Man of the Year: Rob Brading

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

I saw Rob Brading last night, and I thought I'd share with you - and say out loud - what I told him.

Oregon progressives owe Rob Brading a massive debt of gratitude. Without Rob Brading's campaign against Karen Minnis, the Oregon House Democrats would not be in the majority today.

It was the most expensive legislative race in Oregon history, and Rob Brading was outspent 2 to 1. And yet, he came within 700 votes of toppling the Speaker in her own district.

A million dollar onslaught. No one knows just how many pieces of attack mail were delivered, but it was well over 40 different hit pieces from the Minnis campaign. Tens of thousands of robocalls. Months of television advertising - including broadcast TV in the closing weeks. A smear campaign that dragged Rob, his family, and his reputation through the mud.

Imagine for a moment that Minnis's million dollars instead was $250,000 more against Chris Edwards, and $250,000 more against Brian Clem, and $250,000 more against Jean Cowan, and $250,000 more against David Edwards. Could we have won all four of those majority-making seats? Not very likely. Maybe one, maybe two. But not all four.

And it wasn't just the money. The Brading campaign's relentless grassroots volunteer campaign pounding the sidewalks in East Multnomah County made life miserable for Karen Minnis and her pals.

As the speaker, Karen Minnis had the greatest ability to raise money, controlled the purse strings, and directed her team's energy. By keeping her attention focused on her own race, the Brading campaign kept the top right-wing money, energy, time, and talent focused on him -- allowing Chris Edwards, Brian Clem, Jean Cowan, and David Edwards to slip past their defenses. (And also, by the way, Sal Peralta and Jim Gilbertson -- who both appear to have lost by less than 400 votes, in districts previously considered unwinnable.)

Too often, we forget quickly the candidates who lose. Too often, we move on, unsure what to say - condolences seem awkward, sympathy seems misplaced, congratulations aren't appropriate. So, we move on. We turn the other way.

But here's what you say to Rob Brading: Thank you.

Thank you for being the willing target of the most expensive smear campaign in Oregon legislative history. Thank you for being willing to spend thousands of hours running straight into the maw of the right-wing attack machine.

And most of all, thank you for giving us a majority in the Oregon House.

Next spring, when the Democrats pass ethics reform, thank Rob Brading. When the Democrats expand health care programs, thank Rob Brading. When the Democrats increase funding for Head Start, K-12 schools and higher education, thank Rob Brading. Every time a bill goes from a majority vote in the House, to a majority vote in the Senate, to a signature on the Governor's desk... thank Rob Brading.

And one more thing: He didn't do it alone.

Every volunteer, every donor, every supporter, every canvasser of the Rob Brading campaign deserves our thanks. This 31-seat majority belongs to each of you.

But most importantly, there were two great women behind this great campaign. First, his wife - Karen Wood. She gave us this gift by putting her life on hold, and allowing her love to get dragged through the mud.

And second, his campaign manager - Marah Hall. She dedicated nearly three years of her life to managing the Brading campaign. A loss like this can be soul-crushing, and make someone want to leave politics forever. And while we wouldn't blame Marah for bailing out, it'd be a tremendous loss to our cause.

So, if you get the chance, thank Karen Wood and Marah Hall, too.

This was a campaign for the ages. And we shouldn't forget it.

Here's to Rob Brading. In my book, he's the man of the year.

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    RIGHT ON, KARI! That needed to be said. And my guess is that Karen Minnis steps down after this next session; we need to beg Rob to come back and take the seat in '08.

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    Yup -- kudos to Rob!

    Correction: Jim Gilbert, not Gilbertson, Mr. Let's Penalize Those Not Paying Attention Punditology. ;)

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    You're so right, Kari. Rob was out on the street campaigning literally every day for the past months. He really gave it his time and treasure. Give that man some new walking shoes, his must have holes by now!

    Concerning that district in '08, voter tracking and registration is going to be key to our victory. It is a mixed income district with many outright low-income apartment blocks with very high occupant turn-over. When canvassing the apartments, I'd estimate more than 1/2 of the people on the '04 lists were no longer there. Many of the new-comers were non-citizen immigrants without voting privileges, but many others were simply new to the area or to Oregon and not registered. Others just told me flatout they don't vote.

    The VAN was a great step forward this year for contacting voters, and I hope the MultDems & DPO can double our efforts to bring more people into the Democratic process by getting them registered now and reminding them to vote as '08 gets closer.

