Measure 49: The triumph of Oregon's rural voters

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

The opponents of Measure 49 have been trying to spin the 2007 election as just another chapter in the oft-debated "urban/rural split" in Oregon.

But the reality is completely different. In fact, the 2007 vote on Measure 49 may come to be seen as the turning point for that long-running worry.

After all, rural Oregon voted strongly in favor of Measure 49.

That's right: Even if you toss out the votes of the voters in the five most urban counties - Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, plus Marion and Lane - Measure 49 still wins.

Yeson49In the 31 counties that don't include the Portland metro area, Eugene, or Salem, Measure 49 passed in 17 of those counties. 219,000 rural Oregonians voted Yes - with opponents picking up 208,000 votes. That's a 51.4% to 48.6% victory.

(And in those five urban counties? Sure, a big win: a 380,000 to 166,000 vote tally and a 70% to 30% margin.)

Should we be surprised that rural Oregon came out so strongly for Measure 49?

No. After all, the Oregon Farm Bureau was a strong supporter of Measure 49. From the Capital Press (Oregon's agriculture newspaper):

Don Schellenberg of the Oregon Farm Bureau called the vote a great victory for Oregonians."I think the Oregon voters cherish Oregon's land-use planning system. They cherish Oregon agriculture. And Measure 49 brought the necessary correction to Measure 37," he said.

So, the next time you hear someone talk about the urban/rural divide -- remind them of 2007, when urban voters and rural voters came together once again to protect Oregon from what Tom McCall described as the "sagebrush subdivisions, coastal 'condomania,' and the ravenous rampage of suburbia".

The "grasping wastrels of the land" have once again been held at bay by a coalition of rural and urban Oregonians.

Tom McCall lives.

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    And a hat tip to Evan Manvel, who first noticed the vote margin after excluding the five urban counties.

  • Red Cloud (unverified)

    What will Gary George say now that his own district voted heavily against him? What will Jackie Winters say? What will Brian Boquist say? Where does this leave Mike Schaufler?

    When you analyze that vote, what opportunities does that vote provide for next year?

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    It would be my guest that they won't have much to say until the election is certified and abstracts are available. Then you can look precinct by precinct how the vote turned out.

    I know that in 2004, Schaufler's district voted 68.81% in favor of Measure 37. The no vote didn't win in a single precinct in his district. As a matter of fact, no precinct in his district topped 36% on the no vote, and half the precincts had more than 70% of the people voting no.

    When the abstracts come out, we can see how things changed in Multnomah County (M37 lost in the county in 2004).

    But one thing we have to remember sometimes is that a state representative is supposed to represent his/her district. If a district is heavily opposed or in favor of something, then they probably are as well. So sometimes there are Democratic legislators we're not happy with because they're not liberal/progressive enough. But maybe they match their district?

    Then other times there are legislators that don't match their district, don't vote in ways that match their district, etc. (Karen Minnis, for example).

    Once the abstracts come out, I know I'll be doing some number crunching and map making for Mult Co. I'd recommend others do the same and see what they can find out about their precincts.

  • ellie (unverified)

    When the abstracts come out, we can see how things changed in Multnomah County (M37 lost in the county in 2004).

    My understanding was that Benton county was the only one not to pass M37.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    It's now essential that we carefully monitor the "facts on the ground" in terms of existing Measure 37 claims. County Commissioner's are already on the record as saying that simply having a waiver vests development rights and makes the development "not challengeable".

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    Tom McCall would be proud.

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    Anyone who looks at this map and doesn't see an urban/rural divide in this state is color blind.

    True, an extremely favorable ballot title and support from the Farm Bureau helped Measure 49 do much better in rural areas than might otherwise have been expected, but support for Measure 49 clearly dissipated as you move away from urban centers.

    As for fall-out for legislators who opposed Measure 49, don't hold your breath. The connection between ballot measure votes and candidate votes is notoriously tenuous. If it were not, how many Democrats do you suppose would have been left in the Oregon legislature after the passage of Measures 36 and 37?

