Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Johnson's Constituency Not Swayed by O, WWeek

Amidst all of the brouhaha being made about the "Betsy Johnson affair," fairly little discussion has centered around how the voters in her Senate district are viewing the "revelations." One imagines that if the stories were resonating with her constituency, angry residents would be jumping at the chance to flay her for it whenever she appeared in public--particularly at "town hall" events where the candidate is up there alone, asking "do you have any questions?"

Whether it's because the allegations are NOT immediately ringing true with the electorate, they are simply unaware of them, or because Johnson is showing up at the previously scheduled meetings and volunteering a 20-minute explanation at the beginning of each visit, the reaction appears to be awfully mild overall. Back when this started we referenced a report on her appearance in St. Helens by Randy Stapilus:
The people gathered at the Columbia Center auditorium this afternoon, including local city officials and others steeped in the community (and a camera from KATU), were well aware of the history.

And not all of them were fans. Some were, but others were taking lots of notes as Johnson spoke, and some of them had sharp and pointed questions for her. They would not be easily spun.

Johnson sat alone at a table in the middle of the room, only rarely glancing at a notepad as, for 20 minutes or so, she ran through the history of the property and her family’s involvement with it. Toward the end, she said that though the property sales price was $119,000 more than the purchase price, that didn’t include a string of expenses her family made in the process of getting the deal to go through. Her family’s actual profit, she indicated, was somewhere south of $50,000, less than half what the headlines indicate. More to the point, the action on the airport land was so involved and complex over such a long stretch - a decade or so, not three months - that measuring profit becomes a complex proposition.

Said one local man who had been sharply questioning her: “Still dicey, but I’ll accept that.”
And that's as bad as it's gotten. As we reported last week on her visit to Seaside, according to the Seaside Signal's editor when Johnson finished her explanation, not a single question arose, nor any comment one way or the other. One can't speculate whether that was a function of attendees being satisfied with her comments or just silent disregard, but few voters are willing to suffer fools quietly.

Today, having missed it earlier because the media outlet passes deep under our radar, we'll show you the account of her visit to Clatskanie--where she received by far the most favorable reception:
“Probably yes, it was bad judgment to get involved in a financial deal, but my intention was to retain jobs and create opportunity at the Scappoose airport,” said Johnson. “I will lay bear any details of this transaction,” she stated.

“I appreciate your apology,” said Sally Jones. “I understand its coming from your heart.” Jones, who serves as director of the Columbia 9-1-1 Emergency Communications District, said she had just come from a church social, and had heard nothing but support for Johnson and appreciation for her representation and service on the part of her constituents.

Johnson said she “would be humbly appreciative” of any support, letters to the editor, etc. from her constituents. “I deal straight with people. Public service has been my goal, not personal gain. This job - the way I do it - costs me money.”

“Anybody who can’t support you is pretty lame,” said Gary Soderstrom, a local resident and president of the Columbia River Fishermen’s Protective Union. “Whenever we’ve asked you to do anything - you’ve always responded. You always call back. Everybody should appreciate what you’ve done for this Northwest area.”

At the end of the town hall meeting in Clatskanie, Johnson received a standing ovation and numerous hugs from those in attendance.
(One side note: kudos to the Small Town Papers website for bringing these small outlets to the internet!) The piece continues with the comment that her visit to St. Helens was a little rougher, as we mentioned--but overall it's clear that the issues of her land sale and the legislative bills pending in Salem are not causing any great angst amongst her constituency. It kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it? They surely must know her best, and they read the papers...why aren't they buying what the O and WWeek are selling?