  • Republican Lurker (unverified)

    I think Brian Clem could have easily won without Brading deflecting money away from Dalto. Have you ever met Dalto? I felt dirty just being the same room as him. He is the local epitome of why Republicans were so disenchanted this year. Everyone wins with Dalto gone. Well, except for his family members who now have to get real jobs.

    Obviously, as a Republican, I'm hoping Clem is only in the House for 2 years. I'm still glad that he's there now. Plus, he had the best commercials in Oregon this season.

  • Anon 51 (unverified)

    Rob Brading,

    You and your staff should hold your heads high. One of the best campaigns I have ever seen run.

    Good Luck and when Minnis quits next year I hope we will see you run one more time.

    Thank you for all your hard work and giving us something even better than the majority in the Oregon house...hope.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Amen... Brading is Oregon's Ned Lamont. Sacrificing for the larger value at stake, a future for us all.

  • LT (unverified)

    Yes, we all owe Rob for keeping Karen from campaigning all over the state for other Republicans.

    Yes, Brian Clem might have won anyway, just not by such a large margin. Any House Democrat would be wise to ask for a blueprint of how Brian Clem won (he was at it for 13 months, as I recall, which would mean thinking in the summer of 2007 about candidates to run for the 2008 election) and using it to replace the models previously used.

    One more thing: Too often, we forget quickly the candidates who lose. Too often, we move on, unsure what to say - condolences seem awkward, sympathy seems misplaced, congratulations aren't appropriate. So, we move on. We turn the other way.

    Absolutely true!

    There were many (Jim Gilbertson would be a perfect example) excellent candidates this time who put up a good fight. In some cases they came very close. In other cases they labored in obscurity but organized a group of local activists who may be a force in the future.

    Democrats would do well to remember both groups---and remember that when such candidates run they deserve to be treated with as much respect as any "front runner". For instance, never slighted when Dem. candidates are mentioned. If a major public figure is speaking and is handed a list of all local candidates running, make it a point of honor that ALL local candidates running are on the list, because the supporters of ALL those candidates who happen to be within earshot won't forget if their candidate's name is left off. Attention to such detail should be a point of honor.

    Bottom Line: Thank you to all candidates who ran this year, from the celebrated like Rob Brading to those who labored in obscurity, sometimes ignored even by other Democrats.

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    Rob and family, Sal etc.

    WE OWE YOU. There are a lot of us out here who will remember that next time around.

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    I sit corrected, but still a fan of Jim Gilbert. :)

  • anon (unverified)

    Besides Mr. Brading the person(s) Blue Oregon should be choosing to thank today (since it's Veterans Day holiday weekend) is our veterans and their families.

    Man of year is all those particular Oregonians who have died in Iraq.

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    (Admin note: Not sure why my comment at 10:29 got dated 11:29. Same for Paulie at 10:18, dated at 11:18. Investigating....)

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    I agree with everything Mr. Chisolm wrote about Rob Brading. This was the first election that I ever gave a contribution to a candiate for a State Legis. office (I'm 44 and have voted in every election since 1980) The contribution was given to a candidate that I could not even vote for, not in my district. That's how important this race was to me--my friends will tell you I am very frugal guy. Thank you Mr. Brading.

  • BlueBerry Girl (unverified)
    1. I could not possibly agree more.

    2. Kari - add yourself to the list of Man of the Year candidates. Your technical and political savvy played an essential role. Carla too.

    3. I have a young daughter. I brought her to a Brading phone bank. I brought her with me to DPO HQ. I explained to her why I was spending my Saturdays canvassing. I took her to see Cindy Sheehan at the Bagdad Theater. Rob, Cindy and so many others - precisely the role models I want for her. Fairness. Justice. Opportunity. Courgage in the face of adversity. Knowing right is right and standing up for it, even if it's hard to do. It is meaningful for me to teach these things to her at a young age. I hope she will always remember it.

    4. What I wrote earlier: And what can I say about Rob Brading? Well, he put it all on the line to take down someone who was hurting a lot of people in Oregon. Where would we be if no one had the courage to do that? Thank you, Rob. I am so proud of the race you and your team ran. Guts and fortitude. I hope you know what that meant to a lot of people. Maybe we didn't get everything we wanted, but I definitely feel good that we all fought the good fight - a fight that needed to be fought. We, and a lot of other people, showed some arrogant bullies that they can no longer operate with thoughtless impunity. That, in itself, is an important victory.

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    Hear, hear.

    While Karen Minnis may not be politically dead yet (we will see if her donors bail on her and shift to someone else, Wayne Scott or even across the aisle?) what you outline is worth seconding, and as you say, give a heartfelt thank you to Rob, Karen and Marah for taking it and running at the GOP and not simply playing defense (to use a metaphor of the current sports season).

