Clatsop County Commissioner Dirk Rohne gets fed up with GOP, becomes a Democrat

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Over in Clatsop County, they've had some pretty tough local politics lately - mostly related to the LNG issue. And now, Clatsop County Commissioner Dirk Rohne - who opposed the siting of an LNG terminal - has decided that the Republican Party is no longer welcome to moderates like him.

One of Senator Ron Wyden's bipartisan county co-chairs in the 2010 campaign, Rohne credits Wyden and state Sen. Betsy Johnson with showing him that the Democratic Party has open arms.

In an op-ed at the Daily Astorian, he explains:

n the next election, I ran for the county commission. I received tremendous support from a wide spectrum of Democrats and some important Republicans as well. Old commercial fisherman would call me up and tell me they supported me, and then they would slam the phone down. The LNG project would have dredged 34 acres of prime salmon habitat. The fisherman had been lied to before. My opponent for the county commission race, was more in line with the county commission that supported the LNG project. Despite being outspent by 2-1, I received more than 60 percent of the vote.

In about the same time frame, our community college was hoping to pass a bond to redevelop our antiquated campus. Our college board became politically hot as a small hostile group worked against renovating the college. What did the college bond, my county election, the LNG project and some of the leadership from the local Republican committee have in common? They are many of the same people – in support of Texas LNG speculators, in opposition to the college bond, in support of my opponent, and a good representation of the neo-conservative right wing of the Republican Party. A certain trend seemed to have emerged.

In time, I have had an opportunity to get to know people like state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a pragmatic, realistic person who works hard to achieve results for all of her constituents. I’ve also gotten to know something of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. I was asked to be a co-chairman for his Clatsop County campaign and later was asked to serve on his agricultural advisory board. Again it seems he works hard in a bipartisan manner to achieve the most results for the greatest good.

Whether it’s the college, the county, the neighborhood, state or nation at large, it seems the Democratic Party is very comfortable with practical moderate politics. And that, my friends, is why it’s time to switch to the Democratic Party.

Here at BlueOregon, conversations often revolve around whether particular Democrats are progressive enough. But, of course, as the Republican Party self-immolates in a fire of radical conservatism, the Democrats are going to get a lot of attention from disaffected moderates. Are they truly welcome in our party? Or will we insist on ideological purity as well?

While I'm a progressive, and generally support progressives when there's a choice, I think our party should be the party that welcomes disaffected moderates. Quite obviously, that can make for a tough balancing act. How do we stay true our values while welcoming those who may not (yet) share them?


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      I agree with your first paragraph, but not your second.

      To be frank, I've never heard any "anti-business" chatter from serious Democrats - office-holders, party leaders, organizers and staffers. The Democrats I know support business - how else are you going to produce jobs? We just believe in reasonable regulations to ensure a fair marketplace, dignity for workers, and appropriate funding for public services.

      Sure, there are anti-business, anti-capitalist folks around, but they generally don't describe themselves as Democrats.

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        Re-read that paragraph. Didn't say the left WAS anti-business but that they had been BRANDED as such. You can draw your own conclusions as to who has done the branding. I suspect the left has a small part in it, but that is another debate.

        In my opinion, the best way to counter this is to bring more business owners into the tent, even if that means you don't agree with them on every issue.

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    This so called anti-business branding of the left is a red herring perpetuated by the GOP in a not so subtle attempt to generalize their support. There are many business owners (myself included) that feel best represented by the Democratic Party and their inclusiveness versus the GOP and their "our way or the highway" approach. The only reason moderate business owners would not feel comforatable within the Democratic Party would be because they listen too much to the GOP/faux news/big business meme.

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    To your question: "Are they truly welcome in our party? Or will we insist on ideological purity as well?"

    Party politics are interesting. You both need a big tent but also ideological coherence. When part of your party is taking positions antithetical to the basic platform, it can weaken your efforts to make policy. But few moderates take positions that are antithetical on all issues. It's best to welcome conservative Democrats who are willing to join you on issues that aren't critical to their constituency.

    Where it goes sideways is when you have a guy like Joe Lieberman, who exults in sticking it to the party. A bit of purity is in order when someone makes a public display of supporting Republicans.

    In local politics, it's even clearer. The Democratic Party can afford a bigger tent here (even with closely divided legislative houses). This is a state already amenable to progressive policy. Moderates in Oregon are far to the left of national blue dogs. Finally, it's useful to have a bit of diversity in the party. Someone sticking up for loggers isn't a bad perspective to have in environmental discussions, for example. They often lead the way to common ground.

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    As I read Jeff's comment it donned on me that I had interpreted the gist of this article to be about welcoming moderate VOTERS into the party as opposed to elected officials. I guess I still expect, naively so, that our elected Representatives will actually represent the will of their electorate in their voting decisions.

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