How did Dennis Richardson get 70% of the vote?

Across the blogosphere, folks have been asking - "Who is Dennis Richardson?" and "How can we defeat him in 2008?"

Well, over at DailyKos, former BlueOregon contributor John Doty - who ran unsuccessfully for the Oregon House in a neighboring district in 2004 - shared some background:

So here's the deal with DR. He's an attorney, when he is not in his role of part time legislator. His visibility is universal, as his law firm has a full page ad on the back of the phone directory (QwestDex or whatever it is this year), featureing Dennis in a flannel shirt and jeans in a nice clearing with the wooded (and logged) hills of Southern Oregon in the background...

The district he represents (Northwest Jackson county and a sliver of Josephine... with Central Point being the largest city (along with the towns of Rogue River and Gold Hill)) is solidly red - so much so that getting an opponent to step forward at all is like pulling teeth for the county dems. The guiy who has gone for it the last two times (Richard Koopmans) is not a candidate you are going to mobilize an unseating with.

The county dems don't throw support Koopmans' way at all, and the county-wide races are tight enough that the local political guru, Cathy Shaw, isn't going to allow Koopmans to upset the apple cart and accidently activate any GOP voters to the detriment of other D winnable local races (say the Gilmour commissioner race).

I know we like to think, 'but this is Oregon...', but Bush carried Jackson County, and he carried the precincts that make up HD4 very comfortably, offsetting the precincts that make up HD5 (Peter Buckley's adjacent seat (Jacksonville, Ashland)). This is a county that breaks in favor of the less nice things Oregn voters occasionally get to opine on, like various anti-gay initiatives and POBoR and TABoR crap thast we see here relentlessly.

Richardson is going to be a tough a nut to crack. His voters are part of the remaining 30% that still think we have a good President serving in DC. They are a majority in OR HD4.

In thinking about who lives in that district who has ANY shot, Dr Gilmour might be the only one the Dems could field, but he is clinging to the lone D seat on the County Commission, and honestly he probably couldn't muster a win just in that portion of the county.

So... I suppose we should slam the hell out of his comments. Try to frame them in a way to jar some of his support away. I think our best bet on that seat is to try to take him out with an I rather than a D... he isn't even in a seat where a moderate R on the old Oregon mold of McCall or Hatfield could hope to win the R primary - the Rs in HD4 are of the theocon stripe and aren't at all fans of old school Oregon R tradition.


  • ws (unverified)

    Sounds like Richardson is their kind of guy. It sounds as though, if anything, voters in HD4 would prefer an even more conservative political representative than they have in the person of Dennis Richardson. Really, what reason would they, far removed from the intensely varied society of the city, have to see things differently?

  • Phil Jones (unverified)

    I think this latest flareup by the Dems over his newsletter has given Richardson some very positive publicity. It was a huge mistake to have such a hissy-fit over the title of that newsletter. This will come back to haunt Dems in the next election.

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    The Jackson County Democrats know nothing is impossible, including finding a candidate who can challenge Dennis Richardson. Koopman, the Democrat who tried to take out Richardson twice limited his total campaign fund to $2,000. Working alone without assistance from folks who would liked nothing more than to see Richardson out of office made for a really stealth campaign.

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    Richardson some very positive publicity.

    Where? He's a national laughingstock.

  • Joe (unverified)

    "Where? He's a national laughingstock."

    In his incredibly conservative district, where it matters.

    At least he doesn't stand a chance at a statewide office, and a 2nd Congressional District run would be tough.

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    At the risk of being labeled a mamby pamby liberal, a mantle I wear proudly, I sent Mr. Richardson a note, saying that if he didn't mean to equate those two, he ought to apologize for leaving the impression. (And if he did, he had no business holding office.)

    I got back a nice reply. I wouldn't vote for him, but at least he isn't Fred Phelps. Or even Wayne Scott. That's something.

