voters don't read BO? There's some sort of secret veil that prevents Joe Six-pack from penetrating these walls? It's true that this is a very insider-ish community...but it seems that the comments and thoughts expressed herein will eventually find their way into the general stream of one's political discourse.

    I find some Dems (not naming names here) a little too self-satisfied with their own snarking abilities and not serious enough about trying to find ways to develop their message into something that will appeal to a broader audience.

    Live by the snark, die by the snark.

  • allehseya (unverified)

    if you and I keep this up we're going to need to get a room

    No sneaking off, you two. I gain too much valuable information from witnessing your reunions, reading your opinions and making note of your information exchange here to lose it all now....

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Looks to me like Karen Minnis just can't bring herself to give the Democrats a win, never mind whether they're right.

    Jeff, don't discount the possibility that Minnis actually doesn't think they are right. In which case, it makes sense to fight for your own version of the budget.

    Also, you bash Oregon Republicans for being pro-kicker, then ridicule them for supporting any form of rainy-day fund? And you bash them for "throwing seniors out on the street" two years ago (in a bleaker financial environment) but mock them for now trying to restore some of that financing? Now who's unable to give credit where credit is due?

    Having said all that... yeah, I agree. If there's bipartisan agreement on the other major funding areas, then House leadership should come up with some kind of compromise, quickly, that devotes the majority of the leftovers to education which is where most people want the biggest improvements. I wouldn't say dump the whole thing into schools, but (arbitrarily) how about 80%? That way everybody gets to claim something positive out of the deal, that's how a good working relationship is established.

    And speaking as a (relatively moderate) Republican, snark all you want at the actions that your opponents take. Where there's a reason to criticize what's been done, by all means do. That's healthy.

    I think where both parties go off the rails is when they personalize it and snipe at the people involved, not the actions. As a voter, that to me is a bigger turn-off no matter which side is doing the talking.

  • iggi (unverified)

    Minnis is GOP to the core -- Jeff is right. she refuses to work with budget as the Dems proposed it out of pure prejudice. Bush set the precedence for working across party lines, ie. mywayorthehighway, and the rest of the party is following suite.

    now, if it were private schools they were giving money to...

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    I think the big hypocrisy is the Republicans screaming for efficiency with our money, yet they do nothing. They are willing to leave children behind. It's a core difference in ideology.

    On the other side, the Democrat's ideology seems to be to spend, spend and spend again to solve the problem. I went to an amazing high school where teachers earned nearly half what Oregon teachers make and I got 10 times the education.

    Remember, it doesn't cost any more money to give three hours of homework instead of two. And if teachers whine that they have more homework to grade, please remind them that teachers in Europe, who make half what they do, teach 35+ hours per week compared to our 30. Ahh!

    I await the day that we finally understand the real problem with education in this country.

  • LT (unverified)

    is the URL of the story yesterday in the Statesman-Journal about school budget reserves.

    With regard to the amount of money that "schools have in reserve", this gets to a linguistic and substantive thing the Republicans have done for years. Individuals schools belong to something less than 200 districts, which all do things differently--some better than others.

    They have no bills proposed (that I know of) for supervision/oversight of school boards and school administrators--maybe that is why COSA and OSBA back Minnis's "half the personal income tax" proposal for school funding.

    The GOP claims that districts have "local control" of budgets, and all they do is appropriate the money for schools to use. They love the phrase "the public schools" as if they are somehow centrally controlled, which is untrue.

    Some would have you believe that citizens have no recourse if the district management makes poor financial decisions--the real problem is those wasteful unions, dontcha know. And we are all supposed to believe that school board elections are our only input. If so, this should be an interesting election in Salem. Because of the stress of the job, realizing they weren't popular, or immediate health concerns, I don't think there is an incumbent school board member running for re-election.

    While programs were being cut in Salem-Keizer schools, and the district almost had a strike because the management gave administrators bigger raises than teachers, and teachers / parents made it clear that was unacceptable, the district had this reserve fund built up. Which few knew about until the SJ story.

    And when I called Republican offices after reading that front page story and asked how the teacher's union or a Democratic politician could be at fault for the actions of the board and Supt., few had an answer. Maybe that doesn't fit their ideology?

    Kay Baker's had a rocky time of it in Salem--so many things she did that were questioned, that she apologized for....At one point she was paid a bonus which became so controversial she donated it to a literacy program or something. She has already announced her retirement date, although I don't know when that is.

    All school boards and districts are distinct, not part of some central "the public schools". And I hope no other board has been like Salem's where a brave board member spoke in public saying "Maybe we should rethink the administrative raises" and other members verbally jumped on him for speaking in public without alerting them first.

    What part of "we the people" don't they understand?

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Ralph Makenna wrote -

    "It clearly makes you, and perhaps other BO readers, happy to pop off on Karen's activities. I'm just saying, she has her reasons for doing so. She's not speaking to you, she speaking to those in towns like Xmas Valley. Like it or not, those voters exist and they like to be catered to, just like ours in the "Kremlin."

