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September 13th, 2006 WW Editorial Staff | News Stories
 

Shut Up & Vote

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Targeting Merkley

Add House Minority Leader Jeff Merkley to the list of local Dems getting smeared by a Karen Minnis consultant.

While smear tactics against House Speaker Karen Minnis' Democratic challenger by her supporters have drawn much attention, there's an equally vicious Republican jihad against House Minority Leader Jeff Merkley that hasn't gotten any ink.

The words "library" and "porn" haven't shown up yet in the campaign against Merkley in his East Portland district. But that's about the only difference between it and ads targeting Democrat Rob Brading, who's running against Minnis (R-Wood Village) in east Multnomah County.

The brains behind the ads painting Brading as soft on porn and the attacks on Merkley is one and the same: GOP political strategist Chuck Adams, a longtime consultant for Minnis.

Well before the May primary, Merkley's constituents began receiving a series of eight mailers from groups including the Defense of Marriage Coalition, Oregon Family Farm Association and Taxpayer Association of Oregon that attack Merkley as a

union stooge and proponent of teaching gay sex in public schools.

An examination of those claims (which also appear at truthaboutmerkley.com) tends to support Merkley's position that they range from grossly misleading statements to outright lies.

For instance, one claims, "Oregon's big labor unions are dumping tens of thousands of dollars" into Merkley's campaign, listing a total of $128,000

contributed by four union groups. But that's clearly false. Merkley has reported raising less than $90,000 so far, mostly from donors other than those named.

Another claim: Merkley wants to "mandate the teaching of gay marriage and the gay lifestyle in the classroom at taxpayers' expense."

"That's absolutely not true," Merkley says. "It's a claim you see come up in every race Chuck Adams does."

When asked about the mailers, Merkley's opponent, Bruce McCain, says, "I didn't put those ads together, so I wouldn't know if the information is true or not."

"I have zero control over stuff I don't produce," says McCain, a captain in the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and a lawyer who once represented the anti-gay Oregon Citizens Alliance.

Adams says the union contributions "may be cumulative" over Merkley's eight-year legislative career and that the claim about teaching gay sex is a reasonable read of Merkley's support for a civil unions bill, though the measure contained no such language. McCain repeats Adams' conclusions and says he first learned of the mailers when he got one in the mail. Though his campaign expenditures show he paid $1,100 to Adams to develop a website, McCain says he didn't know until recently that truthaboutmerkley.com is registered in McCain's name.

More than 90 percent of the $34,500 McCain has raised came from PACs controlled by Minnis or House Majority Leader Wayne Scott, who have an interest along with the state GOP in targeting the Dems' House leader. About half that money went to Adams for the anti-Merkley ads. "This is a targeted race," McCain says. "My role is to make Merkley work, because he's never really had a real competition."

Nigel Jaquiss

Murmurs

Searching for viewpoints and trails in a political landscape.

Forget red and blue states. Oregon, according to the voter-education Project Vote Smart campaign, is yellow. This year, only 13 percent of candidates (down from 75 percent in the late '90s) for the Oregon Legislature responded to Project Vote Smart's questionnaire that asks candidates their views on issues. The test is a nonpartisan effort, but Oregon's Democrats and Republicans have both backed away in droves, falling in line with the national trend of ignoring the questionnaire, which is online at vote-smart.org. Candidates say the test is too time-consuming, but also concede their consultants say, "Don't do it."

*Oregon Voters' Pamphlet junkies will see a surprising name on the list of those arguing for Measure 45, which would impose legislative term limits. The outlier? Lefty political consultant Steve Novick, who might be expected to join his fellow D's in panning the measure. Novick's tongue-in-cheek argument? Term limits for every profession. "Heart surgeons: eight years. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be just another notch on someone's triple-bypass belt. If it's the first time for me, it should be the first for my surgeon," Novick states. "'Experienced.' It's just another word for 'boring.'"

*One mailer from Multnomah County Commission candidate Jeff Cogen sure looks like he's homing in on candidate Lew Frederick's African-American support. Cogen, a white City Hall insider, made the November ballot by finishing first in the four-way May primary. Frederick, a black ex-schools spokesman and TV reporter, came in second. The two people Cogen is chatting with in his holdover primary flier are black: Anita Smith, a local business owner, and Gary Brown, director of Portland State's Business Outreach program. Cogen's take: his flier "shows a small business. The fact that it's a minority business is all the better."

Web only:

*Xander Patterson, who lost in the Multnomah County Commission primary to Cogen and Frederick, is abruptly leaving town. No, Patterson's plans for a partial local repeal of the Bush tax cuts didn't require him to go into hiding. His wife, Dennise Kowalczyk, landed a sweet job managing a public radio station, WDIY in Bethlehem, Penn. Kowalczyk, a former KBOO news director, has already reverse-migrated, and Xander is packing up after 25 years in the city. "Quite frankly, I have no idea what direction my life will take now," says Patterson, a Green Party stalwart and chairman of the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.

Candidates Gone Wild

It's baaack! Candidates Gone Wild, the Cirque du Soleil of political debates, returns Oct. 16 at the Roseland Theater. WW and the Bus Project will again set politics aflame with penetrating questions, funny films, song and, likely, dance. Candidates for governor will show their talents and submit to interrogation. Initiatives will be sliced and diced. Citizens can express themselves and win prizes! Watch this spot for details, including when tickets go on sale. Trust us: don't vote without attending![listbody]

School Duel

Portland Public Schools and other districts want more cash from voters for kids this November. Here's how Portland's levy request stacks up with construction bond requests in nearby districts on cost to property owners, the money raised per student in each measure and the expected campaign costs. Our take from the campaign costs: It takes money to get money.

Funds generated

Portland Public Schools: $187.5 million over five years
Beaverton School District: $195 million over 20 years
David Douglas School District: $45 million over 20 years
Reynolds School District: $115 million over 20 years

Cost to homeowners

Portland Public Schools: $1.25 per $1,000 in assessed value
Beaverton School District: 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed value
David Douglas School District: $1.12 per $1,000 of assessed value
Reynolds School District: $1.73 per $1,000 of assessed value

Number of students

Portland Public Schools: 47,000
Beaverton School District: 37,000
David Douglas School District: 10,000
Reynolds School District: 10,500

Dollars per student per year

Portland Public Schools: $798
Beaverton School District: $264
David Douglas School District: $225
Reynolds School District: $548

Number of voters in district

Portland Public Schools: 250,000
Beaverton School District: 120,000
David Douglas School District: 24,500
Reynolds School District: 27,000

Estimated cost of campaign

Portland Public Schools: $300,000 to $500,000
Beaverton School District: $240,000 to $320,000 (including $160,000 from a campaign last May)
David Douglas School District: $30,000
Reynolds School District: $5,000 to $10,000

Cost of campaign per student

Portland Public Schools: $6.38 to $10.64
Beaverton School District: $6.49 to $8.65
David Douglas School District: $3
Reynolds School District: 48 cents to 95 cents

Cost per voter

Portland Public Schools: $1.20 to $2
Beaverton School District: $2 to $2.67
David Douglas School District: $1.22
Reynolds School District: 19 cents to 37 cents

 
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