    I truly do apologize for the careless lack of sensitivity. I hope you will take the time to read the newsletter and decide for yourself whether or not the context indicates an intent to compare Monday's mass murder at Virginia Tech with Tuesday's unfortunate--in my opinion--political outcome on two legislative bills. (

    Most people, who have contacted me with their concern about the newsletter and then have read it in context could see that the opening paragraph was intended to introduce the three separate articles which followed. The Mail Tribune editorialized that I need an Editor. I certainly agree with that suggestion and I wish I could afford to hire one. Right now it is nearly 10:30 p.m. on Friday night and I have just finished this week's newsletter. I still have a 4 hour drive to go home for my week-end visit.

    Hopefully, you can understand that I do try to do a good job here in the Legislature. I am only one person and sometimes I make mistakes. To avoid offending I certainly would have composed last week's newsletter differently if I could go back and do so. As it is I can only explain that there was no intention to offend anyone, and try to be more careful in the future.

    Let's attack the message, which was despicable, but just defeat the messenger, who seems to be a decent, if misguided, human.
    At least until we know more about him.

  • Phil Jones (unverified)

    "Where? He's a national laughingstock."

    You must not get out much. Try going to NW Republican or some of the other conservitive blogs, if you have the fortitude to do so. I would provide a link, but when I tried to do that, your spam bot software cleverly intervened and wouldn't allow it. NW R is obviously programmed into Blue Oregon's server files.

  • JacksonCountyDem (unverified)

    Doty doesn't know Jackson County very well. This is information coming from ... [unsubstantiated personal attack and rumor deleted -editor] ... a man who's mother was recalled as a county commissioner in the 70s.

    Cathy Shaw is only concerned about her only customer--Alan Bates. She has a huge track record of failure. Getting Dems elected in liberal Ashland is quite a feat. Buckley twice, Bates, Shayne Maxwell, and herself over Don Laws for mayor. Big deal.

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    In his incredibly conservative district, where it matters.

    Where, specifically, and by whom?

    Looks to me if that were true, the Medford paper wouldn't have editorialized against it, and Richardson wouldn't have come back with the much softer near-apology he gave a constituent above. His first response to BRO was highly combative; the change in tone can only be reflective of a smart assessment of the reaction.

    I'm glad he's acknowledged the poor construction of his thoughts.

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    Evaluating a campaign strategist solely on her "track record" is naive and simplistic.

    A strategist who takes on races that present a challenge does her "statistical line" no favors, but does good things for her candidate and his/her party. I'd take such a strategist in a heartbeat over one who seeks out the "easy wins."

    In my personal experience - admittedly rather limited - Cathy Shaw's political/statistical intelligence is pretty much unmatched.

    If you want to evaluate her based on that simple metric (without even citing any statistics you allude to, by the way), I'd say that's your loss if you ever need services like what she offers.

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    Ms. Shaw often goes where angels fear to tread. The Jackson County Democratic Central Committee listens to her extapolation of precinct analysis carefully. We also consult with other talented people when we organize behind candidates and issues. Every one who assists us has been a beacon of light and sometimes way off the mark.

    It's uncomfortable to read personal slams. Stick to the issue of Dennis Richardson and I will too.

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    I have to agree with Pete. You can't always use a person's win-loss numbers against them. Otherwise, you end up with people who only take the easy races -- and we'd never win seats like HD 49 or 50.

    And her book about elections is a great tool for those considering running for office, running a campaign for the first time, etc. I know I have a copy of it. I went out and picked one up immediately after being hired as the Mult Dems Field Director last year.

  • 17yearoldwithanopinion (unverified)

    Anyone else notice how all the instructions on nw republican are in spanish?

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    (slightly off topic) I agree with Jenni about Shaw's book. I even had a brief conversation with her over the phone. For those who have little or no experience with campaigns it's an interesting read.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    So let Richardson win his seat in his benighted district and then do what we are already doing--painting him as the poster boy for the Republican party in Oregon. Richardson thus becomes our local version of George Bush to help motivate independents and more reasonable Republicans to vote for Democrats.

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    I'd like to preface my remarks by saying that if a candidate announces their intention not to raise or spend more than $2000 on a race against an established incumbent, they are effectively announcing their intention to lose the race (unless they are lying about it, as my opponent did in 2006).