    Jenni has right right idea: Do actual analysis of the numbers, not spin, if you want to learn anything useful from election results.

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    ellie: correct. I meant to say that M37 won in Multnomah County.

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    Seriously, Jack?

    There's a handful of counties where M49 lost - but plenty of rural counties where it won.

    58% Jefferson 52% Linn 54% Gilliam 56% Union 52% Crook

    ...and the list goes on and on.

    What exactly is so urban about Crook County, Jack?

  • William Neuhauser (unverified)

    WRT urban-rural "divide": while it is true that all "urban" counties voted in favor, it is also true that not only did many rural counties vote for M49 but that on a rural population basis, the vast majority of rural voters voted for M49 -- just because those eastern counties are large doesn't mean that there are lot of people there.

    WRT R-D divide: the only way that M49 could have won so strongly, especially in rural areas, is if a substantial portion, if not in some cases, a majority of Republicans voted for M49.

    The real political divide, I would say, is that many elected Republicans not only haven't represented their districts well, they haven't even represented their "base" (Republican voters) well in refusing to vote for M49 in the legislature and campaigning against it in the election.

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    but support for Measure 49 clearly dissipated as you move away from urban centers.

    Yeah, I don't know that residents of Crook or Union Counties (for example) would agree with you suggesting that they are part of Portland's urban center.

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    Kari, an urban/rural divide doesn't simply mean urban counties all voted one way and rural counties all voted the opposite way. Again, look at your map. Where is the dark blue and where is the darker red and what are the various shading in between? Can you honestly say you see no correlation based on proximity to urban areas?

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    I have to agree with Jack Roberts--the map shows M-49 dominant in the Willamette Valley. Not so hot in rest of state.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Should we be surprised that rural Oregon came out so strongly for Measure 49?

    No. As I have often stated here, a primary/core way to think of rural Oregon is that we are pragmatic people. Step outside of the worn out notion of progressive/conservative for a minute, and think about the concept of pragmatism.

    Simple definition of pragmatism: DOES IT WORK? IF NOT, MAKE IT WORK.

    If a shovel has a broken handle, you replace the handle or the shovel. Measure 37 didn't do what it was advertised to do, and worse, did something no one anticipated - massive subdivisions and threats to farmlands. It didn't work, hence in this case we didn't replace that shovel, we got it a new handle.

    In prior posts, some have commented that they see Oregon's land use laws as "the most progressive in the Country". What they miss is that the evolution of these laws, as perceived here in rural Oregon, step by step has been pragmatic. Each piece of that puzzle was a pragmatic solution to a real problem.

    There is a lesson here for Democrats (some of whom call themselves progressives): to win in rural areas we need to be less ideological, and more pragmatic.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Jack Roberts writes, "Anyone who looks at this map and doesn't see an urban/rural divide in this state is color blind."

    Jack, you miss a key point. You confuse size with population. Example, Crook County in the exact center of the State has more population than Wheeler, Grant, Lake, and Harney Counties - combined. There may be a "Town/remote" split within rural Oregon, but as a whole rural Oregon passed Measure 37.

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    Thanks, Steve and William. You're spot on.

    Jack, there may be higher vote totals in urban areas than rural areas - but there's no stark divide. Just because Multnomah County was up in the 70s doesn't mean that Crook County's 52% is anything to sneeze at.

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    I have to agree with Jack Roberts--the map shows M-49 dominant in the Willamette Valley. Not so hot in rest of state.

    Really? Because Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln, Deschutes, Crook, Wheeler, Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, Wasco, and Jefferson counties all passed the measure and none of them are in the Willamette Valley... hmmmmm.

  • Jack Roberts (unverified)

    Steve, I think your missing a key point. The way you and Kari describe it, the urban/rural divide actually disappeared in 2004 when voters in every county but Benton passed Measure 37. The results on Measure 49 would actually represent a greater urban/rural divide in 2007 than existed in 2004.