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    I thank Rob, Karen, Marah and every volunteer for wresting the power from Karen Minnis. She is the past. Her political capital has been spent. She's bankrupt. Expect major shunning.

    Rob, on the other hand, will own the seat in his district next time around. His campaign is already organized. A painful loss, as you said was really a win! I'm so proud of Rob Brading, his wife Karen and his incredible campaign manager, Marah.

  • Harry Wilson (unverified)

    Rob, Marah, and Trevor ran a tremendous campaign. I feel very lucky to know them and Oregon is lucky to have them. Losing sucks, but no one will doubt the effort and committment of Rob and his campaign staff.

  • gobytrain (unverified)

    Rob Rocks!

    We would pass that huge Karen Minnis sign on I84 (without any party affiliation, mind you) on our way back from windsurfing in Hood River and shake our heads.

    How could Rob even come close to competing with such an acrimonious enemy?

    But Rob did, and with such grace he somehow managed to retain his dignity and shame his opponent into a weaker, exposed, defanged existence, to be vanquished at a later date.

    He is a political war hero.

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    Evan -- correction on your correction. It was Jim Gilbertson who lost by 220 votes in HD 59. Jim Gilbert lost by 1588 votes in HD 18. Also a tremendous campaign.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    Thanks Kari, I can't say it as well, so I'll let your's stand in my place.

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    Rob Brading on the front page of Daily Kos. Take a look!!!

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    Karen Minnis and Wayne Scott will sit together at a table in the back of the legislators' cafeteria every day, and no one will talk to them. Or notice them.

    They can pathetically reminisce about their glory days when they ran the legislature like thugs.

    Those days are over.

  • Rep. Sara Gelser (unverified)

    I wanted to add to those expressing appreciation for ALL the candidates and campaign staff. This year was marked by lots of hardworking, high quality candidates all across the state. I know that in my part of the state, Sam Sappington, Jason Brown and Dan Thackaberry were out knocking on doors, fundraising, and raising awareness about the Democratic agenda every day during this election season. Though not ultimately successful at the ballot box, these candidates made substantial sacrifices of time, family and often times finances (both in financial support to their own campaigns and sacrificing paid time at work) in order to carry the Democratic banner and work for a more progressive Oregon.

    We owe every candidate that ran, and did not ultimately end up in the statehouse, a huge debt of gratitude for their leadership, dedication, and willingness to step up to the plate in these tough districts to make sure our message got out there.

    Here are the names of these hard working , talented folks--- if you are in their district (and even if you aren't) please take a moment to send them a note of appreciation: Howard Owens Richard Koopmans Mike Moran Sam Sappington Dan Thackaberry Jim Gilbert Brian Grisham Connie Garcia Jason Brown Sal Peralta Chuck Lee Lee Coleman Bev Backa Mike Caudle Jill Selman-Ringer Ryan Olds Suzanne Van Orman Bill SMith Phil Philben James Calvert Rosemary Powers Tonia St. Germain Ben Talley Jim Gilbertson Peter Hall

  • JJ (unverified)

    I especially like the funding for education. No more excuses for poor performance.

    When Johnny can't read the teacher can't hide behind the funding excuse any more.

    Remember you won the legislature to perform for ALL Oregon. Not just the liberal enclaves in Portland or Eugene.

    That means making sure that rural Oregon benefits equally with the urban centers.

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    I want to add my voice to the chorus of thanks for every Democratic candidate who ran, but didn't win their race. As Kari and others have so eloquently said, our party's victory this year was in great part due to your efforts. Our victory in Oregon, and nationwide, was rooted in broad engagement, not individual stars.

    I'd also like to single out two of these candidates for particular thanks: Sam Sappington and Lee Coleman. Both of these candidates ran as out gay men in predominantly Republican districts. And while I was pleased to see no one make issue of this irrelevant fact in their campaigns (and tip my hat to the civil folk of the Oregon Republic Party for staying on point, at least in these races), these men's candidacies nonetheless took a particular nerve and self-confidence, which deserves recognition.

    The final margins were on par with historical results for their districts (Sam in HD15 and Lee in HD26). Political realities on the ground are just that. We have the districting which we have. And yet, these two men's efforts were important parts of our party's overall engagement of the Republican party's superior financial resources on as many fronts as possible (and may we never underestimate the need for broad strategic action).

