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Oregon Politics: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Friday, October 17, 2014


photo credit: iStock

Every Friday, GoLocalPDX breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Oregon politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Top Two Primary: Measure 90—little known among the broader Oregon electorate, yet furiously debated amongst political junkies, progressive and conservative alike—would replace Democratic and Republican Party primaries with a unified primary election open to all voters. Two big name Oregonians—former Secretary of State Phil Keisling and voter rights advocate Caitlin Baggott—lent their strong words in support of the measure here at GoLocal. On Tuesday, Yes on 90, the campaign supporting the measure, reported a contribution by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg of up to $1,250,000. 

Marijuana Tax: the Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday morning to move forward with a plan that includes a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. A final vote is scheduled for next week. As it stands now the plan would result in raising between $1.7 million and $4 million a year, and would not include taxes on medical marijuana. 

John Kitzhaber: Despite enduring a rocky ride on the campaign trail these past couple weeks, the governor seems to be keeping his cool. During a televised gubernatorial debate sponsored by KGW and the Oregonian, Kitzhaber responded with poise and conviction to questions regarding his fiancé’s role in his office, as well as his track record as governor. A poll by Oregon Public Broadcasting and Fox 12—conducted partly before the Cylvia Hayes scandal broke—has Kitzhaber at a 21 point lead. That’s good news for the governor, but more time is needed to fully assess the impacts of the scandal on the minds of voters. 

Chuck Lee: House District 25 is one of several hotly contested seats this election cycle, and it’s not your usual race. This one’s between a Republican, Bill Post, and an Independent, Chuck Lee. Post, a radio talk-show host popular among tea party conservatives, has failed to garner the support of several of his fellow Republicans. Meanwhile, the Statesman Journal reports how Chuck Lee’s aptitude for bipartisanship has earned him endorsements from Republicans like Rep. Vicki Berger of Salem, Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano, and Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers. 

Yes on 88: On Monday, The Safe Roads campaign held a well-attended rally at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, during which activists, faith leaders, and elected representatives, including Governor John Kitzhaber, kicked off a “week of action” in support of measure 88. If passed, the measure would allow limited drivers cards for qualified applicants living and working in Oregon. Kitzhaber, who signed the Safe Roads bill into law after the legislature’s vote of approval last year, said during his rousing speech, “drivers cards for safer roads was the right thing to do then and it is the right thing to do now. That's why I stand with you today and give my full support for ballot measure 88, and encourage all Oregonians in joining me in passing this important measure.”


Cylvia Hales: Oregon’s first lady has proven to be a thorn in the side of the governor’s reelection campaign. As GoLocal reports, the governor requested an investigation by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission into the role that Hales played as a political consultant in his own office. All this, combined with revelations over Hales’ 17-year-old sham marriage, has led many to question the governor’s chances at reelection.  

Merkley vs Wehby: Merkley might still be leading in the polls, but the fact that neither candidate has given us anything new to consider in the final days of the election might explain some of the voter apathy regarding this race. The Oregonian Editorial Board for instance, decided against endorsing either candidate, saying both Merkley and Wehby are “unsupportable,” citing Wehby’s inability to run an effective campaign, and Merkley’s highly partisan record. The candidates had the opportunity to prove the Oregonian wrong during yesterday’s debate sponsored by KOBI TV, yet neither yielded any particularly compelling information other than their usual talking points. 

Healthcare debate: Critics are wary of how the state expects to pay for the rising number of Oregonians who, after enrolling through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will be on Medicaid. “The Cover Oregon computer fiasco, I think, is going to pale when we look at the overall coast of what we’re doing and our inability to pay for it,” state Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, vice chairman of the House Health Committee told GoLocal. Politicians in favor the ACA often referred to a 2013 OHSU study showing how the state will actually save $79 million by 2020. However, the study was based on expectations that the number of new Medicaid recipients would be much lower. 

PERS debate: On Tuesday, the Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments over cuts to the Public Employees Retirement System. Cuts enacted by the legislature last year slashed $5.3 billion from PERS unfunded liability. As the Oregonian reports, public employees have challenged the legality of the changes on the premise that they violate the contract clause of the constitution. The court is expected to rule on the issue sometime next year.

Ebola: Another hospital worker in Dallas, Texas who provided care for the first diagnosed Ebola patient in the U.S., tested positive for the disease, raising concerns about safety precautions. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, slightly more than half of Americans believe the U.S. is prepared to handle an Ebola outbreak. Meanwhile in Oregon, Jesuit High School canceled a visit from 15 African students out of fear of the virus, even though none of the students is from a country that has had a case of Ebola.  

Gus Wendel is a writer, organizer, and musician. Originally from Eastern Oregon, he now resides in Portland.

Banner Photo Credit: iStock 


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