Jackson County: Turning Blue?

The Ashland Daily Tidings has a story detailing how Jackson County is no longer a conservative stronghold. Democratic candidates are increasingly having success in Southern Oregon, and that success has attracted attention from candidates for statewide offices:

Jackson County, once seen as a conservative bastion that was often sidestepped by Democrats seeking statewide office, has emerged this election cycle as a regular stop on the campaign trail.

Three candidates vying for the chance to unseat Republican Sen. Gordon Smith have made swings through the Rogue Valley, and Democrats running for Oregon secretary of state and attorney general have made campaign announcements in Medford recently.

Paulie Brading of Medford, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Party, said "a lot has changed" in the local political climate over the last few years.

"There is a blue tinge now to Jackson County, and now when Democratic candidates come here they see that we can now lay out the red carpet for them and voters turn out to hear them," she said in a telephone interview.

Senator Alan Bates of Ashland offers his take on Democrats' success:

Take Democratic state Sen. Alan Bates' win in the 3rd State Senate District, which has a Republican voter registration advantage. Then there is Dave Gilmour, the Central Point physician who won election to the county Board of Commissioners in 2002 after running on a solidly Democratic, pro-environmental platform in a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 10,000 voters.

In an interview earlier this week, Bates acknowledged that Southern Oregon's Republican roots run deep, but he said locally Republicans are "thoughtful, socially judicious and fiscally conservative," much like centrist Democrats are in the region.

"When you get a moderate Republican from this area and a moderate Democrat from this area lined up with each other, we're pretty similar," Bates said. "That's why I was probably able to get elected as a Democrat — because I am fiscally I am quite conservative and socially I'm pretty progressive."

Bates said that political mix "rings a common bell for both Republicans and Democrats down here," noting that the county is still a Republican stronghold, but not a wellspring of neo-conservatism that some have said it is.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    According to those screeching for the impeachment of George B Bush it sounds like a lot of Jackson County Democrats would be branded as DINO's like Dianne Feinstein was on the Barbara Boxer thread earlier.

    And it's in places like Jackson County (or the equivalents in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, etc.) where the Democrats will need votes in a close election. Do you think calling out "General Betray-Us" and yammering about Bush's impeachment is going to ensure that these people vote Democratic?

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)


    I think that someone needs a serious enema and a psy evaluation. You have a lot of repressed sexual and anger issues.

    Take your MEDS!

  • Holly Martins (unverified)

    "Do you think calling out "General Betray-Us" and yammering about Bush's impeachment is going to ensure that these people vote Democratic?"

    No – what will ensure more progressive voters in Southern Oregon, and throughout the country, is the incompetent Neo-Conservative idiocy that infests the current administration and its acolytes in the media.

    Nov. 2006 was just the beginning.

    Deep in the soul of every neo-con squats a small, ugly, bitter fascist.

  • (Show?)

    I've registered down here in Jackson County since I've been back. There is a good chance Jackson County will help the D's win some races.

    I grew up in both Jackson and Josephine Counties (spending most of my time in the latter) and remember even in high school how much more liberal I was compared to the rest of my school. I wish I could say there's hope for Josephine County, since I lived there a good portion of my life.

  • Kitty C (unverified)

    Having been born in Medford, and coming home from a long stay in blue California, I have seen that the more metropolitan and higher population Medford gets, the more it will turn Democratic. Does this mean Jackson County is growing up? Does more population demand more government services which the Demos provide? I don't know the answers but the streets and I-5 sure gets crowded on a regular basis. Must be time for this country girl to move inland.

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    The Jackson County Commissioners just this week voted to outsource their public library system to a Maryland-based for-profit company. This after laying off all their SEIU-represented library workers several months ago. If Jackson County was really turning blue there would have been a lot more outrage over this kind of blatant union-busting.

  • LT (unverified)

    Very interesting quote: Take Democratic state Sen. Alan Bates' win in the 3rd State Senate District, which has a Republican voter registration advantage.

