Westlund: Out


Minutes ago, Ben Westlund, who has been mounting an initiative drive to qualify as an Independent candidate for Oregon Governor, announced he was dropping his candidacy.  From the Oregonian:

At the beginning of this campaign, I made a commitment to the people of Oregon that I was in it to win it and that I absolutely would not play a spoiler role.

Therefore today, with no regrets but some sadness I am here to honor that commitment. I am proud to keep that promise to the people of Oregon--despite the fact I unquestionably could qualify for the ballot--by announcing my withdrawal from the race for governor.

Westlund said he would make an endorsement for governor later; he also said he would remain an independent

Shortly after Westlund's announcement, Governor Kulongoski released this statement:

At every level this election cycle is about the direction of Oregon's future, and on many of the most important issues Oregonians care about Ben Westlund and I want to move the state in the same direction.

Ben has been a partner over the years in the legislature and he remains a critical partner in the State Senate in our effort to create affordable health care, energy independence and continue growing our economy to provide living wage jobs to the people of Oregon.

I appreciate on a personal level that this decision was a difficult one to make, and I am confident that Ben made the decision based on how he can best contribute in shaping Oregon's future.

In the end, we are one Oregon - and Ben helped remind us of that.


[Post has been updated with Governor Kulongoski's statement.]

[Update #2: Westlund has posted his statement on his website.]

  • Tyler Durden (unverified)

    [inexplicable off-topic comment deleted. -editor.]

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    Color me naive, but I remain impressed with Ben's integrity. How many politicians say they'll drop out of a race under these conditions, and then actually do it?

  • Jon (unverified)

    Too bad, now I guess I wont be voting for a Governor at all... Westlund seemed to be the only candidate who wasnt lying through his teeth every time he opened his mouth.

  • (Show?)

    As many of you know, I've been hammering away on Ben Westlund for months now. Too right-wing this, too right-wing that.

    Ben Westlund says that his views have moderated - and he's certainly made political reform, health care reform, tax reform, and school funding priorities in his campaign.

    I'm looking forward to seeing those views turn to action in the 2007 legislature. I'm hopeful that I'm actually wrong about Ben Westlund - and that he's going to be a leader for Oregon on these issues.

    Here's to Ben Westlund!

  • (Show?)

    I like to see Ben spend whatever political capital he has on stopping the TABOR supporters in their tracks. Now that he's unfettered by a campaign for Governor he can take even stronger positions to help out Oregon. If Ben ends up endorsing Saxton for Governor, many of us who've described Westlund as a Republican in Independent's clothing, will get to shout, "I told you so."

  • Tyler Durden (unverified)

    Dear Editor,

    If I was too cute for you before let be crystal clear:

    Oregonians claim we are so independent and above politics...so a candidate (Ben Westlund) ran for Gov on what we claim we want in our political leaders to be like...no party, just ideas, thus we created him.

    My fear is that the political parties (Democrats or Republicans) started digging for dirt or found some other way to get rid of him, say kill your enemy with a gun as it were.

    I hope Westlund is stepping down with the best of intentions…but when you look at where he is positioned (about to be on the ballot which will be a big bump in support and name recognition, good infrastructure in place, and quite a bit of money) it strongly suggests that he was forced out.

  • (Show?)

    Tyler, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  • (Show?)

    I really don't believe he was "forced out" at all. Ben Westlund is a much stronger individual than that.

    This is speculation on my part, but I think he may have been looking at polling that made him realize there was no way he was going to be anything other than a spoiler, and might end up tipping the election to Saxton.

    I think Ben is a throwback to the days of Tom McCall, someone who cares more about Oregon than about party politics.

    Lets hope some of that spirit rubs off in Salem on both sides of the isle...

  • Tyler Durden (unverified)


    Yup, it is going to drop, I just really hope we don't find out that Kulongoski's foot is in that shoe. If Ted wants Ben's Democrats, he better have had nothing to do with making him leave the race.

    As for Saxton, I wonder what choice explicatives are coming out of his mouth right now?

  • (Show?)

    I'd love to see the polling that indicated that, Mark. It must have been internal, because the scant polling out so far publicly has been utterly inconclusive.