    That's obviously nonsense. If someone really wanted to look at this issue statistically, they'd check the correlation between the percentage of "yes" votes on Measure 49 and the percentage of "no" votes on Measure 37 and see how closely they track. While the "yes" percentage on Measure 49 would be higher in every county, I'm guessing the correlation be tween the numbers would still be quite high.

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    Measure 37 and Measure 49 numbers can be found here. I pointed out the number of counties that saw their numbers flip.

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    We simply don't have enough information yet to claim anything about a rural/urban divide or the lack of one.

    The map above will clearly show a strong correlation between the percent urban and the percent vote in favor of M49.

    As Steve B. notes, it is very possible that, in these counties, urban voters (Pendleton, The Dalles) voted pro and everyone else voted anti. It could result in the pattern shown above.

    Jenni pointed this out early on: until we have precinct results and can do more detailed analysis, we're all out on a limb here.

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    Actually, you don't need the precinct by precinct numbers so much for looking at urban vs rural. Having the precinct numbers will just allow us to add more areas to "rural" since there are areas in counties like Clackamas and Washington that would be considered rural. But they're being grouped together as urban since they're in the Portland metro.

    What I'm talking about is getting down to the house district level, especially in the population centers since there are multiple house districts in a county. While a county might have voted for M49, the results may be different in some parts of the county. You're going to see these kinds of differences more in urban areas where the central urban area may be more liberal than its outer edges and suburbs.

  • Sid Anderson (unverified)

    Some people on this thread are writing as if the Willamette Valley qualifies as "urban." Sure, there are urban areas in the Willamette Valley, but they all have URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES, and once you get out of those boundaries you're in rural Oregon where voters clearly want to maintain the urban/rural divide (in land use terms, not political, of course!)

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    On balance, Jack is right, Kari is wrong: there WAS an urban/rural divide. I did the math. Both population density and housing unit density (two sensible markers for "urban/rural") are significantly correlated with the vote on M49.

    Also explaining the breakdown is how much land in each county was up for grabs by M37. That correlation is a little weaker, but still statistically significant.

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    The other possibility is that rural areas where the threat to their way of life due to Measure 37 claims was clear were more likely to vote Yes on 49. These threats weren't just esthetic. These threats were more clearly "takings" than disallowing the radical changes in use that some have claimed under Measure 37. Some farmers actually want to keep farming, and M 37 was killing that.

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    I'd surmise that some of the strongest correlations are probably based on where the Yes on 49 campaign allocated field resources.

    I can't speak to the rest of the state, but they really had a good grassroots operation in Yamhill, Polk, Washington, and Marion counties and (I've been told) almost nothing in Jackson County.

    Also, it's important to remember that Oregon's land use laws were primarily created to protect ag land in the Willamette Valley. Out of 8 counties in the valley, 7 were among the top 9 in favor of measure 49.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Well, I see that this has evolved to splitting hairs.

    Jack, Kari et al - The urban/rural divide is not a particular useful way to look at a variety of issues, including the voting on Measures 37 and 49. Better we would look at issues such as income levels and other demographic characteristics. I would think that the education level of voters will track most closely to some measures. An intangible is the degree to which voters are "informed".

    Some stereotypes exist regarding rural voters not having access to information, which are by-in-large completely inaccurate. For example, I get all of the Portland TV stations and the Oregonian whenever I want to turn on the TV or buy a paper. Conversely, in Portland you cannot get my local TV channels from Bend nor either the Bend Bulletin or Central Oregonian newspapers. So, based upon information sources, most rural folks are BETTER informed than urban voters. But the exception is the truly remote locations where local television is not available, and the stores are some distance making getting the newspaper more difficult. Those places generally have satellite TV, so they are up to date on news from Idaho and Colorado more than Oregon.

