The 53 percent to 47 percent margin by which Oregonians approved
Measures 66 and 67 surprised even those responsible for crafting the campaign that convinced voters to raise personal and corporate income taxes during a deep recession.
"I was nervous," says Kevin Looper, the campaign manager for the tax hike proponents.
Here are a few other observations about last night:
1. Notable Absences:
Not surprisingly, candidates currently seeking office thronged the Wonder Ballroom, where the “Yes” side held its party. Gubernatorial candidate Bill Bradbury showed, as did City Commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman along with enterprising Saltzman challenger Jesse Cornett, who worked the room ceaselessly for $5 donations to help him secure public financing
before the Jan. 29 deadline to qualify for that public support. Metro Council President candidate Rex Burkholder was there, as were most Portland-area lawmakers.
So who wasn't on hand? Gov. Ted Kulongoski
, who has kept a low profile during his last year in office throughout the campaign; and perhaps more surprisingly, former Gov. John Kitzhaber
, who is dueling with Bradbury for the Democratic gubernatorial nod. An aide said Kitzhaber was babysitting for his son but several people noted his absence and compared his support for the campaign unfavorably with Bradbury's knocking on doors despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.
2. Least obvious big winner:
In an election that saw unusually broad and generous corporate contributions—virtually all to the “No” side—The Oregon Health Care Association
, which represents retirement homes and nursing homes. Breaking with its corporate brethren in dramatic fashion, the OHCA pumped $155,000 into the “Yes” campaign, making it by far the largest non-union supporter. OHCA director Jim Carlson has long been an important player in Salem and his organization acted out of self-interest as its members stood to lose funding if the measures failed, but the OHCA will be in good standing as long as Democrats control the Capitol.
3. Time for a very long board retreat:
The Portland Business Alliance
distinguished itself by aggressively supporting the “No” campaign. PBA funneled $166,000 of its members' money in the effort, making the group the fifth-largest “No” funder. That's notable for a couple of reasons: first, 71 percent of Multnomah County residents voted “Yes,” which suggests PBA is way out of sync with the community where its businesses operate. And second, while Associated Oregon Industries, the largest state-wide business group fairly predictably opposed the measures, the Oregon Business Association, a more moderate group, stayed neutral.
PBA's willingness to align itself with AOI rather than OBA is puzzling and will no doubt be fodder for discussion at PBA's future board meetings.
4. Multnomah County made a huge difference.
Partial results show Washington County mirrored the state (about 53 percent voted "yes") and Clackamas County residents were perhaps friendlier than might be expected (49 percent voted "yes") but compared to the last time voters considered a state-wide tax increase, Multnomah County made an enormous shift.
Six years ago, on Feb. 3, 2004, Oregonians trounced Measure 30 by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. In that election, 45 percent of those who voted in Multnomah County approved the tax. That meant local voters were only four percentage points more favorable to the tax than the state average; last night's results show that 71 percent of those who voted in Multnomah County approved the measures, which is 18 percentage points more than the state average. The 14 percentage point difference translates into about 28,000 extra votes, which is about a third of the margin of victory.
5. The "No" Campaign got it at least partly right:
Opponents of the tax increase produced research suggesting that passage of the measures could cost Oregon 70,000 jobs. While proponents said the number was closer to zero, one of the loudest of the supporters is now on the "bread line." Asked shortly before midnight what he was now doing, the public face of the “Yes” campaign, Steve Novick
, replied with just two words: “I'm unemployed.”
(Photo by Leslie Montgomery)