    I guess I'm confused. He says the right things, and maybe that's all that counts--but how is it so noble to stop running once you realize you have no chance? Why would ANYONE put themselves through a campaign just to be a spoiler? This isn't maganimity, it's reality: he realized he couldn't win, and as most candidates do once faced with that truth (cough--Katharine Harris!--cough), he quit running. Saying he's doing it for the good of the race is all well and fine, but before being a spoiler he understood he'd be a loser.

  • (Show?)

    I appreciate Ben's move, too. Being a part of Oregon history as a spoiler in a governor's race isn't the greatest legacy. Ben has said he wants to be a part of reforming Oregon, and this confirms his intentions. I admire him for making this decision, and I really hope Dems work with him to achieve some of the proposals he put on the table. Good man--

  • Tony (unverified)

    This is the best news for D's who want any shot at taking back the House since, I don't know, maybe Jeff Kropf dropping out of his race, or Billy Dalto paying his mom, or even people realizing that Minnis is heinous. Point being, where many D's who didn't want to see Westlund tip things for Saxton, or D's who jumped on the Westlund band-wagon, can now focus more on house races. Tyler, I have a feeling that Ben's D's will all fall behind Kulo now, for no other reason then "the lesser of two evils" rationale. Ben's D's are all active, involved individuals (at this point) and largely will still vote, if not because of Kulo, but someone else, and check Kulo while they are at it. By no means am I a party hack. I am young and have nearly had it with party allegiance; however, I realize that the only way we can achieve anything in this state is by taking control of the House. Minnis and her cronies have shut down too much for too long, and it's time for Oregon to get back out in front of the political debate nationally, and we cannot do that until we can move legislation through both houses.

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)

    Ben Westlund finally came to grips with the fact that he was destined to become the 21st-Century Al Mobley.

    As such, he didn't want to be remembered as the one person responsible for one of his two major-party opponents winning the election with 42% of the vote.

    This is good for the state, and the next governor because neither Starett (Con) nor Keating (Pac) will peel off enough from the far right and left to keep either Kulo or Saxton under 50%.

    Oregon will have a majority-vote Governor-elect.

    • Wes
  • Anne (unverified)

    Hooray! Smart move, for Ben and for the state.

  • THE WOLFE (unverified)


    That is the wrong assessment. How many labor members just said, "I hate Saxton because he's said he WILL screw me...I hate Kulongoski because he DID screw me...Screw both of them I'm not voting!"

    Westlund was bringing unlikely voters to the polls and unlikely voters, more times then not, vote down ticket Democrat.

    While I'm sure all good Democrats were happy to see Westlund leave...If I was running a house race in a moderate area (say North Gresham) I would be pissed right now.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    Ben shouldn't be compared to Al Mobely. Mobley was a right wing kook who clearly took his votes out of the Republican party. Westlund was a moderate who would have pulled from both parties as well as from NAVS.

  • Independent Thinker (unverified)

    I'd like see Ben build on what he has accomplished so far, and make another independent run... for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

    Or, Secretary of State. Actually, a non-partisan Secretary of State who is beholden to neither party would be a good idea. Especially with the 2010 census and potential redistricting coming along...

  • LT (unverified)

    Kari, Jeff, and Grant, you are right about this. Thanks for your remarks.

    I guess Wes thinks Ted can win without the help of anyone who even knew someone who admired Ben.

    I'm glad to see Ted made a gracious statement on Ben's withdrawal. He needs to do more of that and so does anyone else who has made sarcastic remarks like "Ben's not a progressive".


    I was at the press conference. Ben said something about how much better off this state was 20 years ago--fewer uninsured, better educated, things like that. I remember 20 years ago--a very intelligent Gov. campaign and our St. Sen. and State House candidates won and were excellent legislators. Issues were actually discussed back then! It wasn't "my team vs. your team" it was who had the best ideas. What a concept!

    Ben has many good ideas on his website and in his statement. I would suggest that those who have been using the "no progressive" strawman (is that what Ted said in his very gracious statement? not the way I read it) to examine the issues on the website and see which ones they agree with.

    Some very talented people worked on Ben's campaign--people who would be an asset to any other campaign. The question is whether they are recruited by other campaigns or treated like a pariah for working on a campaign that actually excited ordinary Oregonians.

