A lot of factors contributed to Democrat John Kitzhaber's
winning an historic third term as Oregon's governor yesterday: a huge last-minute get-out-the-vote effort in Multnomah County; Republican Chris Dudley's
relative inexperience; and Oregonians' reluctance to surf the national Republican wave, among others.
But it's worth pointing out that the Constitution Party's Greg Kord
got nearly 20,000 votes and Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Wes Wagner
got about 18,000 votes. Given that Kitzhaber's margin of victory over Dudley currently stands at fewer than 13,000 votes, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Democrats are very lucky indeed that right-leaning minor parties continue to field candidates in state-wide races.
There's a long tradition of spoilers on the right in state-wide Oregon races. In 1990, Al Mobley
ran to the right of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Frohnmayer and took 13 percent of the vote, which was more than twice the margin by which Democrat Barbara Roberts
defeated Frohnmayer. In 2002, Libertarian Tom Cox got nearly twice the number of votes by which Democrat Ted Kulongoski
defeated Republican Kevin Mannix.
And in 2008, the Constitution Party's Dave Brownlow
won 5.25 percent of the vote, which was about one-and-a half times the margin by which U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley
(D-Ore.) defeated incumbent Republican Gordon Smith.
Some analysts say it is incorrect to assume that those who cast votes for Constitution or Libertarian candidates would otherwise have voted Republican—thereby keeping Smith in the Senate, for instance, or tipping the scales in Dudley's favor. Perhaps those voters would simply sit out the elections but
it would be dangerous to make that assumption. And amid his transition planning, Kitzhaber might set time aside to send Kord and Wagner a token of his appreciation.