My toughest vote

T.A. Barnhart

It's not often I vote with regret.  I love to vote.  Voting is the ultimate democratic act: everything begins at the ballot box, every decision, every choice in path, every possibility taken or refused.  Voting is exciting.  I prepare daily, all year, for years, for those few minutes spent voting.  When I receive my ballot in the mail, I have a good idea where I will be marking my choices.  I know the candidates or issues I need to do my final research and decision-making on.  And when I finish, seal my envelopes and sign my name to the back, when I am ready to drop off my ballot (I take mine to a drop-off site, the closest I can come to a voting booth), I am almost always satisfied and excited.

But not this time.  This primary election is one of the toughest votes I've ever cast.  Also one of the most exciting, because I am on the ballot!  As my friend Lynn says, w00t!  Not for anything major, but it is important: I am standing for Democratic Precinct Committee Person in Corvallis' 2nd Precinct.  My name is on this ballot along with former State Rep Barbara Ross, City Councillor Trish Daniels, former City Councillor and current Oregon NOW President Tina Empol — and that's just Precinct 2.  My state representative, Sara Gelser, is also on this ballot.  Across the state, I know that many respected and hard-working Democrats are on their local PCP ballot.  Granted, we only need 3 votes or so, but this is how the grassroots are grown: people taking small steps to get involved.  As an elected PCP, I can vote for our county party officers this year; two years ago, I was an appointed PCP and ineligible by state law to do so.  (Marion and Biff, you have my votes.)  Soon I will be an elected PCP, chosen to represent my neighborhood Democrats in a great electoral process — great in the reach of democracy into this small corner of the world.

The PCP vote is the easy one.  The vote for judge was more difficult, but I decided we need women on the bench, so I voted for Linder.  She appears fully qualified, so that wasn't too hard.  The hard vote, of course, was for governor, and I do not think I am alone in this troubling choice.  I so want Pete Sorenson to be my next governor, but there is a problem:  It's not possible.  Not this year.  I remember four years ago and how damn hard Bev Stein worked for the nomination.  She began with a higher profile than Pete, and she began even earlier than he did.  She worked her ass off, and she got her clock cleaned.  Pete continues to assert his cause, and his cause is the right one.  He is the progressive candidate in this race, and his take on the issues is the one that gains my allegiance.

But not my vote.  I apologize profusely to Pete, and to Shane and Leah (who may kick my butt) and everyone else who is sticking to their guns – who are taking Pete's advice to vote their hearts – but I really do not want to see Ted win this nomination.  Jim Hill is not a progressive, he's a solid liberal who is running because the unions were too timid to get behind Sorenson, but he's a good liberal.  He's a strong Democrat, and when he came to Corvallis to debate Pete, I saw him for the person he is.  I saw someone I could trust with my vote. 

No, he won't bring Pete's passion or progressive agenda, but he will be true to core Democratic values, and I do not trust Ted to do that.  He abandoned us on SB 1000, standing off to the side in silence while Minnis screwed over thousands of Oregonians.  Ted Kulongoski, alone of all state officials, had the power to slap Queen Karen into place, and he blinked.  As long as she was intent on deep-sixing democracy, the Governor needed to call her bluff and do what Harry Reid did, what Bill Clinton did: shut down the whole thing.  Stop the nonsense by calling a time-out and letting the wingnut Rs take the heat.  It worked for Clinton and it worked for Reid.  Ted was too timid, too tepid in his support of democracy, and that's just not good enough.

So Ted has to go if at all possible.  This year, in this election, with all that is on the line, my choice is to try to deny Ted the nomination.  I can't do that by voting for Pete, so I have voted for Jim Hill.  It was a hard decision, but I don't blame Hill for that, nor Pete for not bowing out when the polling showed he just hasn't gotten over the hump.  I blame Ted Kulongoski for not making it easy to vote for the incumbent Democrat.  What an abysmal performance, to alienate so many previous supporters.  He did not do this by making the tough decisions that needed to be made; he did it by making bad choices and by not making decisions and by abandoning those who were his base.  He did this by an overwhelming lack of leadership.  He freaking endorsed Bush's horrible war!  It should be easy to vote for an incumbent of your party.  It was easy to vote for Clinton in 1996 despite many disappointments; he was still strong on many core issues.  Ted has failed the party so badly, and that's what a primary election is about:  which candidate will best represent the party?  It's not Ted Kulongoski, and sadly, it won't be Pete Sorenson, either.  Pete, like Bev Stein before him, just couldn't get his name and message out there enough (congratulations, by the way, to those who helped undermine his campaign, including some cowardly unions and certain Dem leaders; but that's a bitchfest for another day).  With regret, I vote for Jim Hill.  I urge other disappointed Democrats who hope for better leadership than we've had the past four years to do the same.

