Election night at the Wonder Ballroom on North Russell Street.
At 8 p.m. when the polls close on Measures 66 and 67, the room is filling but by no means full. The normally ebullient Steve Novick, the public face of the Yes campaign, seems subdued.
"For 78 years the people of this state have waited for progressive tax reform," Novick told the crowd from the stage. "And still we wait."
But not for long. By 8:08 pollster Tim Hibbitts tells Fox (KPTV-Channel 12) the "yes" side has won
. Few people in the room seem to realize the results are available. At 8:16, The Oregonian
joins Hibbits in declaring the results.
After a brutal campaign and last-minute concerns that lower-than-expected turnout in Multnomah County and other liberal strongholds might sink the measures, the conclusion is the electoral equivalent of a first-round knock-out. It's so sudden that most people in the room don't seem to realize their side has won before they've even had a drink.
At 8:31 pm, Novick dazzled the happy crowd with a blast of baseball metaphors, concluding with an allusion to the 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round the World," when New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson smacked a pennant winning home run.
"The progressives win the pennant," Novick said. "The voters hit a line drive into the left field stands. The voters are going crazy."
Novick then introduced House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone) who struck a pugnacious note. "Oregonians looked beyond the bogus garbage thrown at these measures," Hunt said, adding in a note that might give GOP leaders pause, "Let's be clear, this journey of progress is not done. We are just getting started."
(One point worth noting here: the Legislature's upcoming February session just got a whole lot easier without having to face the $727 million budget hole that a defeat of Measures 66 and 67 would have created.)
A more contemplative Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) followed. "Tonight you've made me cry and you've made me hug ["yes" campaign manager] Kevin Looper," Courtney said. "And I'm not a hugger."
After joining Hunt in applauding the public employee unions and other groups who staffed and funded the campaign, the Legislature's longest-serving member sounded a note of caution and conciliation. "When I was a little boy, my mother said to me if you want to win you have to learn how to treat those who did not win."
(A second point worth noting here is that statewide Republican candidates like gubernatorial hopefuls Allen Alley and Chris Dudley who urged No votes must be wondering what chance they have come November against whomever the Democrats nominate.)
In his folksy way, Courtney observed the high road was the best path. "The spit of a toad can never reach the top of a cathedral," he said.
If there was a somber note amid the celebration, it was Hunt's acknowledgment that the victories will not add any new teachers, educational programs or other services but merely maintain the status quo. "The kids are going to maintain the class size they've got," Hunt said. "And the seniors are going to maintain the services they've got."
One onlooker, Chuck Sheketoff of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, whose research and advocacy played a big role in the "Yes" campaign, was happy but unsatisfied. Sheketoff has been a persistent critic of the corporate minimum tax. That minimum has remained at $10 since 1931 but will now increase to $150 - or for larger companies who report no income, one-tenth of one percent of their Oregon sales. Sheketoff says it's now time to figure out which companies are paying the minimum tax and whether they are doing so legitimately or through bogus accounting gimmicks.
"The next step is corporate disclosure," Sheketoff said. "We need to find out who's paying that $150."
(Photos by Leslie Montgomery)