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May 29th, 2002 John Schrag | News Stories
 

Primary Caretaking

Who really won last week's election

     
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A week ago, Oregon voters awoke to the final results of the May primary and yawned. Two graying white guys will face off for governor. The school-funding crisis wasn't solved. To add insult to ennui, a couple local ballot measures won handily but won't count because not enough voters mailed back their ballots.

Still, as usual, there were some subplots to the races that were more interesting than what was on the ballot. Here's a look at who really won and lost last week.

WINNERS:

Bob Packwood: This election marked the unofficial "coming out" party for the fallen ex-U.S. Senator, who's been in political exile since a sex scandal ended his career six years ago. Packwood created a buzz early in the campaign season when he showed up for the annual "Hacks vs. Flaks" roast as the guest of his wife, Elaine Franklin, who managed Ron Saxton's gubernatorial campaign. Franklin was one of the four flaks to take the podium to raise cash for schools, but her hubbie took most of the shots from the press corps. Packwood survived and went on to endorse a young, pro-choice Republican candidate for the statehouse. Anthony Azedeh lost in the primary, but Packwood's reentry party politics didn't draw any protest, and his wife came up just short in her effort to get Saxton into the general election.

The Oregon Bench: Appellate hopeful Dave Hunnicutt and circuit court candidate Marc Abrams are bright, savvy, affable lawyers, but they'd have made lousy judges.

College Students: Voters' rejection of M-13 creates a crisis in public-school funding, but raiding the state education endowment, which the measure would have authorized, had a little-discussed downside. The fund currently helps subsidize tuition for low-income college students. According to the Oregon Student Association, diverting $220 million to K-12 funding would have knocked out an estimated 4,000 scholarships a year.

M&R Strategic Services: According to our tally, Mark Wiener and his colleagues went 6-for-6 last week. The Portland political consultants ran the campaigns for Appellate Court Judge David Schuman (who trounced Hunnicutt), Susan Castillo (our next state schools' chief), Kurt Schrader (who beat fellow Democratic state Rep. Kathy Lowe in a nasty state Senate race), the local parks and library measures (which got a majority of the vote, but won't count because of low turnout) and Measure 10 (the constitutional amendment that will allow public universities to swap technology for stocks). The only downside: By winning more than 50 percent of the vote, Castillo avoided a fall runoff, depriving M&R of more cash. Guess Wiener's polls aren't perfect after all.

AFSCME: The public employees' union, which represents Metro employees, teamed up with enviros to defeat Measure 26-11, which would have gutted the regional government's ability to curb sprawl. In the process of protecting jobs, the union quashed the effort of Larry George, head of Oregonians In Action, who hoped to position himself as the next conservative whiz kid by crafting the measure.

Jack Ohman: The Oregonian's prize-winning cartoonist does a wicked caricature of GOP gubernatorial primary-winner Kevin Mannix.

State Sen. Kate Brown: Democrats need to pick up two seats in November to make Brown the first woman to serve as Oregon's Senate president. They've long counted on state Rep. Charlie Ringo, who's running for the Senate against GOP Rep. Bill Witt in Washington County, to get them halfway there. Last week, they improved their chances for the second seat when Republican Bob Tiernan won the Republican primary in District 19. He'll face off against state Rep. Richard Devlin, who knocked Tiernan out of the statehouse six years ago. Although the GOP holds a slight edge in the district, Tiernan's confrontational style and anti-choice/anti-government rhetoric may not sell in November. Two years ago, district voters supported Al Gore and a gun-control measure.

LOSERS:

Vera Katz: Portland's mayor wasn't up for re-election, but she put her prestige on the line by announcing her support for Bob Ball's "Good Government Initiative" in her State of the City speech in January. Four months later, city voters trashed the proposal to revamp the City Council by a whopping 3-to-1 margin. Former mayor Bud Clark, meanwhile, proved he's still the people's favorite as he campaigned tirelessly against the measure.

Jim Francesconi: The city commissioner wasn't on the ballot either, but, like Katz, was stung by ballot-measure politics. Francesconi planned to use the city parks measure as a springboard to his 2004 mayoral race. Although it won by a 2-1 margin, it won't count because turnout in the city was (just) under 50 percent. Instead of spending the summer boasting of his accomplishment, he now has to fight other interests who want their money measures on the fall ballot. Making matters worse, rival Erik Sten's easy re-election despite semi-serious opposition indicates the water bureau debacle may be behind him.

Karen Minnis: Before last Tuesday, it was assumed that the Portland Republican lawmaker would be the next Speaker of the House, where the GOP holds a two-seat majority. Democrats were set to focus their energy and cash on the governor's derby and state Senate races. Meanwhile, the D's traditional sugar daddy, the teachers' union, was figuring its choice for schools' superintendent, Susan Castillo, was headed for a costly runoff. Now, things look a bit different. The Senate matchups look better than expected; Castillo avoided a runoff (see above); and Mannix, viewed as the weakest GOP gubernatorial hopeful in a November contest, won the primary. If October polls show that the Dems have locked up a Senate majority and Mannix is bombing, a bunch of money could be thrown at Democratic House candidates, which could reduce Minnis to the role of minority leader.

Lobbyists: Cancel the beach house in Seaside. Measure 13's defeat means a long, hot summer in Salem. Education lobbyists will be looking for cash, while their counterparts will be trying to make sure it comes from someone else's pocket.

 
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