    In my prior post I made reference to a possible “town/remote” split. Over half of the places we consider to be rural are in fact small towns. They have good access to information. But there are other places that we have to consider remote. If you look at the color coded map, you can project an information access bias into it. Frankly, the people in John Day have to work harder than the people in Prineville to get information on State issues due to issues of media access.

    Well, that explains the East Side of Oregon to a degree. But then again, we have other issues. Just look at southern Oregon. They have good access to information. What is going on there? I really don’t know, but I doubt it has anything to do with urban/rural splits. Medford and the other towns of Jackson Co. have far more population than the rural parts of that County. So what happened there? When you look at Jackson County in particular, you realize that something other than rural/urban splits must be used to explain the Measure 49 vote.

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    Oh please...

    This does not demonstrate any kind of divide at all really.

    It does demonstrate the viability of the ballot title and the campaigns who tried to argue both sides of the case.

    This measure started out, without any advertising, with 80% support. Then after being outspent 2 to 1 the total support dropped to what, 61%?

    I mean if you want to go over analyzing county vote spreads and spend your future campaign dollars based on such spreads then be my guest. Actually I hope you do.

    However something tells me that deep down inside and behind the closed doors of future campaigns, you yourselves don't really believe this pap.

    I mean seriously, do you believe that if the "NO" side had spent the same amount of money as the "YES" side that the map would look like this? Of course not.

    Now if the measure had started out at about even then I might agree with you.

    But then again you need to spin some more good news where there is none. You have some legislators you hope to keep in line with this silliness.

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    Ted, 1000 Friends did a poll in January, 2007 that showed 61 percent support for either repealing or modifying Measure 37.

    The Riley poll in July had Measure 49 at 58 percent.

    Polls released in the last few weeks of the campaign had it at 61 percent.

    Can you post a link that shows something dramatically different than that?

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    To be fair, Kari was right in his initial point: Measure 49 did not pass because urban voters imposed this on rural voters. Measure 49 passed in rural Oregon, too, albeit by a smaller margin.

    My point was a different one; namely, that the distribution of votes and the vote margins were consistent with the traditional urban/rural split, which Torridjoe seems to have confirmed with his statistical analysis.

    My reason for making this point is simply as a caution to anyone who is thinking the basic political landscape has changed.

  • Gordie (unverified)

    I always get a kick out of folks who view farms as something other than development. For instance, the biggest percentage of the agricultural sector in Oregon is the nursery & greenhouse industry. Repeat, industry. When it comes to farming, what we're protecting from development is another type of development.

    In other parts of the state, some of our agriculture is being protected from development in a different way--by keeping loggers out of the forests, keeping grazers off of the land, giving irrigation water back to lakes and streams, etc. That's obviously a good thing for the environment (except when it comes to the fire risk), but it certainly has a different economic impact, one that especially in the southern parts of Oregon is exacerbated by the loss of timbers funds. That loss includes Congress trying to reneg on the loss of property taxes via the BLM's O&C funding. That's just part of the reason that here in Southern Oregon, there's less faith in governments' ability to wisely to manage our land. That definitely contributed to the thumping that 49 got here in Jefferson.

  • Emily George (unverified)

    There's one huge factor people aren't talking about -- the television campaign. The discussion assumes it was evenly competitive across the state.

    In reality, the Yes on 49 campaign did not run television ads on broadcast tv in the Medford market. They did a tiny bit of cable and radio. The No on 49 campaign ran more than $200,000 in tv ads in that market on top of aggressive radio.

    In contrast, in the other media markets, the Yes on 49 campaign had a considerable advangage over the No on 49 campaign.

    Yes on 49 evidently made a strategic calculation that $ for $ they could reach more swing voters in the other tv markets (Bend, Eugene, Portland). There's no doubt in my mind that Jackson County's relatively poor vote for 49 is primarily explained by that.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)

    Jack is right. There is a difference between a "rural" county passing M49 by 52% and an "urban" county passing it by 70%. M49 had broad support, but it had less support in "rural" counties than "urban" ones.