    Odd you should mention Christmas Valley. As it happens, with the threats of local school closures, those people if voting on a single-issue (schools) would vote Democratic. My friend, Karole Stockton, who ran as a D for this Rep. District, attended townhall meetings that way 2 years ago where people in North Lake Co. were livid about school closure threats. In small towns, the school is the center and heart of the town. Close the school, kill the town.

    So, don't protray towns like Christmas Valley as Minnis's audience. Frankly, it is more likely to be the suburban bands around our major cities she is talking to. Not Christamas Valley. Minnis would be eaten alive should she go to a town hall anywhere in N. Lake County.

    Ralph, you are just wrong! Furthermore, you used a stereotype of rural people. Think about it! You assumed 100% anti-tax knee jerk Republican support. In N. Lake County, they would gladly pass a property tax levy for more school support, but State law won't let them! My God, you are so wrong. Rural people, well really all people, are loyal to their communities, and tend to vote in self interest. Christmas Valley/Silver Lake, and other places with small schools like Paulina have pragmatic people, not robots. JEEZ I wish there was a magic way to make some urban people get it.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Hey, Steve. If I'm so wrong, why is damn near every state legislator east of the Cascades an R? Are you telling me they're all waiting for the right moment to turn on Minnis?

    People may say they "support the schools" but they clearly don't vote that way when they send their legislators to Salem, given how the parties have behaved on this issue for years (D's being in favor of more education spending, R's largely being opposed).

    So it strikes me as odd that you're claiming there's this untapped pool of support for school funding coming from people (and by extension, their elected representatives) East of the Cascades when I haven't heard of any of those legislators rising up to rebuke their leader.

    Now, they may in fact be silently chafing under her leadership. And there may be untold numbers of Lake County residents ready to storm the barricades for more school funding, or to pass a law allowing localities to pass levies to allow that.

    But I'm looking at the election returns, and they're not telling me a friendly story in terms of rural support for those measures. I don't see the groundswell you see. I would love to see evidence of it. I don't -- at least not at the polls or in the press.

    Now, that doesn't mean Xmas Valley folks don't love their schools (I'm sure they love THEIR schools -- it's other people's schools they probably care less about, as you said - self-interest at work).

    But it doesn't change the fact that Minnis is clearly speaking with SOMEONE in mind when she speaks -- and if not speaking to the residents of Xmas Valley and the like, she is certainly speaking to their elected representatives. And they seem to be listening OK right now and not making too many waves against what she is doing.


  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Rather than be silent, I will just say that Ralph Makenna's insulting comments about rural Oregonians, deepened by his further insensitivity, arrogantly writing off a large part of the State without thinking about HOW we change voter habits -

    Doesn't deserve the time of day of a response.

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    But it doesn't change the fact that Minnis is clearly speaking with SOMEONE in mind when she speaks...

    I wouldn't bet the farm on it Ralph. My little birdies inside the legislature tell me that it's their impression that she just gets her talking points from DC Repub central, and then regurgitates them writ small.

    She hasn't shown me that she is capable of critical thought at all. Remind you of any faux Texans that you might have heard of?

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Steve, you have missed the point completely. Either Republicans in the legislature want to increase funds for education, or they don't. If they do, I haven't heard it. If their constituents want that, I haven't heard them exert any pressure on their elected representatives to do so. And if rural Oregonians really love schools so much, they should vote Dem!

    This post was originally talking about how Minnis + the GOP don't seem to give a rats ass about fully funding education. I think that's true. But the original poster wondered WHY Minnis would throw a fit about it -- I was attempting to answer why. Theatrics + playing to her base was my answer. Her base being Republicans in the state. If as Pat says she is just recycling talking points, it sure seems like enough voters have supported her position -- whether through inaction or overt support -- to continue the stalemate. Whether she came up with the talking points or the Great Machine from Crawford did -- same difference.

    Sorry if my words seem to have been construed by you as a slight towards rural Oregonians. But again -- if rural Oregonians want better funded schools for their children, they should vote Dem. Since all the data shows me they DON'T do that -- either we have more work to do in showing them why they should do so, or there are simply other issues more important than schools motivating them to vote GOP. Thus, as much as they (or anyone) says they "support schools" -- it is very easy to SAY that and then BALK at actually funding them (as the GOP is doing). To my mind, whether you are a legislator doing that or a voter implicitly or explicitly endorsing that action by voting to re-elect a legislator doing that results in the same end -- schools receiving less money.

    Now, I don't think any voter is a "robot" per se -- but why do the vast majority of people tend to vote for the same party over and over again (and they do!)? Why do most seriously contested elections end up with both parties getting at least 40% of the vote? That math would seem to indicate a whole lot of people are not changing sides a whole bunch of the time from election to election.

    If you'd like to persist in the fiction that everyone's vote is up for grabs with an equal chance of convincing them to switch parties each and every time, so be it. But that is far from the political reality I have encountered in this business. I would love to get more rural Oregonians to vote Dem. I would love to believe that they really do care as much about schools as you say they do. But their historical actions to this point, in electing those they tend to elect, lead me to believe otherwise. Perhaps we can change their minds eventually. Perhaps we can recruit candidates in those districts who will motivate people to vote Dem by speaking to their issues. Count me in to help on campaigns where that is the goal. But DON'T expect me to swallow that people in rural, or urban, or suburban districts should get a free pass when they SAY they love schools, then put people in office who actively work to DESTROY schools.

