Tags: Chris Dudley

How Do You Turn a Blue State Like Oregon Purple?


From the Monday edition of the Morning Jolt:

How Do You Turn a Blue State Like Oregon Purple?

If you want to talk about an overlooked all-time woulda-coulda-shoulda race that haunts the Republicans, let’s take a look at Oregon’s gubernatorial election in 2010.

The Democratic nominee was former governor John Kitzhaber, making a comeback bid after serving as in the office from 1995 to 2003. During those terms he fought with a Republican-held state legislature and famously declared, six days before the end of his second term, that the state was “ungovernable.”

The Republican nominee was former NBA star Chris Dudley, who spent a good portion of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. He founded a charity, had charisma, and seemed like about as a good a candidate as Oregon Republicans had any right to expect.

The good news is Dudley won 694,287 votes, more than 100,000 votes than the last Republican gubernatorial candidate. That got him . . . 47.7 percent to Kitzhaber’s 49.2 percent — the closest any Republican had come in the last seven gubernatorial elections.

But there are no silver medals for coming in second in a governor’s race. Dudley moved to San Diego. In his third term, Kitzhaber went on to set up the abominably wasteful Cover Oregon system, which paid $305 million to Oracle for a web site that didn’t work.

Cover Oregon is, arguably, the single most expensive and most embarrassing failure of any state in recent memory. As HBO’s John Oliver mocked, “That has got to be a bitter pill to swallow for the people of Oregon — or it would be, if they could get the pill, which they can’t, because their [stinky] web site is broken.” In midsummer, a poll of the state found 20 percent thought Kitzhaber deserved “all” of the blame for Cover Oregon, 19 percent said “most,” and 37 percent said “some.”

But not a single big-name Oregon Democrat dared challenge Kitzhaber this year. Okay, correction — a guy with a big name, “Ifeanyichukwu Diru” challenged him, but he had no experience and almost no money. Even then, he won 9 percent against Kitzhaber in the primary.

This year, aiming to derail Kitzhaber’s ambitions for a fourth term — Republicans are running a candidate with no glamorous NBA career, 65-year-old state representative Dennis Richardson — a veteran and successful lawyer.

One poll had Richardson within 7 percentage points, but another one shows him trailing mightily — 50 percent for Kitzhaber, just 29 percent for Richardson. Note this depressing statistic:

The poll found that voters in general aren’t paying much attention to this election.

66 percent of respondents couldn’t name the Republican candidate for Governor, Dennis Richardson. And 59 percent couldn’t name the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Monica Wehby.

Governor John Kitzhaber did a little better; 62 percent could name him as the Democratic candidate for governor, but 38 percent couldn’t. Senator Merkley was recognized by 46 percent as his party’s candidate.

As I mentioned Friday, this is an example of “Set It and Forget It Leftism.” Dear Oregonians, I get it. Your state is gorgeous. If I had one of the world’s biggest bookstores, huge farmers’ markets, endless chefs experimenting with all kinds of local produce and seafood, an exploding menagerie of breweries, wineries, distilleries, and seemingly limitless mountains and rivers to explore, I might not be that interested in politics, either. But come on. Check in every once in a while.

The last time a Republican won a statewide race in Oregon was 2002 — Senator Gordon Smith. It is a depressing possibility that the GOP either cannot win, or faces enormous obstacles to win in the higher-turnout circumstances that occur when a state allows citizens to vote by mail. Oregon went to a complete vote-by-mail system in 1998, after growing use throughout the 1980s and 1990s.


A ballot box in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Square.

Like most other states, Oregon consists of heavily Democratic cities and heavily Republican rural areas. Check out how the Kitzhaber-Dudley vote split by county:


The northwestern corner is Astoria, the three blue ones in a line are Portland, its suburbs, and Hood River; along the coast is Lincoln County, which has Newport; and Lane County, which includes Eugene and Springfield. The little wedge sticking down from the north is Hood River County, which is not heavily populated and not quite heavily Democratic; in 2010, Kitzhaber won, 4,778 to 3,414. Once you drive out of Portland, on U.S. Route 30, it takes you up into the mountains overlooking the Columbia River, and RICHARDSON FOR GOVERNOR signs aren’t hard to find on the front lawns along the road. Signs for Kitzhaber are rare.