    I keep putting quotes around "urban" and "rural" because, if you define urban/rural by the percentage of people living in an incorporated municipality, then Crook County is more urban than Multnomah County. I think small-town Oregon and big-city Oregon better describes what we're talking about.

  • Sid Anderson (unverified)


    A link, please, for that 80% figure.

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    Jack and Bert are right in the same sense that people talk about a persistent gender gap.

    But I'd like to go further than Bert and ask if two categories really can capture this at all. What happens if we put "suburban" into the mix? Is there a pattern related to proximity to UGB's at all? To areas with local experience that M37 claims are for big developments or companies vs. smaller claims? To areas particularly hard hit by declining in logging?

    Someone on another thread was arguing that the division is more N vs. S than W vs. E, based on types of farming (& implicitly, underlying geography and climate). That seemed interesting. Wonder what Jack R. thinks about it & if it would constitute some sort of departure from typical urban-rural divisions, which at least around here tend to get rendered as E vs. W of the Cascades.

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    Chris-- I think by using densities as a marker you include "suburban" and everything in between urban and rural. But I'd be curious to see what other correlations there are. Anybody who wants to send me data points for all 36 counties to match up against the M49 vote, I'll run it through the wringer.

    Right now though, I think urban/rural and the extent of claims in your county are likely the two best indicators we have.

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    Sorry TJ, you lost me. Can't quite see how you get from densities (a continuous variable, no, if inclusive in the way you say?) to urban/rural (a dichotomous categorical one). What density demarcates urban from rural?

    Admittedly "suburban" is a slippery category at best. But in either 1990 or 2000 the census classified the majority of Americans as residents of suburbs for the first time.

    What happens if we use Jenni's suggestion (I think) of House districts, instead of counties?

    Not really arguing with you here, just trying to understand.

  • Red Cloud (unverified)

    Between Emily George and Torridjoe, we may never be able to extract much that is useful from voting patterns. Both make important points. Torridjoe crunches the numbers while Emily George points out the strategy the Yes On 49 campaign employed.

    In discussions and meetings with members of the Committee On Land Use Fairness Committee, it was clear that the strategy was to address the Willamette Valley. This reflected the reality of politics. Look at the soil classifications and compare them with the geography of Oregon and then overlay the counties over that geography. Oregon east of the Cascades was pretty much left out of the loop – poor soils, ergo less concern with the development that would occur.

    Strategically, the Yes On 49 Campaign targeted its resources. It, too, recognized that a dollar spent in Jackson County was a dollar wasted. The Campaign lacked the resources to do in Southern Oregon what it could do in the Willamette Valley. So, yes, urban densities made it easier to target potential voters.

    We also need to remember that it is highly unlikely that anyone who voted FOR Measure 37 voted AGAINST Measure 49. These dogs were securely under the porch. All we had to do was to target disaffected supporters of Measure 37. That disaffection shows up in the results statewide. This does bear out Joe’s hypothesis (“My hypothesis going in was that rather than simply urban/rural, the divide was more likely to be along lines showing the potential for M37 to impact voters in each county”). His hypothesis mirrored the Yes On 49 Campaign strategy.

    My personal conclusion, solidified as the campaign wore on, is that the issue has less to do with land use policy as it does with how Oregonians view property rights. The anti-49 campaign focused on what was being “taken away.” Strong advocates for property rights want to ignore that “real estate” is different from other property. They combine the police power of government with eminent domain, when the two are distinct and separate strings that government holds over those who hold real estate. Exercise of the police power (regulation) can become so onerous as to constitute a taking; the property rights faction argues that they are one in the same.

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    "Sorry TJ, you lost me. Can't quite see how you get from densities (a continuous variable, no, if inclusive in the way you say?) to urban/rural (a dichotomous categorical one). What density demarcates urban from rural?"