Pete Sorenson was the best candidate.  Jim Hill got my vote.  Ted Kulongoski gets the blame.  That just sucks.

  • j.biddy (unverified)

    I admire your honest opposition to Governor Kulongoski. I also admire your honest reasons for voting for Hill and not Sorenson.

    You're right about Sorenson being the most progressive candidate. It fills me with both joy and anger to see those words though. That sentence you wrote down goes to the very core of my disastisfaction with BlueOregon. "BlueOregon is a place for progressive Oregonians to gather 'round the water cooler and share news, commentary, and gossip."

    Except that nobody on this website is supporting the only progressive candidate in the Governor's race. The support for Ted Kulongoski on this "progressive" website amazes me.

    I guess I can dismiss this for the moment. In all my ranting and raving about the lack of support for Sorenson and how little I think of Ted Kulongoski, I'm still a Kulongoski enabler. I'm still going to vote for Sorenson.

    You're dead-on about this being a tough vote.

  • myranda (unverified)

    Mr. Barnhart, your arguments don't make sense. You accuse Kulongoski of "overwhelming lack of leadership." The reason that the public sector unions are backing Hill is because of Ted's leadership on the PERS reform. You say Kulongoski "freaking endorsed Bush's horrible war" but Kulongoski alone among the candidates has met personally with Bush and stated that an exit strategy is imperative. You say that "Ted Kulongoski, alone of all state officials, had the power to slap Queen Karen into place," conveniently forgetting that the legislature is a separate branch of government and that YOUR legislators should've done that job. Kulongoski has my vote because, unlike your candidate, he has done a lot in the last four years. Unlike your candidate, Kulongoski has done a lot in the last four months.

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    J. Biddy wrote Except that nobody on this website is supporting the only progressive candidate in the Governor's race.

    Actually, you are.

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    Hats off to you TA for making the tough call.

    To throw one out to j.biddy, it occurs that when you get to the part of the campaign where you're sitting at the dining table with the ballot in your hand, you have to make tough decisions.

    For the Pure of Heart, no further thinking is necessary, just mark your ballot for The Most Progessive Candidate, or whoever. All of the other candidates are sinners riding the Hellbound Express, and deserve no consideration regardless of larger consequences of your actions.

    Some of the rest of us take pride in pragmatism, even though, as TA points out, it hurts like hell.

    I voted for several candidates in the primary that I share very little with ideologically, all for the greater effort of Dems retaking Salem. Didn't particularly like or respect 'em, just did the old triangulation and Voted While Whining.

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    I think I feel about Sorenson much the way I felt about Dennis Kucinich in 2004. Here's a man who shares more of my values than any of the other candidates, and if by some miraculous act of god he was to serve, he might actually do a decent job (unlike Nader in 2000, for those wanting to draw further, unwarranted, parallels).

    But he never crossed the viability threshold. I haven't seen his favorables, but I'd guess they're something like 20/5/75. Numbers like that just don't cut it when you've supposedly been campaigning for over a year and even more-so when you were gifted with an unpopular incumbent and no other opposition (until Hill jumped in at the 11th hour). His campaign never got off the ground and, until the debates, which was far too late, he never established who he was or what he stood for with either the activists OR the public.

    But, hey, there's always 2010...

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    He abandoned us on SB 1000, standing off to the side in silence while Minnis screwed over thousands of Oregonians.

    TA, this is more than a quibble, though it looks like one. You have a strategic beef with Kulongoski. His politics on that issue align with your own, but his strategy was where you and he part company. Fair enough.

    The Multco Commishes, who share your and Ted's politics (and mine), had a different strategy. They decided to attempt the triple lutz of politics and managed it -- for awhile. But the result of ther strategy was Measure 36.

    I think it's worth noting that everyone in the picture shares the same politics. It's not as if Kulongoski suddenly decided he didn't support gay rights. Castigate him for his strategy, but would you knock it off with the "he abandoned us" talk? I'm probably further to the left than you, but I don't see anything but a good faith effort to do the best he could. He didn't abandon me.

    (And here I was thinking it was "us...")

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    High five to Jeff Alworth and Pat Ryan. Kulongoski certainly didn't abandon us. He just pulled us out of the worst recession in Oregon's history, fought for gay rights since the early 70's when most folks remained in the closet, steadfastly supports reproductive rights, the working class, and has stood up to Bush on Iraq. Everyone has the right to vote how they choose. TA let us know where he stood and why. I wholeheartedly disagree with him and I respect him. I'm disappointed he didn't follow Pat Ryan's pragmatism because we've just got to take back the House!

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    I disagree that we got M36 because of the Mult Co Commissioners. The right wing was pushing this through in many states, as they knew it would get their base activated-- and that was key in giving Bush four more years in the White House.

