One of the six candidates in the Oregon governor's race at least starts with some name familiarity among couch potatoes.
Mary Starrett was on KATU for nearly 20 years, including a stint from 1985 to 1997 as co-host of the TV station's AM Northwest program.
But she's hardly a card-carrying member of the "liberal" media. Starrett, the nominee of the state's Constitution Party, hosted a conservative radio show on KPDQ. And she still serves as executive director of the anti-abortion group Oregonians for Life.
Starrett, the only woman running for governor, faces the usual impossible odds for any third-party candidate. But she's likely to siphon conservative votes from Republican candidate Ron Saxton, similar to Pacific Green Party candidate Joe Keating taking liberal votes away from Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski. Starrett, 51, can also draw from a deep pool of anti-abortion voters energized by a parental-notification measure that recently qualified for the November ballot.
Starrett doesn't give a damn what she does to Saxton or his fellow Republicans. She thinks they've gotten way too liberal, anyway.
WW: Is running for office something you longed to do all those years you were on TV?
Mary Starrett: I was always a little dismayed about the state of things, but I never thought of actually running, because we get into this mindset that people are really not allowed to get involved—we need to leave that to politicians, because they know better than we do.
Why start with governor when you've never held public office?
Why not? Governor is a good position if you have a strong ideological agenda. It's not better or worse, it's just a place to start.
Republicans support many of the same core values that you stand for. Of the two major-party candidates, wouldn't you rather see Saxton win?
No. The supposition is that the Republicans are in any way different from the Democrats. There is no difference between the parties at this point. There is absolutely no difference. People say, "You're going to ruin it for Ron Saxton," and I say Ron Saxton is going to ruin it for Ron Saxton. His politics don't square with mine, and he wouldn't bring us anything different than what we're seeing in Salem right now.
If Saxton told you that you'd get more of a voice for your issues if you'd support him, would you consider that?
Absolutely not. What that kind of compromise says is "I really didn't find it important enough to stand on my principles."
Even if it would advance your cause more than campaigning?
I don't know how I could trust him. I don't trust somebody who does a presto change-o from one election to another. If you were supporting Democratic causes, I'm all of a sudden supposed to believe that because you said you'd sign a parental-notification bill that's gonna make everything all right?
Do you support the parental notification initiative on the November ballot?
Yeah, but it's one of those feel-good type of things you can do to make even pro-abortion candidates like Ron Saxton appear pro-life.
Are there any situations where you would support a woman having an abortion? Rape, for instance, or to protect the mother's life?
The short answer to that is that we don't punish the child for the crime of its father. If a child exists because of the crime of its father, to me it's still a viable human being. I do believe that it's a human being regardless of how he or she got there. If you don't believe that, then we've got a different worldview here.
So as a third-party candidate, what's your goal?
I'll tell you why I think it's possible [to win]. In 1776, we had a bunch of farmers and local politicians. They were poorly financed, not all that well-organized, and thank God they didn't listen to people who told them they couldn't win. We have six candidates in the race. I'm the only conservative—I mean real conservative, not the phony "neos." People are so fed up, they're looking for someone they can get behind.
The Constitution Party qualified for ballot status in 2000 but has never before run a candidate for governor.
Can a third-party candidate have an impact? In the 2002 gubernatorial election, Democrat Ted Kulongoski beat Republican Kevin Mannix by only 36,000 votes out of more than 1.2 milion cast.