    I think Kathy Shaw is a very talented woman.

    However, I respectfully disagree with those who discourage people or groups from competing in certain precincts or districts on the possibility that increased turnout in those districts will hurt candidates elsewhere on the ticket.

    As voter turnout approaches 100% (as it tends to in Oregon during the general election), the efficacy of that traditionalist approach (GOTV rather than persuasion) decreases, and persuasion, particularly persuasion to GOP voters, becomes more important than partisan turnout.

    The DPO focusses on turnout rather than persuasion because some folks believe that increased turnout will generally hurt upticket candidates.

    Insofar as long-term strategy is concerned, the approach is wrong-headed.

    Once one Democrat wins over those voters, it becomes easier for others to do so as well. But those voters will default to Republican if no effort is made to reach out to them, and their positions will gradually harden over time.

    I lost my election by 370 votes (give or take) in a district with a 2800+ voter registration advantage for republicans.

    I won 3 districts that all had a Republican voter registration advantage, and significantly closed the gap over previous candidates by targeting Republican doors and giving the same basic pitch at every doorstep -- we need to eliminate the corporate kicker and use the money to fund education, do something about special interest control over our legislative process, take incremental steps to reduce health care costs (insurance and prescription pooling for small business), and provide adequate funding for law enforcement.

    That's the same basic platform that the Governor campaigned on. To the extent that people found my platform appealing, they became more likely to vote for the governor based on personal contact that I had made. And the 2006 results in Yamhill County bear that out.

    Bottom line for anyone thinking about running: If you want to be competitive in an "unwinnable district" in the suburbs or ex-urbs, don't listen to consultants who tell you to avoid talking to Republicans, build your bona fides with your county party to a level where they will treat your race on an equal plane with other races regardless of what marching orders are given by the coordinated campaign, show up at every public event you can think of, buy 300-400 lawn signs and go knock on 5000 doors.

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    Correction: The DPO focusses on turnout rather than persuasion because some folks believe that increased turnout in tough districts will generally hurt upticket candidates.

  • Curious (unverified)

    As a proud liberal like "John Springer", and to paraphrase a famous artist, I'm finding this matter to become curiouser and curiouser. As much as I didn't like Richardson's email or politics, in light of the discussion in this thread, I'm now wondering who actually started the meme that Richardson "equated" the VT Tech tragedy we all mourned and the successful HB2007 vote standing up for decency and fairness that I and others applauded:

    Last week, Representative Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) equated a vote in Oregon's Legislature with the mass murder at Virginia Tech.

    Politics Plus: "Only a true Bush Sweetheart would equate justice for same-sex couples with a hideous mass murder. Sadly, we even have Bush Sweethearts here in Oregon."

    For Richardson to say that protecting Oregon families in times of crisis is equivalent to the mass murder

    and this careful, but nonetheless deceitful wording because it is drawing on the established meme to communicate the political message:

    Dennis Richardson's bizarre comments that put last Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech and last Tuesday's vote on equal rights legislation under a common umbrella

    Here's the problem. In another thread, the schematic of this framing strategy was laid out: And to fully connect the dots, if VT = tragedy and SB 2 = tragedy, then VT = SB 2.. Despite what the poster claims, he or she must have failed logic miserably since the "is a" relationship is not a transitive comparison relationship as "=" is. As in: A "is a" C, and B "is a" C, only means A and B "both are a" C. You can't say A "is a" B or B "is a" A. This should be easily grasped from a simple example like red is a color and blue is a color does not imply red is blue.

    The issue here is that the "equating" meme seems to be about intentionally misrepresenting what "C" is in the above argument. As misguided as I believe Richardson's values to be, from the first mention I read of this on Blue Oregon it seemed crystal clear to me that "C" in his newsletter were things that troubled him independently based on his values. I didn't not have any impression he was trying to "equate" anything in the simplistic sense so many have argued here and elsewhere because that didn't make any sense in context or logically.

