Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The State of OR-2

One of John Madden's mostly arbitrary truisms for football is that you always want to score on the first drive of each half, and stop the opponent on those drives as well. I think the same thing is true of politics--get out of the gate strong in the primary, and if you move on do it again for the general. The election day story lasts about 2 days, tops--and then it's like it never happened, until September.

So maybe I'm just impatient, and I have to let things develop, but considering that the race is a long shot but there's work that can be done to make it closer, I'm waiting for something to happen in OR-2. This is the only meaningful federal race of the year for Oregon, and Greg Walden has been given a COMPLETE pass in the traditional media for his adherence to the DeLay/Hastert line these last 5 years. His status as an obliging cog for the Bush Machine is inescapable, so where is the personal accountability for Walden's share of the messes we now find ourselves in?

The not-so-heavy lifting in this area needs to be done by an energetic, visible candidate who consistently and repeatedly draws sharp lines between currently failing policies (take your pick of them, for heaven's sake!), and her plans to replace them with better solutions. Press releases, media events and ad hoc policy responses to bills Walden is associated with--these are the things that need to happen for a serious challenge to take place.

Democratic candidate Carol Voisin is just beginning to ramp up her efforts, having finished the school year at Southern Oregon University. [Sidebar: rumor has it she intends to return to teaching in the fall, just as the campaign hits its peak. Our advice? That's crazy talk--the kids will be there when you get back.] It would have been great to make a splash right after the primaries, when media were paying a couple days' attention to political races, or when Walden's Healthy, Barren Forests bill passed the House. But tempus fugit, so it's time to look forward.

Last Friday Voisin found her way to Central Oregon and the Truman Club in Bend, and got right to expressing the key fact about Walden: his reputation in the district for Republican moderation "is a veneer." Her own ideas for OR-2 include fast-tracking the promotion and production of alternative fuels, for which the district has ample acreage to provide the raw materials, and pressing for the universal health care that rural Oregonians desperately need.

As usual, the major problem in the way of victory is money. Voisin is starved for funds, holding about $1,000 on hand from contributions totalling $10,000 as of April 26. Just putting gas in the tank for the campaign should cost more than that, unfortunately. It's big territory, but it's got to be worked. A pro to handle fundraising is due to begin in July, and with the end of the school year Voisin is putting in the proverbial phone time, trying to get Democrats to pony up--something that, nationally speaking, party candidates are not having trouble doing.

Walden, on the other hand, is set to go. Walden is holding almost $900,000, just waiting to do something with it. Interestingly, while it's typical to have a lot of your highest rolling donors from the big city, in Walden's case Portland is not even part of his district. And yet, of the top donor zip codes at the end of April, 62% of the total is from Portland or its suburbs. If Portland has that kind of money for Mr. Radio Man, City Democrats have the scratch to back Voisin as well. Where are they? Contesting every district and every county is a snappy slogan and a worthy goal, but the reality of fulfilling that goal is a lot of hard work and cold cash.

Donate to Carol Voisin, via ActBlue