    What the Commissioners did gave the pro-M36 folks some ammo to use in their election propaganda.

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    What the Commissioners did gave the pro-M36 folks some ammo to use in their election propaganda.

    Kari's gonna yell for going off-topic, but I think the truth may be somewhere between our positions.

    And I also want to note that I am pleased someone followed up my post about Ted with one about Jim. Now, if only someone will tell us why s/he's voting for Pete!

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    I can tell you for certain that the ballot measure was already planned before the Commissioners did that. And they didn't need people signing petitions on the street-- they had the churches.

    Now, back onto the topic at hand...

    I voted for Sorenson.

    I'm just tired of "settling."

    I don't mind so much if I have to settle in November-- if Kulongoski is the nominee then that's who I am voting for. In my opinion he's better than the alternatives. But that isn't true now.

    I had to settle in the 2004 primary-- with the election pretty much over, the choices were slim. I voted for Kucinich. I then worked my rear end off for Kerry, just as my fellow Deaners and supporters of other candidates did. And where did settling for the "candidate who can win" get us? With four more years of Bush. Yes, I realize there were problems with the ballots and voting systems-- but he still got closer than he should have.

    This time I am sticking to my progressive beliefs and voting for Sorenson. My ballot's marked and sealed, I just need to drop it off later in the 24 hour box at the Gresham Library.

    People think they shouldn't vote for Sorenson because good progressives like him don't stand a chance. I'm tired of that argument. As long as people keep using that argument, it's going to remain true.

  • Andy N. (unverified)

    I'm disappointed he didn't follow Pat Ryan's pragmatism because we've just got to take back the House!

    Let me see if I have this straight - ya'll rail against the GOP because they hold both houses of Congress and the Presidency, not to mention a conservative Supreme Court...but ya'll want to take the statehouse so that your party controls both houses and the Governorship along with a completely liberal state Supreme Court. So it is ok for one party to be in control of ALL branches of long as its yours?

    Don't you just love inconsistency? Or is it hypocracy?

  • christopher (unverified)


    It's all about performance. Your GOP is dismantling American ideals and the middle class. Your GOP has wrought disaster upon Oregon education and set new lows for corporate welfare. Yeah, I'll bet we can do better than that.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Voted for Sorenson. Did not have to agonize for a moment about misinformed and naive political triangulation strategies, nor otherwise had a moment of doubt about it. It has nothing to do with ideological purety, but simply the recognition that many of the so-called "pragmatists" demonstrate, by their own words, that they really are not all that concerned about the same core political values of social justice and economic opportunity as I am. Nor are they particular astute about what makes for good governance. So why should I vote for a candidate who they think best represents their muddled values? (I'm not putting you in that category T.A..)

    The really curious thing for me is how the fundamentally uninformed nature of the political discussion right here in Blue Oregon, much of it about supposed progressive views on issues, played the major role in convincing me most about who NOT to vote for. It actually is hard for me to believe that anything could displace an embarrassing rag like the Oregonian in that role, but sadly that is the case in too many instances.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Pete Sorenson and I reconnected at the City Club debate after not seeing each other for about 30 years, when we both worked for Jim Weaver (who represented the 4th District before DeFazio). We sat next to each other during the lunch and talked for about a half hour. I told him to have a campaign staffer hit me up for a contribution. Now I'm not the wealthiest donor in the world, but I at least max out my tax credit every year and go beyond that most years. Yet no one from Sorenson's campaign ever got in touch. It's no wonder Pete's raised about $9,000.

    He's a good progressive, but a governor has to be able to run things, too.

  • Andy N. (unverified)


    My GOP?. Sorry buddy, wrong tune. I'm an independent. Besides, you Ds are the ones who put the village idiot back in the White House the second time by running a slimeball like Kerry. You could have run Leiberman, Clark, or even Gore again and gotten my vote.

    You missed the point completely.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    italics off?

    Gil -

    Did you have a broken check signing arm, or just an overly-inflated ego too typical of the sorry state of the American electorate ("I told him to have a campaign staffer hit me up for a contribution")? In many years of political activity, I have not had a candidate I actually believed in have to ask me for a contribution because I had already donated what I could to his or her campaign.

    On at least a related note to T.A.'s post about elections, I am equally surprised that no Blue Oregonian yet has commented on what really speaks extremely poorly about all of us. Namely the headline in yesterday's Oregonian:

    Court rivals smash cash record

    This demonstrates more than anything else why we (and Northwesterners in general) are dumb as dirt when it comes to governance if we believe that turning judges into politicans is the best way to go. Aside from the fact there is no judicial canon that requires judges to recuse themselves from cases in which campaign donors may be plaintiffs, why would any person who honestly passed a civics or government class think it is good to have judges out whoring themselves for campaign support before they assume a position on the bench? (Gil illustrates my point, which is why this comment is added here.)