    Pat, exhibiting critical thought is one thing -- politics is another.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Ralph, one of the things about the Oregon GOP leadership (I'm talking party leadership overall, not just in the legislature) as far as I can see is that they are very organized and controlling about who they support. Believe me, Karen Minnis does not speak for all Republicans in the state, urban or rural. But those at the top in our party, keep a pretty tight leash.

    I suspect that there is just as much diversity of opinion among rank-and-file Republicans as among Democrats. It's just that those "in charge" on the R side of the aisle tend to selectively support those candidates for office willing to toe the party line.

    That, to me, is both the strength and weakness (from what I've observed) of the Democrats. You have much more free expression of ideas among your leadership, which is fantastic. But with that diversity of expression comes a dilution of message, as well.

    Anyhow, just because Minnis is spouting off and the more-or-less hand-picked Republican majority behind her isn't vocal with any disagreements they may have, doesn't mean that all the residents who voted for those legislators (or even all the Republicans who did) back her plans.

    Also, not everybody in the state is a single-issue voter. Some of us actually consider the whole package when voting for a person, and may end up supporting someone who doesn't see eye-to-eye with us on some key things, but overall is a better fit for our philosophy. So just being "right" on education, as important as that issue is, will not by itself necessarily bring in a lot of votes to your side.

    One other thing about Minnis... doesn't she represent a constituency in East Multnomah County, where the county surtax (for education among other things) was hugely unpopular? Could it simply be that her message resonates with those she represents because they are already paying extra for their schools, and would prefer the state to spend on other things? Just a thought, I'm a West-sider myself so I'm not really in tune with that part of town, though from the few friends I have who live over there that's what I hear.

    Another thought, along the lines of following GOP central command, wouldn't it be smart for Republicans to demonstrate a willingness to spend more money on seniors, in advance of their whacked-out plans for trashing Social Security? Kind of laying the ground work for making the case that they care more about seniors because they're willing to increase spending on senior programs while the national Republicans cough "fix" cough SS?

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Ralph, quick follow-up since your post from 9:25 was made while I was composing my last...

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the proposed education budget, sans the $150M, still a higher dollar amount than the last budget?

    Now, we get into the perennial argument over whether an absolute increase is really an increase or a cut, etc. I'm well aware of the perspectives on both sides. But when you knock Republicans for saying they want to increase education spending, and they propose to literally increase education spending but not by as much as you'd like, then the "Republicans as hypocrites" argument isn't quite as strong.

    You can still argue that Dems are better on education because you'd spend even more. But that doesn't mean that the Republicans haven't also increased spending. So then it's not really a question of IF but HOW MUCH?

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    David --

    Fair points, all. I'll respond to you lovingly.

    Re: the lockstep nature of the GOP. I think it's generally true that the GOP is better at this than Dems, and I share your view that Dems are great often because they squabble openly, yet it also sometimes can be their worst habit. It's the curse of being a Dem, I suppose -- but one I gladly suffer through.

    With regard to Minnis and rural Oregonian voters, perhaps you are right in that she is merely trying to please her East Multnomah County constituents, and the Lake and Harney Counties of the world are being held hostage to her mad ravings. Unlikely, but maybe. Still, two facts are unassailable:

    1) The Oregon GOP, for better or worse, CHOSE Minnis as their leader. Sure, sure, you can point to seniority or what not. But whatever the reason, they still made a conscious choice to have her perspective be their public persona. So they continue to implicitly support her message delivery, which tells you something about them and their priorities. That is, for however much they say they care about schools, they have made choices that do not convert that caring into ACTION. For the schoolchild, it is the same poor result no matter what.

    2) The same goes for any voter who votes GOP. I am perfectly willing to concede that GOP voters (I'll use them in place of rural Oregonians here, since it seems to be a sensitive issue, even though the Venn diagrams on those two groups overlap greatly) care about schools, but may be motivated to vote on other issues, or personality, or barometric pressure, or what not. But again, the result of their voting is to put candidates in office who, when given a choice, will NOT vote to fully fund schools and will NOT speak out against a leader who is advocating same. So, in the end, the schoolchild suffers the same fate.

    Now, in regards to comparative levels of school funding -- perhaps the Minnis level would achieve the "right" level of education result. Perhaps the Courtney level would. Perhaps the Minnis level minus 10% would. Perhaps the Courtney level plus 20% would. Each side stakes out their claim, and then the process works its will. If you believe the Minnis level would cover all the schools' needs, that's fine.

    But what I object to is trying to play both sides and claim that just because school funding went "up" over last year, that you're fully funding education priorities in this state. Because it is clear from voter reaction that people do NOT feel that is the case.

    Consistent majorities say they want more money for schools. It's the how and when to pay for it where things break down.