    Because density is continuous along the line between the dichotomous poles of urban and rural, and "suburban" surely fits in somewhere in the middle, then over the range of density scores for each county, you should have suburban densities accounted for. In other words, suburbs would be considered more dense than rural areas, but less dense than urban ones. So while the counties in the middle range might not be "suburban" counties per se, they still represent the middling density range.

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    "This does bear out Joe’s hypothesis (“My hypothesis going in was that rather than simply urban/rural, the divide was more likely to be along lines showing the potential for M37 to impact voters in each county”). His hypothesis mirrored the Yes On 49 Campaign strategy."

    I want to do a full post at LO on this, but an absolutely BRILLIANT tactic by Yes49 people was to generate an address-based list of claims, and create a customized letter showing what was going on within 5 miles of their house. I bet that opened up some eyes...

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    Yeah TJ,

    Maps were huge in this one.

    I got my first M37 claim map for the county, done by county DOT, in February.

    It was followed bystate wide maps, regional maps, and the ones you mentioned.

    Seeing the claims in bright green, gold, and red on a white background made it look like a spray pattern in a crime scene photo.

    Very effective.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Kari, I respectfully disagree. The map clearly shows once again that the demographically over populated I-5 corridor north of Forest Grove carried the Yes on 49. It was so heavy that it swamped the rest of the state, the rural vote.

    It is time to seriously consider moving the mythical state of Jefferson to reality.

  • Larry Caldwell (unverified)

    The maps are an excellent picture of the failure of "one size fits all" land use laws. While restrictive land use laws are necessary in highly populated areas, they are nothing but a nuisance and impediment in many areas of the state. The voters pretty clearly registered that. Unfortunately, the voters in those areas don't have much to say about it. I don't know how many voters live in Lake County, but the entire population of the county is only about 7500. It's not surprising that they feel land use restrictions are nothing but a nuisance.

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    What's one-size fits all about our land use laws?

    Our land use laws differentiate large cities from small cities, good soils from bad soils, high-value farmland from non-high value farmland, Willamette Valley v. the rest of the state, Portland metro from all other cities. They ask local governments to adopt their own plans.

    Many sizes fit all. Some common principles -- like planning for our future, making sure growth is efficient, and protecting our agricultural economy -- exist, but to call them one-size fits all is simply incorrect.

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    The Yes campaign never got the kind of 80% polling numbers you cite; support for 49 topped out in the high 60s from the start. Early polling prior to the drafting of HB 3540 DID show numbers in the 70s for changing Measure 37, however. That's the relevant number that you would rather ignore, because it does not suit your perspective.

    As to what might have happened had the No folks spent several million dollars more, I suppose we won't ever know for certain. However, we do know for certain that the No side matched the Yes side in terms of dollars spent during the last several weeks of the campaign on TV in the critically important Portland media market, as well as exceeding the Yes side in other parts of the state on TV. I would maintain that it was not necessarily the money spent on media that made all the difference - the No side did absolutely no get-out-the-vote work. Hunnicut stated the last week of the campaign that "no one wants to have some creepy person come to the door" and ask for their vote.......and he was wrong. Get out the vote does work - especially in a low-turnout election.

    In addition, some of us realize that the No side's TV ads were simply not believable to many folks. The allegation that the couples pictured in the ads were going to "lose everything" didn't make sense to lots of voters, esp in the Portland market. They still owned their land, and it has value. Substantial value, actually. I live less than a mile from two of the couples pictured in the ads, and their properties are CURRENTLY worth several million dollars each. without any additional development. I bet alot of folks would like that kind of property value for their retirement! Admittedly, very few voters knew these facts - but they did sense that the "we're going to lose everything" statements didn't jibe with common sense.

  • Jon (unverified)

    Where do property rights absolutists left in the lurch go from here?

    <h2>Back to figuring out how to pack the Supreme Court in their favor.</h2>

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