    An argument might be made for a true retention election system, barely. But due to our own incompetence at self-governance we have the worst possible case: An intellectually dishonest systems in which electeds generally collude with the lazy approval of the electorate to create a defacto retention system. Judges resign mid-term so a crony appointment can be made to fill out the term without any serious examination. The net result of not having a serious and honest confirmation process is that occasionally we get abominations like this race, and only infrequently do we actually have truly quality candidates to vote to retain.

    Don't believe me, read this (I don't necessarily agree with everything in this, but I find myself in agreement with the general thesis):

    Judging in Oregon


  • Karl (unverified)

    If you never vote for what you believe in, you'll never get it.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Karl -- excellent point. If nobody voted "strategically," there's be no reason to.

    Myranda -- I just read your Kulo talking points. Nice. Lemme see if I have it straight:

    Kulongoski's a strong leader because he passed the buck to Representative Merkley in dealing with Minnis??!! "It's your branch of Government so you deal with it?" Is that the basic line?

    I think you hit the nail on the head there when you said, "Kulongoski has done a lot in the last four months." Mmm hmm. Right in time for the primary. Interesting that it worked out that way.

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    i wish it were possible to make my dreams come true by voting for them. maybe i should have just written-in Kitz?

    no, you make your dreams come true by working for them. i won't get a progressive governor by voting for someone whose campaign made inroads but not enough. i'll get a progressive governor by helping make sure a quality person serves, that the Ds take the Leg, and that the grassroots maintains its progressive activities. as Dr Dean has made clear in his approach to leadership, it's up to the 'roots to show the way; those at the "top" will then have no choice but to tag along.

    like i said, it sucks to be "realistic" here. but we're not talking about a trip to Disneyland. we're talking an election. i'm no less a progressive for having voted "realistically". i'm just a bummed-out progressive.

  • Robert Huffman (unverified)

    Pat Ryan writes this:

    For the Pure of Heart, no further thinking is necessary, just mark your ballot for The Most Progessive Candidate, or whoever. All of the other candidates are sinners riding the Hellbound Express, and deserve no consideration regardless of larger consequences of your actions.

    He's absolutely right. Let the red meat Republicans blow their chances of gaining the governor's mansion by being ideologically pure and voting for Mannix. Meanwhile, we Dems can take control of Oregon by voting for pragmatic candidates who understand the art of leadership lies in working with the other side for the good of all Oregonians.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    People think they shouldn't vote for Sorenson because good progressives like him don't stand a chance. I'm tired of that argument. As long as people keep using that argument, it's going to remain true.

    GOOD progressive candidates do get elected. Barry Sanders or Paul Wellstone are examples. But most so-called "good progressives" preach only in the language of the choir to the choir. And if that is your definition of good progressive, then, no, they can't get elected. No more than anyone else who can talks to and hears a narrow group of people can get elected.

    You are voting for a losing candidate in Sorenson because he deserves to lose. He was never able to articulate and gather support for a vision of the state. That is no one's fault but his.

  • askquestion1st (unverified)

    T.A. -

    Curious that you view your vote for Hill as being "realistic" since it is anything but.

    Hill has never polled even close to Kulongoski, and the gap between them would require a large number of folks to go through some kind of strange political rationalization like you did to reach a conclusion to vote for Hill. That is so far removed from how the overwhelming majority of American voters make their decision who to vote for, (and Northwestern are no exception voters in my experience), as to truly be a fantasy.

    I hardly find that to be "realistic". From my viewpoint you threw away your chance to do the only truly realistic thing and vote what you profess to be your values.

    Ross -

    If Sorenson doesn't get the nomination, which appears likely, what it proves is that Oregonians really don't have progressive values. You are so far away from understanding why people vote the way they do as to be laughable. People don't vote for someone who articulates some rational vision. (Actually, that phrase itself is almost an oxymoron when used to describe leadership - in that context, "vision" really means an ability to inspire people, and that is not a rational thing.)

    People vote for the person who they think reflects their values, and they generally reach that determination based on no rational or objective information about their candidate because almost none is available in an election. Sorenson undeniably espouses progressive values by any legitimate definition of the word. Most Oregonians --- including most of the "progressives" who post on this board --- day in and day out demonstrate they really don't have progressive values. Such is the reality of life.

  • armed patriot (unverified)

    Candidate Barnhart states:

    "This primary election is one of the toughest votes I've ever cast. ...because I am on the ballot! ... Not for anything major, but it is important: ....The PCP vote is the easy one."

    PCP. Hmmm? PCP?...well, that would certainly go a long way in explaining the inspiration behind a lot of the stuff you post here. ...yep, that would explain a lot!


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