  • LT (unverified)

    Ralph, Are you aware of what part of Oregon voted for Measure 5? It was NOT east of the Cascades!

    As far as the question of "why don't they vote Dem.?" in rural counties, we come back to the question of why Cowan and Stiegler lost--the first by 414 votes and the second by 548 votes. Could it be for reasons discussed on other BlueOregon topics? Why did Ben Westlund get the nomination of both parties?

    Ralph, have you ever been involved in a local campaign where someone said "I was going to vote for that person, but then...." and the reasons were things like "how could an honest candidate hire someone like that--either poor judge of character or corrupt" (in small towns many people know each other and form such opinions), "that was a stupid thing their staff did" or "she didn't give me a straight answer to my question" or "he ran that stupid ad/ sent out that stupid mailer" etc.? I have known people who were going to vote for a particular candidate but something happened to change their mind. It happens more often than some who study election statistics would like to believe, and to them I would say "You need to get out more and talk to everyday people!".

    You may say "But again -- if rural Oregonians want better funded schools for their children, they should vote Dem.", but how many people do you know personally who have voted straight party 2 elections in a row? How many registered Independents do you know (or who have been registered Indep. for any period in the last 10 years)? Those votes count just as much as someone who has voted straight party in every election for the past decade! Do you know anyone who has voted Republican or 3rd party in the last several elections? Many of the people I know don't vote a straight ticket but vote for the individual. (Bush and Hooley as incumbents deserving re-election would be a good example from a friend who in the past voted for both Gordon Smith and John Kitzhaber as personally impressive individuals.)

    Until people who care about Democrats winning elections are willing to enter into conversations with such voters, they won't understand why they vote the way they do. I have driven through neighborhoods where the lawn signs are not straight party (Bush and a Dem. for lower office, for instance). How do you suppose they made the decision to display such signs?

    And don't talk to me about what the data say on voting patterns. These are individual decisions individually arrived at. One local example: Dan Doyle won re-election but his wife lost the county office she ran for. Why was that--well known county Dem. candidate who'd been around for decades and an underfunded state rep. Dem. candidate who hadn't run umpteen times before? What would "the data" say about that? Why did Dr. Bates win the St. Sen. seat in Jackson County? Didn't Jackson County go for Bush?

    As far as Minnis and the budget, there will be a couple things happening in the near future which will show true colors. Courtney has a bill (front page of SJ today) to deal with school district reserves. Will Minnis's "half the personal income taxes" budget idea ever get a bill number? Is she talking about half the income taxes before or after reconnecting to the federal tax code (passed the House, will it pass the Senate?)or aren't we supposed to ask such detailed questions? Are Minnis and her allies aware that however powerful they may consider themselves, nothing passes the state senate until 16 Senators have answered AYE as their names are called in a floor vote?

    Minnis loves to talk about "a number for school funding" but not about how the money is spent. Her victory margin in the last election was only about half of the previous election--not a good sign if one is Speaker of the House. Had 3 women Democrats won their close races, the House would have been split.

    And now there is SB 766. It passed the Senate and now the House will have to deal with a bill which COSA and OSBA don't like. It ends "sweetheart" deals for school superintendents. Today I called around to several Republican state rep. offices and found considerable interest in this bill from their staffers. All it would take would be for 3 or 4 Republican state reps to say "you know, maybe administrators have been paid too much" to possibly unravel Minnis's majority on this issue. And if that happens before her pet project gets a bill number....

    Contact state reps, esp. the Republicans, and let them know were you stand on SB 766. Be very positive "I support SB 766 because...". Apparently minds have not been made up on this issue.

    Speaker is a position (like Sen. President) which is not for a fixed term. Traditionally it is that, but in the past some members have made the presiding officer's life difficult when they got angry. One session back a few decades, some members (6 of them, and the majority was less than 36, so they had a controlling bloc) got mad at the Speaker and said "You can keep the title but we will take the power" of things like committees.

    But such things happen when people get active and talk to others about why legislation or ideas are a good thing. Such things don't happen merely by looking at data and getting angry assuming that voters in another county should see politics through your eyes.

  • LT (unverified)

    1) The Oregon GOP, for better or worse, CHOSE Minnis as their leader. Sure, sure, you can point to seniority or what not. But whatever the reason, they still made a conscious choice to have her perspective be their public persona. So they continue to implicitly support her message delivery, which tells you something about them and their priorities.

    Perhaps the "follow the leader" mentality is greater among Republicans. I still recall an exchange in 2004 with a very nice Republican "moderate" (voted yes on HB 2152, among other things) state rep. when I asked "if re-elected, would you vote for the re-election of Minnis as Speaker?" and the startled look as if WHY NOT?

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    I am well aware of the vagaries of the voters, having worked in politics for many a year.

    And I agree totally that data cannot be a substitute for actual conversations.

    However, data are useful in evaluating the tendencies of large populations. Science does it all the time. I see no reason why political science should be any different.

