Friday, May 12, 2006

Tuesday's Oregon Governor Primary Will Test The Power Of Big Casino Money

Unlike any previous election in Oregon, this Tuesday's election will test the power of big casinos to influence the election outcome. With the latest spending report in, the Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde who run the Spirit Mountain Casino have spent $615,000, which is nearly more than all the candidates, Democratic and Republican combined. The members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde are concerned that the Confederated Tribes Of Warm Springs will be building an off-reservation casino in the Gorge area closer to Portland. The Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde are hoping a big negative attack ad campaign to defeat Democratic Governor Ted Kulogoski and Republican Kevin Mannix will help two proSpirit Mountain casino candidates, Democrat Jim Hill and Republican Ron Saxton in this Tuesday's primary.

Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski is fighting back with a late last minute ad blitz to fight back from the relatively close race he is locked in with Jim Hill according to some polls. However, the Kulongoski ads were very late to air after many ballots already were sent in. Gov. Kulogoski will have to rely on late deciders turning in his favor, although it is often late voters who swing to an opponent in races. But it is likely that Kulogoski may emerge narrowly from the Tuesday primary. But such a weak showing does not bode very well for the November General Election.

Kevin Mannix, a former Democrat who was a George McGovern delegate to 1972 Democratic Convention has slowly evolved into the darling of the far right. With his latest spending report, of a little over $300,000 spent, $250,000 alone comes from right wing Nevade businessman, Loren Parks. This year Mannix is hurt by the negative independent 527 ads paid for by the casino interests as well as voter fatigue that Mannix seems to run for an office nearly every year. Ron Saxton seems like a fresher candidate with a better vision compared to the tired Mannix campaign of trying his best to resurrect all his old pet issues. Mannix appeals to the tough on crime, prolife audience, even though Mannix has defended at least one Mayor charged with public coruption as a private attorney, and has attempted to weaken ethics laws while in the stayte legislature. And with a long track record inboth political parties, Mannix has a track record of voting to raise taxes on more than enough issues for Saxton to make an issue of this. Only the old Mannix antistalking law from his state legislature draws a more universal praise from conservatives and liberals alike. On other issues, Mannix draws a sharp division between conservatives and liberals, although he's been on both sides of most issues over time.

Saxton will face some interesting challenges in November, as the national election tide against Republicans could be very strong. But few Democrats have been reelected Governor in Oregon despite being a "blue" state, only two since 1959. Saxton could be seen as "moderate" enough to be the sort of Republican who wins a statewide vote. And a "no new taxes" platform is always inviting to some voters while running for office, but very impractical while elected. This sort of promise is always a "Devil's bargain", you trade the short term goal of being elected for a miserable and negative reaction from voters who feel betrayed later.

The conventional thinking is that in the end, Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski narrowly survives this bruising election process to be re-elected Governor. But with low approval ratings only due to his low profile style of leadership, and few really negative policies. The Governor did make a real attempt to attend the funerals of as many servicepersons who were killed in the Iraq War as possible, and did about as well as possible during the "dog" economic days of the Oregon economic downturn of high unemployment and shortfalls of state funding of vital services like education, police and social services due to the Bush Federal tax cuts and the post 9/11 economy. For all the time, money and effort , Oregon voters probably will yet end up just where they started.


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