    Can we, once and for all, end the nonsense where someone in Portland (esp. someone on a political payroll) tells people downstate "sorry but your district has a lousy R to D ratio, nothing we can do about it"?

    If every Democrat votes straight party line, and every Republican does the same, independents will decide elections. The average legislative district has over 7,000 registered outside major parties. How many elections have been decided by fewer than 7,000 votes? Isn't it time to admit that voters who are not partisan can help win elections?

    I remember when Dr. Bates ran for Senate. A relative of mine living down there was visiting about this time (Sept/ Oct) that year, someone who is the least politically active/aware member of her family. I asked what she had heard about the Sen. race, and she said "EVERYONE knows Dr. Bates!".

    Do small town voters make decisions on factors like that, or can all legislative elections be predicted by someone in a campaign office looking at a spread sheet of voter registration and previous election results?

    Every district is different, which is why many of us believe there is room for locals to decide who best represents them in the legislature, whether caucus leadership or staff like that candidate or not. Not everyone who considers running (esp. in a downstate district) has access to personal wealth, organizational funding, friends with campaign / fundraising skills, or the ability to turn a notebook of instructions into a successful campaign. Sal Peralta wrote a long comment on one topic awhile back about what he learned while running for office. But could everything there be translated to any campaign? Would it be better that no one runs in a district if there is no infrastructure? Yes, there were 31 Democrats elected in 2006, but could a better constructed system have elected more than 31?

    There have been people on this blog wondering why anyone who supports issues people here support would even look at a candidate outside of the Democratic Party. Well, those of us who campaigned for a candidate who did better than expected although written off by "professionals" who ignored the Dean message and decided instead "our scarce resources must go to target candidates" don't have to take orders from the "professionals" in places like Portland. Anyone who doesn't like that attitude should spend some time working on a downstate rural campaign and see what it is like.

    I have known people in rural counties who had close friends of another party. When the wife of a Republican legislator died, someone who had been Dem. chair in that county went to the funeral as the neighborly thing to do. There are people who will campaign/ vote for that person they grew up with (or have otherwise known for years) even if that person is not a member of the party they belong to. That may be hard for big city people to understand, but there is a district not far from where I live where a very common sense Republican who has lots of friends across the spectrum is contemplating a run for legislative office. There are families where one spouse is an active Democrat and another has a lot of Republican friends.

    I realize that the above is not "conventional wisdom" among those working in politics in the Portland area. But anyone who disregards such sentiments or believes they only exist in a small majority of the population needs to get out more. Statements like "the best politics involve people, relationships and issues" are not partisan, but do represent the views of more people than some political professionals want to admit.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    No, I think that Jackson County is representative of common sense voting. Voters turn out for good people regardless their party affiliation.

    Dr. Bates is well known for his excellent care, compassion and hard work. He would win regardless his party affiliation (or lack therof). Dr. Gilmour is a little less revered, but has been a wonderful balance to the local County Commissioners. Jackson County, like more and more locales will continue to elect people who best represent their values. The pick will be made by the growing not-affiliated voting block.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    There hasn't been any significant change in voter registration in Jackson County over the last ten years: approximately 42% R, 34% D and 22% NAV. I think there has been an increasing willingness among R's and NAV's to vote for a Democrat, but there isn't any evidence to support a claim that the County is becoming more Democratic or more liberal.

    Some parts of Jackson County supported the May Library Levy by less than 20%.

    I do think progressive groups have reason to be optimistic, though. Ashland is doing great while the parts of the County with no library and no jobs are falling further behind. Widespread frustration with the Bush administration and demoralization of the R's generally could tip some elections to Democrats next year.

    In addition, there's a great grass roots there, including a very active Jobs with Justice chapter and Central Labor Council. The successful all-volunteer Library Levy in Ashland last week was one of the best-run and most energetic campaigns I've seen.

    The Democrats, Labor and other progressives need to build a long-term commitment to areas like Jackson County.

    <h2>John Mulvey</h2>
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