Oregon Governor Race Turns Strange And Stranger
Only days before the Oregon primary on May 16, the two major Republican candidates are increasingly involved in a silly ad war. A particularly desperate independent ad run by a 527 committee that most benefits candidate Ron Saxton that is paid for by the Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde as an organization known as Oregonians Against Off-Reservation Casinos which claims that Kevin Mannix supports putting 2,000 slot machines closer to Portland. Yet the attack ads run by the 527 organization never mention that the Confederated Tribes Of Grande Ronde run the Spirit Mountain Casino and are merely afraid that competition from the Confederated Tribes Of Warm Springs that would put a casino closer to Portland would cut the millions in gambling revenues they reap. The Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde are also fighting a proposed $515 million dollar Washington state casino that is expected to gross around $200 million dollars a year.
The 527 attack ad also claims that Kevin Mannix supports a sales tax as well as other tax increases, but fails to mention that these are old positions when Mannix was a Democrat prior to the year 2000.
Mannix seems to be responding with both official and independent ads, some paid for by archconservative sexual excitement electronic measurement equipment guru, Loren Parks. According to a local newspaper, (Willamette Week feature, "Dirty Old (Money)Man" 5/15/2002) Parks has been sued for attempting to sexually pressure a female co-worker before, and that is hardly the family values image that many of the right wing supporters of Kevin Mannix would normally support.
One Mannix ad looks like it was designed by schoolchildren. It features an almost SOUTH PARK type appearance cartoonish Ron Saxton and attempts to tie him to Steve Goldschmidt, bother of disgraced former Governor of Oregon, Neil Goldschmidt. The former Governor was involved in a sex scandal with a young teenage child while Mayor of Portland, and the Mannix campaign figures that tarring Saxton with all of this while avoiding the question of Loren Parks lurking in the background.
And the Mannix ad attacks Saxton for a contribution to the Clinton campaign a few years back. But many businesses hedge their bets by contributing to both major candidates so they can lobby with more clout later if they need to. The Mannix campaign never mentions that he was a former George McGovern delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention and supported the antiwar candidate for President during the Nixon years. Mannix was a Democrat for most of his legislative career and only switched parties after repeated failures for one statewide office after another. As a Republican he has also failed again and again.
Officially the Saxton campaign has reported about $202,000 dollars to spend. But also heavily benefits from more than $408,000 that the independent run ads from the Grand Ronde Tribes. Mannix has officially about $76,000 to spend. But as much as $186,000 in independent 527 money mainly from Loren Parks may be available to spend. Both Republican challengers run well behind either Governor Ted Kulongoski or Jim Hill according to some polls. However it is not a sure thing that Governor Kulongoski will win the primary as Jim Hill, who could become Oregon's first Black Governor, has heavily benefitted from Grand Ronde attack ads as well. Oregon has had few two term Democratic Governors no matter how well they have tried to do their best. A Jim Hill upset of Kulongoski is a real possibility. But otherwise a Kulongoski and Saxton race is more likely. Mannix is simply too played out for many and has lost too many times, and his latest desperate ads give Republican voters little to vote for. And while Saxton seems to be running more to the right for the primary, it is generally moderates like Mark Hatfield or Bob Packwood that won statewide offices before. If Saxton can recapture that his chances will improve in the November matchup with Kulongoski or Hill.
This Oregon governor's race in 2006 has been particularly strange so far this year with more weird events likely to unfold before the year is over.