    Thank you, Sam and Lee, and all unsuccessful Democratic candidates in this election, for being key parts of The Big Blue Wave. I know many people see, recognize, and appreciate all the hard work you've done for the party, and for Oregon.

  • Rob Brading (unverified)

    My thanks to you all. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to be part of this campaign and to have helped make a difference in Oregon. I was privileged to work with Marah and Trevor and so many others -- staff and volunteers -- who made this campaign. And of course, I'll never be able to repay, or even adequately explain, the support and love from my wife, Karen.

    But really and truly I was lucky enough to be one part of a much larger campaign.

    The big, supposedly unobtainable, prize this election was a House Democratic majority. We won that prize because hundreds and hundreds of people busted their tails. As Sara pointed out, we had candidates across the state who campaigned with diligence and spirit and conviction in districts where they faced much greater odds with less support than I had. They had staff and volunteers who worked incredibly hard and turned "impossible" races into near victories.

    Each of those campaigns contributed in big ways to winning the House. One of my lessons from this campaign, and from watching others, is that every contribution -- time, money, spirit, energy, presence -- has an impact far larger and more potent than the gift alone. Those contributions don't just increase arithmetically but exponentially - at the very least. And you never know when the what seems a trivial contribution will make all the difference.

    So, yes, congratulations are in order. But we also have a two-fold job to do. First, we need to hold the legislature and the governor accountable -- on education, on health care, on the environment, on fair and equal treatment for all, on easing the burden on working families. And second, now is the time to begin working not just to hold onto these hard-won majorities but to increase them in 2008.

    The campaign started yesterday.

  • Dickey45 (unverified)

    In addition to Sara's list, I would like to thank Mario Magana who seemed to be regularly forgotten by Democrats. I suspect he was on the "outs" with some dems because he wouldn't take their money.

    Reminds me of an independent Dean, who might be on the outs with the DLC. My questioning of some Oregon Dems is beginning to feel a little like my dislike for the DLC.

  • Sara Gelser (unverified)

    My thanks go to Mario too who ran for the Senate in my district (SD 8) . Leaving him off the list was unintentional--- I was going down the House list. Sorry about that Mario! Mario gave it his all in a tough district, walked, worked and spread a positive message about issue driven leadership.

  • Gary Adamsek (unverified)

    Rob Brading is such a ungracious loser that he didn't even have the courtesy and professionalism to call Karen Minnis after she won. He is no hero, he is a mere coward who deservedly lost and will lose again if he has the audacity to run again.

  • Gary Adamsek (unverified)

    Rob Brading is such a ungracious loser that he didn't even have the courtesy and professionalism to call Karen Minnis after she won. He is no hero, he is a mere coward who deservedly lost and will lose again if he has the audacity to run again.

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    Gee Gary, how do you know that? Could it be... because you work for Karen Minnis?

  • Gary Adamsek (unverified)

    Wow terrific sleuthing job, Kari. Perhaps I live in the district and word gets around. Come on Kari, as if you haven't perused Karen Minnis' C&Es with a fine toothed comb.

  • George Karnezis (unverified)

    Dear Gary:

    I appreciate having my intuition about the source of Minnis's support confirmed by your blast at Rob. Never mind that her campaign began the lies about Rob and continued to perpetrate the suburban-urban divide by casting Rob as a villainous representative of the evil inhabitants of those godawful liberal inhabitants of Portland. Never mind that, on the occasion of being asked to say something positive about her opponent at the Gresham Chamber of Commerce Forum, it took some effort for her to grudgingly say "He's tenacious, I'll give him that," this after Rob had graciously praised her as a mother and grandmother.

    I don't know Karen Minnis. I've never met her. But such "contacts" as I've had, both in person and indirectly through her campaign tactics, suggest to me a mean-spirited petulance and a person of low character. Those qualities are further revealed by her refusal to engage in any real debate with her opponents because it's clear she regards them not as "worthy," but as contemptible for even presuming to run against her.

    I was honored to work for Rob as were so many others. More work needs doing to help people in East County perceive themselves as something other than a group defending itself against the iniquities of outsiders. Once they understand, really understand, how the likes of the Minnis's continue to infect and impoverich rather than elevate and invigorate the electoral process, real virtue and excellence will ultimately win over the well-financed powers of lies and misrepresentations. We'll be back, and we'll win.

    One more thing: you spit at Kari for accessing C & E reports as if that were something embarrassing. Such reports are a matter of public record and anyone looking at them needn't apologize for doing so.

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    <h2>Actually, I hadn't. But now I'm curious.</h2>

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