The May primary election jump-started seven political story lines that promised to grab voters’ attention in the general election this November.
Since Labor Day weekend marks the traditional start to the November ballot battle (and the onslaught of campaign commercials and junk mail), we’re updating our “what to watch” list (see “The Fall Line,” WW, May 26, 2010).
Two of the seven story lines remain unchanged. The Oregon congressional race to watch will be Republican Scott Bruun’s challenge to first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader in the 5th Congressional District. Also, multiple legislative races in Washington and Clackamas counties will be hotly contested.
For those of you who have tuned out over the summer, here’s what’s new with the other five tales heading into the final weeks before ballots are mailed in mid-October.
City of Portland Public Campaign Financing
What we said then: The flameout in the May 18 primary of publicly financed candidate Jesse Cornett would be fodder for opponents of a city measure to continue funding candidates who collect enough signatures and $5 donations to qualify for the aid. Cornett ran against Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
What’s happened since: The only public action has come from supporters of public financing. Fundraising records show the Friends of Voter-Owned Elections reporting more than $88,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. As for Portlanders Against Taxpayer Funded Political Campaigns, it’s reported no donations as of Aug. 31.
What we said then: The contest between a once-was (ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat) and a never-was (Republican Chris Dudley) screams for a third-party candidate to awaken voters.
What’s happened since: Millionaire Soloflex founder Jerry Wilson hoped to run as the Progressive Party candidate, but the party decided not to field a gubernatorial candidate. Mega-lobbyist and attorney John DiLorenzo Jr., who supported a sales tax for health care, opted not to run. But the Constitution Party’s Greg Kord will.
Tea Party’s Influence?
What we said then: The tea party fever that exists in states such as Kentucky, Utah and Florida will spare Oregon this fall.
What’s happened since: Several legislative candidates on the ballot came directly from the tea party movement. Some seem to be sacrificial GOP lambs in safe Democratic districts, such as Kitty Harmon in North Portland’s House District 44. And the group is actively promoting many GOP candidates, like Republican Rob Cornilles, who’s challenging incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. David Wu in the 1st Congressional District.
Metro vs. The Environmentalists
What we said then: The runoff between Bob Stacey, past director of the land-use group 1000 Friends of Oregon, and ex-Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes to succeed term-limited Metro President David Bragdon will be a huge test of enviros’ power.
What’s happened since: The money is flowing in this race, with Stacey raising more than $390,000 this year, and Hughes collecting $256,000 over the same period. Big post-primary donors to Stacey include winemaker Eric Lemelson, resort developer John Gray and publisher Win McCormack. Hughes’ largest post-primary contributors are Local 48 Electricians PAC and the Realtors PAC. A final note: Bragdon is leaving his job early to work for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
What we said then: Supporters of an initiative to let medical marijuana patients buy pot from dispensaries (rather than grow it themselves or buy from designated growers, as under the current system) will probably collect enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. And backers of pot legalization may also.
What’s happened since: Medical marijuana expansion made it. Pot legalization didn’t. Equally interesting for statewide measures is the fact that one authorizing a casino in Wood Village made the ballot.