    Yes, there are ticket splitters. Yes, there are independents. Yes, there are 3rd parties. Yes, people change their minds. Yet, the results of elections are often very very close in a statistical sense. This tells me there are persuadables, and there are unpersuadables. You know this to be true.

    Kudos to your efforts to support SB 766. I shall look into it.

    I eagerly await GOP Representatives from all parts of the state gathering to take away the gavel from Ms. Minnis, or for her to lose her seat, or for Dems to retake the House in the next election. I will work towards that end as much as I can.


  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    I'm not "talking" to Ralph, but I wanted to support what LT was saying.

    Every vote counts. Kerry would not have won Oregon without rural votes. In my little rural County, Bush beat Kerry, but it certainly wasn't 100%!. Kerry got over 3,000 votes here, part of that 70,000 win margin. Interestingly, showing what is real and what isn't, in 4 of 17 precincts in this County, Sen. Ron Wyden got more votes in his race than did George Bush in his race. Wyden got 55% of the County vote. That means that a whole lot of people voted for a Republican at the top of the ticket, and a Democrat down the ticket. In our local offices at the city and County level, about 50% are Democrats.

    And, we love our schools here. Said it once, will say it again with a different emphasis. We didn't elect Karen Minnis. She is an insensitive "valley" person. She demonstrates hatred towards our schools, and people here really love our schools. She would be unwelcome by most in our County. Being polite people, if she came here, she would get a silent treatment except from the usual boot lickers. She certainly wouldn't feel any warmth or support.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thanks Steve! And for those who want to study data, I would suggest looking at Wyden data in any district in the state--comparing Ron's votes to the votes in that jurisdiction for anyone else: Ron and Congressional candidate Ron and state legislative candidate Ron and county candidate etc.

    I remember the 1984 Dem. US Sen. nominee against Hatfield. For years afterwards people would say "Yep! That's your reliable Democratic vote--whatever the number was in an impossible race against Hatfield" (Hatfield an entrenched incumbent, the Democrat a very bright woman lacking personal warmth and other political skills). Even back then it was around 35% as I recall.

    If I am not mistaken, didn't Wyden get elected to Congress in 1980 after defeating an incumbent in the primary?

    Anywhere that Ron Wyden did well in 2004 (or other Senate election), from precinct level on up, is a potential winner for Democrats in the future. A person who would vote for Wyden is a person who doesn't vote straight Republican.

    But then the trick is to figure out why Wyden wins precincts that other Democrats might not win.

    And that means talking to actual voters. Maybe they just like the way he shows up, is a genuine person, answers their questions and listens to their concerns. What a concept!

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Perhaps the "follow the leader" mentality is greater among Republicans.

    Yep, among those who are elected, anyhow. Largely because, without those leaders, they wouldn't have had a chance to become the official GOP candidate for whatever office they sought. Try running for office as a Republican without the formal blessing of the state party apparatus...

    When you (as a leader) exert that much control over who gets to represent your party in an election, you end up with a pretty compliant contingent in the legislature. You end up with people who "owe you" for their job. And you end up with people who know that if they stray too far, they'll lose the very important financial support of the party in their next election.

    Yes, those of us in the moderate sector of the GOP need to take responsibility and work to reclaim our own party. No question about it. But it takes time to dislodge people with that much power. Especially in the Republican party. We are a party of conservatives, after all, and generally have more of an aversion to shaking up the status quo. <nobr>;-)</nobr>

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)


    Lake County -- 2004 Results

    Office D R President 802 3,039 U.S. Congress 548 3,164 State Senate 914 2,764 State House 0 3,028

    The Republican candidate had very similar numbers in all four of these offices, showing there's at least a grain of truth to what I said -- the R's can count on a very solid level of support in that area.

    Now, I didn't include Wyden, obvs -- he had no major opposition, and we all know how that skews the data. Wyden did end up getting about 1,700 votes there. But if a higher profile R had run against Wyden, does anyone think Wyden would have done as well in Lake Cty?

    Now, Wyden is to be commended for running and winning a broad campaign. And while I'd love to see Wyden-esque candidates take all the offices in terms of their ability to draw Dem votes in "red" areas, something tells me that's not going to happen.

    LT, find me candidates with Wyden-like potential in all the corners of the state and I will work to get them elected. But it's rare, the exception that proves the rule.

  • LT (unverified)

    My point was that those who "hate" Democrats wouldn't have voted for Wyden if there was no one on the ballot--they would have left the ballot line blank. So that means there were 1700 potential Democratic votes in the numbers above.

    Ralph, whose campaigns did you work on in 2004 or 2002? I don't do as much as I used to, but then I started volunteering in the 1970s.

    What David W. said about Republicans is truer about Democrats than some would like to believe. For instance, why did the OEA endorse Dalto over Howells? He still won by a smaller margin than last time. Yes, having known Claudia Howells for decades, I do think she was a candidate of Wyden-like potential.

  • (Show?)

    LT, I know nothing personally about either Billy Dalto or Claudia Howells, but I know that Billy Dalto had a 100% rating from AFSCME. I'm guessing that he had a similar rating from OEA - as he voted against the governor's PERS reforms that were so opposed by the public employee unions.