There are 3.8 million people in Oregon; 2.3 million live in the Portland metro area. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to win Oregon if you’re going to get blown out in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. In 2010, Kitzhaber won 198,157 votes here to Dudley’s 76,915 — 70 percent to 27 percent — rolling up a 121,242 vote margin. Kitzhaber’s final statewide margin of victory was 22,238.

Back in September, Richardson got a bit of help in advertising downtown:

The eye-catching, building-sized campaign ads have popped up across the Portland over the past few weeks.

They’re black and white and get right to the point — at least for those in the know:

“The bridge?
The website?
Rudy Crew?
The Elliott?
4 more years???”

The minimalistic message cost $200,000 and was a gift to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Dennis Richardson from Seneca Sustainable Energy, one of the companies owned by the Eugene-based timber family led by Aaron Jones. His three daughters, co-owners of Seneca, recently contributed a combined $100,000 to Richardson’s campaign against Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.

That ad referred to a quintet of scandals and missteps by Kitzhaber. A new sign is more direct:

That sign is posted at the extremely busy intersection of Burnside and 4th Avenue, right around the corner from the wildly overhyped and overrated Voodoo Doughnut, perhaps the Mecca of Portland hipsters. Will it do any good? Or will enough progressive-minded Portland residents simply feel sufficiently unenthusiastic about Kitzhaber to not vote for him this year?

Tags: Oregon , John Kitzhaber , Chris Dudley , Dennis Richardson

Darn You, Third Parties!


Off the top of my (very groggy) head, I cannot think of too many cases where a Democrat lost a winnable race because of too many left-of-center votes drifting to a liberal third party, other than Ralph Nader’s role in the 2000 presidential election.

Last night, a withdrawn third-party bid ended up costing Republicans at least one key victory. I’m starting to think the New York 23rd district is cursed. Doug Hoffman, Conservative-party candidate, inspiring figure of 2009′s special election, made a remarkably mature decision to drop his Conservative bid this year and back the Republican, Matt Doheny. Last night, 6 percent of the district voted for Hoffman, even though he had withdrawn. Democrat Bill Owens is ahead by 2.4 percent.

In Oregon, Republican Chris Dudley is hanging on in the governor’s race; his 1.1 percent lead is less than the share of the vote that went to the Constitution-party candidate (1.4 percent) and the Libertarian-party candidate (1.3 percent).

Harry Reid will win reelection with 50.2 percent of the vote, but Sharron Angle only won 44.6 percent.

Tim Cahill cost Charlie Baker his shot at the Massachusetts governorship.

In Indiana, one of the cycle’s promising Republicans, Jackie Walorski, has fallen short by 1.4 percent while the Libertarian candidate took 5 percent.

Massachusetts Republicans are bummed this morning. In the 10th district, Democrat Bill Keating is going to win with a mere 46.9 percent of the vote.

In Rhode Island’s 1st district, a lot of Democrats worried about their man David Ciciline; he won 50.6 percent of the vote but is six points ahead of John Loughlin.

In Colorado’s governor’s race, we saw a strange reversal: the surprising 11 percent who backed Republican Dan Maes probably cost conservative independent Tom Tancredo a victory, or at least a chance to take Democrat John Hickenlooper down to the wire.

Late in this cycle, we saw desperate Democrats doing everything they could to promote little-known third-party options. Sometimes it didn’t work (Alan Grayson, Tom Perriello). But clearly the Democrats will go back to this option, time and again, until right-of-center voters realize that if you want to throw out an entrenched liberal Democrat incumbent, there is only one real option. Every vote has to be earned, but sometimes you have to be willing to take someone less than ideal if you want to throw a bum out.