    Trying to frame your opponent in an unfavorable light is certainly fair in politics. As is questioning the values of the whacked out right wing. And god knows they deserve back in political fights exactly what they give. However, this seems to be an exceedingly sophmoric attempt at playing the game that they have been playing for years. Because it is so easily exposed and dismissed, this level of amateurishness in playing word games actually stands to hurt our side badly. I have become significantly less impressed by the intellect, cunning, and political acumen of those here, and in other so-called liberal groups, who seem to be very self-deluded about their abilities.

    I think we all would do well to try to figure out who started this meme and decide what that means for ourselves. Given the geography others have brought up, perhaps someone should also be asking Kathy Shaw for her comments.

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    You don't have to try to figure it out--for heaven's sake. I believe LO published first, BlueO soon after. There's no misrepresentation here; Richardson quite clearly put them on equal footing in his newsletter. His admission of the poor juxtaposition is more evidence of that. Whether he intended to or not (and his history suggests he might have), one is expected to take what is written at face value, and he has admitted that the way it was written certainly might lead one to believe they were conflated.

    It's no mystery--I wrote it, I distributed it, I stand by it.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    TJ, you may have missed my comment on this other thread, but you have misrepresented what Richardson wrote. He did not "quite clearly put them on equal footing in his newsletter", as I point out in that other comment.

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    I've not misrepresented it at all. He declared it a tragic week, then proceeded to describe what made it a tragedy, including both VaTech and gay rights. Without a transition or qualification, when you say it's a tragic week and then describe what happened during the week, what you describe is understood to be tragic. Otherwise you wouldn't mention it, as he did not mention his eggs that morning were cold, or the machine in the Capitol basement took his soda money.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    TJ, the qualification Richardson used was to explicitly describe the VA Tech shootings as a tragedy (which, BTW, you flat-out denied in that other thread). He did not describe the gay rights legislation as a tragedy. Thus, he did qualify what he meant by "tragic week".

    But in any case, as Curious ably pointed out above, even if he meant to say (or even imply) that both things were tragic, that does not in any way demonstrate that he equates the two. Insisting that his newsletter is proof that he does, when clearly it is not, simply diminishes your own credibility.

    Bash the guy for his positions if you want (and I agree he's wrong on gay rights), but don't make him out to be a monster for something he just plain didn't say.

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    David, he called it a tragic week, then described what happened during the week. Without qualification, their co-appearance under "tragic week" indicates them both to be tragedies.

    His former aide admits he probably thinks it's a tragedy, and Richardson is known for outrageous, senseless, factless commentary on gay rights. Richardson has apologized for what he agreed was a poor construction. To say that he did not compare the two events on similar grounds is to try to help him find an alternate explanation, rather than simply reading and interpreting the construction on face value.

    "It sure was a hilarious day. At 10 AM, I watched a Marx Brothers movie. At noon, I watched a man fall and break his hip."

    To try to say that watching a man fall and break his hip is not to be interpreted as part of his "hilarious day" is to avoid the way the sentence is written.

  • Yo-Duh (unverified)

    I think the point is to push-back whenever a legitimate opportunity presents itself. This was certainly a legitimate opportunity by any definition, regardless of the nuance and interpretation, or the individual representative involved. It's much more simple than parsing meaning and logical construction. It's about voice, power and the ability to mobilize quick and effective response. And I am a constituent of Richardson's. To his credit, he is quaintly earnest and likely doesn't understand the damage he does - but we need to keep the pressure on to speed his learning curve. And we need to push-back whenever the opportunity presents itself. We've been far too flexible and compliant for far too long.

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    To say that he did not compare the two events on similar grounds is to try to help him find an alternate explanation, rather than simply reading and interpreting the construction on face value.

    I'm pretty sure that, if you asked, Rep. Richardson would describe himself as a "Constitutional strict constructionist". That means reading the words as written, not trying to 'understand' what the author 'really meant'.

    What he wrote was horrible and offensive. Even if he didn't mean to be.