    The other day I ran into an old friend--we met decades ago, I think we were both on the same side of a school board campaign way back when. He now works for the Gov. I mentioned to him that back when we were a lot younger we knew people who were truly excited about campaigns/ That cracks like "running against 2 Republicans" or " Ben's no progressive" were not likely to excite people about the Gov. campaign.

    Lots of legislative campaigns to work on, and Ted needs to win over volunteers to his campaign. It is his responsibility to win over volunteers, not the duty of those who do volunteer work to choose Ted's campaign over their local campaigns.

    Someone asked me a question today which I don't know the answer to:

    How many legislators have publicly supported/ are campaigning actively for Ted?

    I said to this friend that if Ted were to get out in front of groups of ordinary voters (or activists) and say things like "Hey! I heard those "where's Waldo jokes. Let me tell you what happened" or "Yes, I got the message loud and clear that some of my supporters were upset by the AuCoin and Bryant nominations. They could have been handled more wisely." that he'd be better off. My friend admitted (for the first time I can remember this year from any Ted supporter) that the campaign has not been perfect, but it is getting better.

    All you loyal Ted supporters, do you want the votes of those like Jon, Mike S. and Grant?

    Or is it more important to you to badmouth the opposition than to say what you stand for?

    Can you name legislators you consider "progressive" and why? I admire (a short list, by no means exclusive) Avakian, Ackerman, Barnhardt, Barker Buckley, Hass Komp, March, Roblan, Deckert, Prozanski, Schrader, Courtney, Ringo. Which of those do you "Ben is no progressive" folks consider to be progressives and why?

    Recently in a bookstore I saw a collection of essays titled WHY I AM A REAGAN CONSERVATIVE. One was about optimism. One said conservatism is not dogmatic and has no Das Capital. Chuck Hagel said conservatives need to have a philosophy of governance. He says they believe in helping those who can't help themselves, but that government can't do everything. Think of how many current office holders and activists who call themselves "conservative" but don't agree with that statement.

    Got me wondering how many who talk about whether someone is "progressive" would be capable of writing such an essay.

    Going back to the matter of Ted's AuCoin nomination, it seemed to me that no one ever completed the sentence "AuCoin would be better on the Forestry board than Heffernan because...." and so the Republicans were able to make their effort all about why they thought Heffernan should stay. AuCoin's nomination crumbled when he couldn't get the votes--how many Senators did he ask (not demand, but have a conversation with and ASK) for their vote?

    There should be a lesson in there somewhere.

    Among the commentary on the Conn. primary result, some of it has been "if only Joe had made that speech a month ago instead of a week ago", "Joe didn't take the election seriously until too late, and his campaign was not well organized", "part of the story was new voters--young people and NAV changing their registration to Dem. to vote in the primary".

    Those of you who have suppported Ted from the very beginning have the power to make sure those postmortems on the Lieberman primary are not postmortems in November because Ted's campaign never got its act together.

    I am impressed by Ted's comments about Ben today, but he's got a long way to go before I spend time on any campaign other than local legislative campaigns.

  • jrw (unverified)

    As far as the reasons for Westlund's dropping out...my guess is either he took a good hard look at the way things are going nationally, and decided it was a good thing...or the higher priority on my list, which is, unfortunately, that he has a health problem rearing its ugly head again. In my book, that's the most likely scenario.

  • (Show?)

    At the bus conference I had the chance to sit through a lunch with Ben Westlund and Rob Brading.

    Ben was very clear that if he ran (this was back in January), that it would be to win. And if he was just going to be a spoiler, that he would drop out. He hammered that point several times.

    I'm glad to see that he was being truthful (I felt at the time he seemed very honest, but you never know...).

    I hope that Ben takes his energy and ideas to help us defeat all these bad ballot measures and then do great things in the 2007 legislature.

    Now to encourage all those R's I know (who wouldn't vote for a D, but dislike Saxton) to vote for Mary Starrett.

  • (Show?)

    My first reaction was; oh! no Ben's health is the reason for his withdrawal. I'm very happy that's not the case. Kudos to Ben for following through on his promise of withdrawing if his campaign would result in only playing the role of spoiler and would not have a real chance of winning.