UPDATE: Looks like two more near-misses for the GOP in Arizona, where the Democrat’s margin of victory will be smaller than the Libertarian Party candidate’s share of the vote.

Again, it’s a free country. But when you’re voting in a race that is neck-and-neck between Bad and Less Bad and your preferred candidate, Ideal, is in single digits, you’re not going to see Ideal suddenly leap ahead in a three-way race on the last day. If you want to beat Bad, you may have to hold your nose and vote for Less Bad.

(Many fans of Ruth McClung and Jesse Kelly will bristle at the notion that they represent mere “less bad.”)

Tags: Chris Dudley , Dan Maes , Doug Hoffman , Jackie Walorski , John Loughlin , Matt Doheny

In the RCP Average, Chris Dudley Now Leads by a 3-Pointer


I’ve been expressing surprise that Republican and former NBA player Chris Dudley narrowly leads the Oregon governor’s race. Bit by bit, that’s becoming less surprising and starting to settle into conventional wisdom. With a new poll from Magellan Strategies putting Dudley up 1, the Republican has now led or tied the past five polls.

Tags: Chris Dudley

But It’s Still Too Early to Say This Race Is a Slam Dunk for Chris Dudley


Don’t look now, but former NBA star Chris Dudley, the GOP nominee for governor in Oregon, has led the last three polls. Not big leads, but he’s led them by 2, by 7, and by 1 percentage point.

Here’s his remarkably cheery introductory general-election ad:

Just hope Democrat John Kitzhaber doesn’t foul him and send him to the free-throw line.

Tags: Chris Dudley

Dudley Hits Nothing But a Net Lead of 1 Percentage Point


A Republican leads the gubernatorial race in Oregon? Oregon?

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Oregon finds Republican Chris Dudley with 45% support to former Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber’s 44%. Four percent (4%) like some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

I’m tempted to call this race a slam dunk for Chris Dudley, but there’s always the chance that Kitzhaber might try to send him to the foul line.

Tags: Chris Dudley , John Kitzhaber

Because This Man Can Get Oregon’s Economy on the Rebound


With all of the excitement about Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas, the Oregon primaries have been largly overlooked. The Wall Street Journal offers a surprising assessment:

With Oregon’s primary on Tuesday, the latest polls here show two rookies are likely to emerge as GOP nominees in both statewide races—governor and U.S. Senate. Both are tailoring campaigns to appeal to voters in an anti-insider mood, raising concerns among Democrats that incumbents, who usually see only token challenges, could face tough fights.

Both James Huffman and Chris Dudley expect their Republican primary victories to stimulate interest, and contributions, from the national party, even though both champion positions that scream “Mainstream Democrat” more than “Right Wing GOP”: Both are pro-choice on abortion, support civil unions for gay couples and neither is a member of the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Huffman, a law-school professor at Portland’s Lewis & Clark College looks like a lock to challenge Sen. Ron Wyden, the incumbent Democrat.

Mr. Dudley, a 15-year veteran of the National Basketball Association, leads in the GOP gubernatorial race, where his rival for the open seat is likely Democrat John Kitzhaber, a former governor. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, can’t seek a third term.

“Neither GOP candidate is particularly strong,” said Tim Hibbitts, a political consultant here. “But if they can reach a certain threshold with voters, then a tide could sweep them in.”

Both Messrs. Huffman and Dudley are counting on quasi-celebrity to eke out primary victories. Mr. Huffman has raised a Libertarian voice on spending and taxation as a frequent columnist for the state’s largest newspaper, the Oregonian. Mr. Dudley played for the Portland Trail Blazers, the state’s lone big-league sports franchise. The Yale graduate was known as a prolific rebounder, but dreadful at the foul line. His streak of 13 straight missed free throws set an NBA record.

Ah, but think of the slogans: Chris Dudley: Because Oregon’s sinking economy needs a man who doesn’t sink free throws.

Tags: Chris Dudley , James Huffman

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