  • chisti (unverified)

    Do not misunderstand me, I will never vote for Dennis Richardson, but he does do a good job of representing a MAJORITY of his constituents. And please stop referring to his district as if it is populated by a bunch of clear-cutting, land-raping rednecks . . . they aren't. That's one of the reasons we have not been, and will not be in the near future, able to win that district. We have our hands full with seats we may have a chance of winning so let's not put energy into a race where we have "0" chance. (Are we following G.W.'s strategy? Putting too few troops into a multiple fights that we can't win?)

    I have to applaud Richard Koopmans. He knows HE can't win over DR but he wants to have a Democrat's name appear on the ballot - he has refused donations and told people to donate to one of our close races. I don't know many people who will put themselves out there like Koopmans. He may not win but he has the respect of Dennis Richardson as well as most of his (R's, D's & I's) neighbors. Gaining someone's respect is the first step in convincing them to listen to your points.

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    Remember folks, this is the same guy who introduced legislation that would give GLBT couples 3/5 the rights of married, hetero couples - you know, because he cares about people.

    The man is an intelligent, charismatic attorney. To me, he is much more frightening than Karen Minnis every was. This time,he spoke honestly about his feelings and got caught. He won't likely make that mistake again.

  • Curious (unverified)

    Best single line in any post I've read on this blog:

    Gaining someone's respect is the first step in convincing them to listen to your points.

    It is difficult for me personally to see how playing dishonest word games, rather than directly engaging ob moral grounds with Richardson over opposition to HB 2007 and equal rights, does anything to gain anyone's respect. However, I'm more than willing to listen to an argument, backed by numbers, that there was a net gain in respect across the voting public. Particularly when something as important as equal rights is at stake.

    So to me, the question is this: Does anyone have any thoughts if the number of people who do not personally approve of "civil unions", but who nonetheless believe their personal values on this matter have no place in law, were alienated enough by this tactic to move from the "for" to "not voting" category and from the "not voting" to "against" category will be offset by the number of people induced to move the other direction (or get more active in trying to move people our direction)?

  • Curious (unverified)

    In the above, this mangled bit:

    engaging ob moral grounds with Richardson over opposition

    is this unmangled:

    engaging Richardson on moral grounds over his opposition

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    Gosh... I didn't even know I'd been published over here :) and then attacked? And I don't even know what was said.

    I don't know Jackson County very well, having only lived here from 1970 to 2007, minus 1986 to 1990 for college and 1994-1996 for more college and a job. And having my mother recalled sure does count for a lot, other than nothing I stated related to her tenure, nor did I assert much about the shifting trends in county voters from her time to now...

    JacksonCountyDem (nice name, btw... I am sure the rest of us with such residency and party affiliation appreciate your use of it) seems to also really not be impressed with Cathy Shaw. Not that my post gave a job review of her one way or the other, lots of other folks sure did defend her. I can't say I was thrilled with 100% of her advice during my candidacy, but, honestly JCDem, bitter much?

    I am very late coming to the comments, but if someone would enlighten me to my deficiciencis of knowledge on JaCo, please do :)

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    And my snarkmeter might not be switched on, if any of the above read sarcastic, it probably was... :)

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    YAY... Kari sent me the deleted content.. thanks for stepping up while I wasn't paying attention, but that's the best you've got? I'll substantiate part of it and laugh at the rest. Ekaterina Fedotova was a Russian student in the US on a legit short term work visa - she was employed at Shari's. I ate her cooking twice and collected rent from her every month for the summer. I'd lived with my home and a two income household for several years and the relationship had ended. I offered a room for rent and two people took me up on it. The other was a local kid who was referred to me by a mutual acquaintance.

    Last thing I needed during an election was an income shortage resulting in a home foreclosure, since my teaching job also got cut for the summer, so I rented the space in the home I was't using to people who needed it. End of story.

    So. Who knew this? A VERY short list of people, all of whom worked for my campaign. So. What? you think I coulda won with a clue and no tennants? And perhaps a different surname?

    My earlier observations on Richardson stand. Buy me a full page ad on the back of the phonebook for a dozen years and I bet I can win 70% in a district with a 20 point R edge to begin with, too. Everyone knows him, and most of the district agrees with him.. hope that isn't too ignorant for you.


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