    When someone votes with an organization 100%, should anyone be surprised that they win the endorsement?

  • (Show?)

    Oh, and my disclaimer: I don't work for either OEA or AFSCME, nor Claudia Howells nor Billy Dalto.

    I'm a Democrat through and through, and had the opportunity presented itself - I would have worked for Claudia Howells, and not Billy Dalto.

    I'm just not surprised that an organization supported an elected official who voted 100% with them.

  • gus (unverified)

    With 113 of 198 Oregon public school districts ending the 2003-2004 school year with substantialsurplus funds, would anyone deny that Oregon's public school districts can, with cooperation among stakeholders, exert local spending control.

    I would also suggest that both political parties are engaging in some intramural finger pointing while they wait hopefully for the May revenue projection to allow education and other spending in line with what the lobbyists are demanding.

    From where I sit, a lot of Republicans in the legislature are sincerely in line with the school spending deman

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    For the record, Sen. Wyden did not run unopposed. There were four candidates against him.

    Here in Crook Co., the Republicans set up an office at the corner of 3rd and Main, our main intersection. They ran an aggressive campaign for Wyden's Republican opponent. Wyden didn't have one lawn sign here, not one speaking engagement during campaign season, not one letter to the editor, in short he had no campaign at all. His opponent had lawn signs. His opponent had lots of visible public support. I gage Wyden's 55% win here as a benchmark of what can be. It wasn't very many years ago, before redistricting, that this was a Democratic District. Mike Nelson, Democrat, from Baker City, represented this district when I moved here in 1990. After he went another way, another Democratic, Payne, represented us another couple of years.

    What I resent the most is this -

    In every town in Oregon, there are Democrats. In every rural area, every crossroads, - every place - there are Democrats. There may not be very many. There may only be a hundred here or a hundred there. If we want to make progress towards making those hundreds into thousands, if we want to turn the legislature around and have a Democratic State House, then we cannot discount, insult, put down, slam, or otherwise forget that those hundreds of Democrats are already here. They are the base we have to built upon.

    Raphy Makenna's comments are completely unworthy of anyone serious about making progress with the Democratic Party, electing Democrats to State office, etc. You cannot call 2/3rds of the geography a Republican stronghold, insult the people there, and expect to make progress. You have to recognize what you have, and strengthen it. Mr. Makenna's comments about Christmas Valley/North Lake County were in the context of assuming that because House Speaker Minnis was an anti-tax Republican, Christmas Valley would support her. I challenged that stereotype. I doubt that Minnis has ever been to Christmas Valley or Silver Lake. Mr. Makenna's comment was thrown out without any real basis. When LT put the numbers on this thread, you can see that there is not 100% support for the local Republicans. We don't need 51% more votes to elect Democrats here - we do need about 20% more votes. Do you get those votes by making offhanded comments that are complete fiction about what people believe and do? I don't think so.

    We need to attach the Republicans. In North Lake County, the State Senator is Whitsett, and the State Representative is Gilman. If you want to change minds in North Lake County, you have to bring our issues to the people. The press has effectively been keeping it a big secret that Whitsett and Gilman are big movers in the effort to reduce the minimum wage. As Democrats we need to tell the High School Students in North Lake County that when they are eligible to vote, they should remember that Whitsett and Gilman attempted to lower student summer wages from $7.25 per hour to $6.40 per hour - but the Democrats stopped them. We need to tell the waitresses in North Lake County that Whitsett and Gilman tried to lower their income, and we the Democrats stopped them. We need to tell the people of North Lake County that these underhanded speaky %$#@ people tried to get more tax breaks to the rich while they were working on income reductions for the average person, and the Democrats stopped them.

    We need to tell them that Democrats stand for responsible government, that cares about all the people equally, without special privelege for the rich. We need to tell them that Democrats want to make sure that they have an equal share in our society and that they will be secure in their retirement and have affordable health care - if we as Democrats are allowed to have our way.

    Yes, we have lots of ways to work with places like North Lake County.

    But instead Mr. Mckenna makes an assumption that is insulting, degrading, and completely uninformed about how people think and feel in North Lake County.

    Whose side are you on?

  • LT (unverified)

    I agree with Steve.

    And Kari, which side are you on? If a union endorsed a Republican in the district where you lived, would you work for the Democrat even if that alienated union people?

    Are you aware that in the 1980s there were union activists who would go to the AFL-CIO convention and stand up to endorse the Republican their union was endorsing, then come to the next state central committee and tell those of us who were not union members that "real Democrats" stood for certain things including union infallibility?

    There were other union members at those st. central comm. meetings who would get really angry because they agreed with the proposition that the purpose of the Democratic Party is to elect Democrats. They said anyone who stood with their union to endorse a Republican had that right--but then had the responsibility to resign their position in the Democratic Party because they had decided something else was more important than electing Democrats.

    Did you know that in 1991 when Gerry Cogan announced his retirement as DNC member to the State Central Comm. that one line in his speech was, "I have always supported unions, but unions should support Democrats."? He later said he put that line in on behalf of a friend in the audience who lost a close election after the unions endorsed the Republican incumbent. Maybe didn't like how his friend was treated.