  • (Show?)

    Hey editors-

    Please use the Permalink links at the OregonLive site...all hints of Westlund news are already gone fromt the page you linked to in the main article.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    LT included me in a list of people whose votes Ted Kulongoski needs to get. Just to clarify, I was already going to vote for Ted before Ben dropped out. That doesn't mean I can't still admire Ben's integrity.

  • (Show?)

    Pete, I'll try to track down a link to the story in today's paper, but that is the permalink. It's the O who doesn't know what the "perma" means. (Even as the story was evolving yesterday, they were changing the post on their blog, not reposting with new info. Among the blogizens, this is a major no-no.)

  • (Show?)

    Here's a more thorough story from today's Oregonian.

    Nothing new, besides a rather odd suggestion that Westlund's support for a sales tax was an attempt to appeal to Democrats.

  • (Show?)

    Jeff- thanks for explaining...sorry, didn't see your comment before I posted my second.

  • (Show?)

    "Now to encourage all those R's I know (who wouldn't vote for a D, but dislike Saxton) to vote for Mary Starrett."

    Pardon me while I throw up. I'd rather not do anything to encourage the Constitution Party, even if we might get some short term gain out of more of them running and splitting the right-wing vote. I'll sleep better if you encourage all those R's you know who wouldn't vote for a D and don't want to vote for Saxton to skip that race. Play up the principle of protest undervotes.

  • Don Smith (unverified)


    I predict the minor-party candidates will force a sub-majority gov.

    Keating, Starrett, and Richard Morley will pull at least 8%, probably ten, especially with Ben out, for two reasons.

    First, voters willing to dump party for an Independent are more likely to vote for a minor party candidate they feel more closely represents their views, much like Conn.'s primary, where the Democrats there did not support their imcumbent because a non-favored (non-incumbent) candidate more closely represented their views. Same dynamic, different direction.

    Second, Starrett, Keating, and Morley will recognize that and campaign that much harder for the "easy" (for a minor party, easier than taking a major-party voter) votes to claim a more significant chunk of the electorate (say 5% for one of them). Makes their campaign look good, and their ideas get more play.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    "That is the wrong assessment. How many labor members just said, "I hate Saxton because he's said he WILL screw me...I hate Kulongoski because he DID screw me...Screw both of them I'm not voting!""

    Interesting idea from The WOLFE. Apparently since Kulongoski screwed all the labor members so bad he would like to elaborate why Kulongoski has so many endorsements from them.

    I would also like to add that I really do admire Ben Westlund. I think that on many issues he sides with the Democratic party and I wonder why he didn't switch party affiliations instead of running as an independant. Unless we move to a parliament system 3rd party candidates are really nothing more than spoilers for either side. While I admire Ben I had no intention of voting for him, supporting him or signing a petition for him to get on the ballot. I personally don't think he would have accomplished any more than Ted and Saxton was salivating at the thought of Westlund on the ballot. That should speak volumes

  • LT (unverified)

    Garrett, Just wait until next year--there may not be a majority in the State Senate now that Gordly and Westlund are Independent.

    Maybe Ben had his fill of party politics (with Dem. control of the Senate, why was SB 382 never discussed? ) and just wanted a movement where issues were more important than loyalty to party.

    Both candidates (Ted and Ron) should be asked questions about administrators in school districts. Not the bland % of the total school budget, but deeper questions. Why do they deserve the salary and pay package they get? (How many teacher salaries does it take to add up to one administrator salary--esp. Supt. and central district administrators?) Who evaluates those administrators? Do Supt. ever get "performance bonuses" that the general public doesn't understand because they don't see the exemplary performance a bonus should suggest? (Salem's former Supt. had to donate a bonus to a literacy program after there was so much flak.) How do citizens know the board and Supt. are being totally honest about the budget, reserves, etc.? Or course that goes against the ideology of "if it weren't for the teacher unions...". Unions don't set administrator salaries.

    And then there is this from a friend of mine. Sounds intelligent to me: Hard questions need to be asked. And pointing out the obvious doesn’t hurt neither, such as: If the Republicans are so concerned about waste in government, why did they vote to cut one-third of the auditors hired to find waste in government?

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