    At least Kari has brought that debate out in the open. In the old days that debate just took place in face to face conversations. Now anyone reading this blog can give their opinion on that debate.

    My position is that people should decide priorities. If the number one priority is electing Democrats to deprive someone like Karen Minnis of being Speaker, then that means electing people who might not agree with unions 100% of the time.

    If the #1 priority is electing people who agree with unions, then go for it! But don't go with union- endorsed Republicans and then be surprised at what their leadership does, or what bills they sponsor.

    The way teacher tenure was ended was that the OEA endorsed Neil Bryant in a hotly contested St. Sen. election because they hadn't always agreed with the House member running against Bryant. Bryant won. Bryant co-sponsored the bill to end teacher tenure.

    Anyone unhappy with that bill ending teacher tenure should ask why the OEA endorsed Bryant.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Steve, quick question: why didn't the Democrats in the campaign against Whitsett and Gilman make your points about min. wage? Why didn't the Dems try to talk to reporters about this (instead of "keeping it a big secret")? And if they did make those points, why didn't voters respond?

    You seem to imply that by me saying Eastern Oregon tends to vote for the GOP (WHICH THEY DO - last time most counties over there voted Dem for Prez was 1964), that I am then also saying Dems should completely give up the ghost all over that side of the state. WHERE DID I SAY THAT???? I did not say that.

    If you want to be insulted, feel insulted. But don't put words in my mouth.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Quick answers:

    Whitsett in particular was thought to have the minimum wage position in the campaign, was confronted, and denied he was for cutting the minimum wage. He even wrote a letter to the Editor in our local paper saying he would not sponsor or co-sponsor a minimum wage cut in January - 10 days before he did exactly that. We have responded locally with letters to the editor and paid advertising pointing this out.

    Gilman had no opponent this time, so there was not a forum to bring this up.

    You are again dead wrong on your facts. Up until the election of Clinton, my county, Crook County, was the bellwether county with the longest track record. We elected Jimmy Carter in 1976. So it wasn't since 1964 as you said.

    You certainly gave the impression of giving up on Eastern Oregon, based upon the entirely negative, stereotypical, slamming way you talked about us.

    Other readers - please accept my apology for typos on my last post. Sometimes when the arthritis is kicking in, my figures find keys I didn't intend. I meant Ralph, not Ralpy; meant attack the Republicans, not attach; and sneaky, not speaky. Whew, if only these old gnarled fingers would do what I tell them!

  • LT (unverified)

    Ralph, did you know what bills your state rep. candidates would sponsor before they were elected? You said Steve, quick question: why didn't the Democrats in the campaign against Whitsett and Gilman make your points about min. wage? Why didn't the Dems try to talk to reporters about this (instead of "keeping it a big secret")? And if they did make those points, why didn't voters respond?

    First of all, Ralph, have you ever read newspapers like the East Oregonian? Or were they supposed to talk to reporters for TV stations (in Bend? what are the TV stations east of Bend?)or seek out Oregonian reporters?

    What if Whitsett and Gilman campaigned on "values" and other vague Republican themes last fall? Should the Democrats have been mind readers and known in advance what bills the Republican candidates would advocate? Unless you have seen ads or literature where Whitsett and/or Gilman said "Send us to Salem and we will try to lower the min. wage", why do you assume that those candidates talked about that before being sworn in as legislators? I remember being really frustrated when a Republican legislative candidate wouldn't go on record on how she would vote. Should we have twisted her arm before the election? Or been telepathic and told people in advance "this is how she will vote"?

    Ralph, you still have not told us which campaigns you worked on. You sound like someone who talks a good fight but doesn't have much real world campaign experience, esp. outside the big city.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Steve -- I said MOST counties voted GOP. Not all. But definitely most. Read what I write. And I merely used an example -- which clearly got a bee in your bonnet. Chill out.

    LT -- So this has become an inquisition now? This is how you reward attempts to further open debate?

    Ah, now I see how Blue Oregon works.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    "Gilman had no opponent this time, so there was not a forum to bring this up."

    Oh, that's classic. You're yelling at me for writing off East of the Cascades (which I'm NOT), yet Lake County Dems can't find one person to run. Who's selling out the East of the Cascades now? Certainly not me.

    Every seat should be contested every time. I think we'd find unanimity on this point.

  • LT (unverified)

    Yes, Ralph, every seat contested. And will you find it an "inquisition" to tell us what you intend to do to make that a reality?

    In Baker County, Bush's vote was 6253,to Kerry's 2616 Walden got 6748 to McColgan's 1758, Wyden got 4391 to King's 4077, Close got 4772 to Bradbury's 3533, Caton got 4771, to Edwards 3070 Connolly got 4932 to Myers's 3137. So are more than 4400 Baker County residents solid Republican voters?

    Ralph, you said we don't read what you write. Your actual words in one comment were: 2) The same goes for any voter who votes GOP. I am perfectly willing to concede that GOP voters (I'll use them in place of rural Oregonians here, since it seems to be a sensitive issue, even though the Venn diagrams on those two groups overlap greatly) care about schools, but may be motivated to vote on other issues, or personality, or barometric pressure, or what not. This sounds like someone putting more faith in statistics than in work on the ground. Perhaps you would like to go to Baker County and tell them what the Venn diagrams say. But that would involve interaction with actual voters, and not just statistics.

    Maybe you should run for state rep.--or is there an incumbent Democrat in your district? Which part of the state do you live in? Or am I being mean to ask you what you have done and what you intend to do?

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    I don't see other commenters on here being asked to pass a loyalty test.

    Not that I have anything to prove to you, smart guy, but I've been in politics professionally since 1990. Local, state, national, international. Currently, I'm temporarily out of politics and consulting in the private sector.

    I live all over the place. My base of operations is SW Portland, but I travel frequently for work.

    Blood samples and or urine samples can be provided on request.

  • LT (unverified)

    Howard Dean said in a speech about the future of the Democratic Party The most practical destination is winning elective office. And we must do that at every level of government. The way we will rebuild the Democratic Party is not from consultants down, but from the ground up.

    Notice what he said about from the ground up. That doesn't mean Medford telling Hillsboro what to do, or Portland telling Baker County what to do. As mentioned in a comment above, a couple of exemplary state representatives named Payne and Nelson represented Baker, OR. Nelson was in real estate. Payne was a young man (maybe 24 when sworn in). As I recall, he lived out of his truck and drove all around the district campaigning. He wasn't given a chance, until it appeared in the fall he might win. As I recall, everyone from lobbyists to big time party people started contributing to his campaign weeks before the election when he looked like a winner.

    The trick is to find the Nelsons and the Paynes and convince them to run. A total stranger from another part of the state demanding that a candidate be found to run in every district isn't going to convince someone to totally disrupt their lives for months to run for office.

    In 2002 Jeff Barker decided to run for state rep. and he won by 40 votes (partly due to the Bus Project). Betty Komp ran in rural Marion County in 2002 and lost by less than 100 votes, and won in 2004. Did all these people win because they took orders from people who had been "in politics professionally since 1990" or because their campaigns matched their districts?

    Did the caucus effort help or hinder the 3 women who lost by less than 900 votes--Stiegler, Cowan, Howells?

    Steve B. is a county chair, Charlie Burr worked on the Ringo v. Witt victory. I was a volunteer for decades incl. on the effort which led to the first Democrat ever elected in my district.

    Those of us who have done grass roots politics are loyal to the friends we made and have a certain respect for those who we know are doing hard work (county chairs, people who worked on specific campaigns which we remember).

    We are not required to take a person seriously who we have never met and who doesn't talk about a specific campaign. I happen to think that Joe Trippi has more sense these days than Carville and Begala. Maybe that is because I know some people who have worked with Trippi, as well as having seen him on television.

    If Ralph doesn't want to tell us which campaigns he worked on (maybe they weren't in Oregon) that's fine. But he shouldn't be giving orders to people who have actually worked in Oregon campaigns. I don't always agree with Kari C. or Jim Edmonds, but I know the work they have done. Same is true for FuturePac--I think they have a lot of explaining to do about why they still haven't won the House majority.

    But I have more respect for all of them than for Ralph and his snippy remarks like don't see other commenters on here being asked to pass a loyalty test.

    Remarks like that remind me of someone about a decade ago who couldn't understand why I didn't vote for his candidate. I asked his candidate a point blank question to his face "Why do you oppose the legislation to----" and the candidate let his staffers yell at me rather than answering the question. Later one of the staffers said "When you chose to show up wearing a button I disagreed with, you lost the right to ask my candidate a question". Such rudeness doesn't win friends and influence people.

    If Ralph wants to use his "professional" connections to find someone in Baker or one of the other E. Oregon counties to run for state rep. in 2006, or to find out what mistakes were made which cost Stiegler the Central Oregon seat by so few hundred votes, then that would be a great public service.

    But don't lecture those of us who have done work on Oregon campaigns--it won't work. And it sounds like that woman (Sherry something?) who was the spokesperson for a term limits campaign in Washington state in about 1991. Someone I knew and supported as a candidate contemplated hiring that woman as a campaign manager. After he announced that at a meeting, I went up to him afterwards and said "Sorry, but if you hire her, I will not work on your campaign. She is rude and would turn off voters and life is too short to deal with someone like that".

    In the end, he hired a campaign manager with wit and charm and the ability to win friends and influence people.

    Maybe there is a lesson in that for Ralph. It is as old as the lesson in the Aesop's fable about the wind and the sun competing to see who is the most powerful.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    LT, your preferred choice of consultant speaks volumes about you. I.e., you'd rather take someone who lost at higher levels over those who won.

    Was not aware posting on Blue Oregon required bona fides in terms of amount of work done for local Dems. I thought this was an open forum. Guess not.

    <h2>I look forward to your next lecture of someone who has thoughts to share yet does not have as much experience as you.</h2>

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