Last night's Oregon primary election brought some head-scratching results, highlighted some lousy polling, and showed once again that voters are smarter than political insiders think.
Here are some takeways.
Head-scratcher: The candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate primary were not A-listers, but Lane County Commission Chair Faye Stewart had some name recognition. Bend businessman Sam Carpenter put more than $100,000 into his campaign and garnered endorsements from well-known Republicans such as Dr. Monica Wehby and former state Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend).
The winner? Mark Callahan. The same Mark Callahan who as a Democrat sought a Eugene legislative appointment in 2009. The Mark Callahan who ran for state representative as a member of the Pacific Green Party in 2010; as the nominee of the Libertarian and Constitution Parties; for president of the U.S. in 2012 as a Republican; for U.S. Senate in 2014 as a Republican; for the Mt. Hood Community College board in 2015 (he lost). That Mark Callahan. He's leading Carpenter 38 percent to 32 percent.
Callahan got national attention two years ago when an endorsement interview in the 2014 GOP U.S. Senate primary at WW went sideways, leading to his ejection.
Lousy polling: On May 11, Oregon Public Broadcasting released a poll by the Portland firm DHM Research. That poll showed voters preferred Hillary Clinton over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) 48 percent to 33 percent. The latest tally shows Sanders winning by a 54 percent to 44 percent margin—which means the poll got it wrong by a whopping 25 percentage points.
Pollster John Horvick went on OPB to try to explain the snafu. He blamed Oregon's new automatic voter registration for skewing the numbers. "You know, you gotta have some humility," Horvick said. "We missed this one."
Voters are paying attention: Republican Allen Alley ran for state treasurer in 2008 and governor in 2010, then ran the state Republican Party for a couple of years. The former CEO of a semi-conductor company called Pixelworks who also worked for former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Alley perhaps the best-known unelected Republican politician in the state. Yet he waited until the March filing deadline to jump into the GOP governor's primary this year, displaying an indifference to the earlier entrant, Salem oncologist Dr. Bud Pierce, that suggested Alley knew he had the race in the bag. A lot of political insiders shared that view. But Pierce walloped Alley last night, 48 percent to 29 percent, even beating Alley in his home county of Clackamas and here in Multnomah County (where Alley spends much of his time).
Voters are paying attention, part 2: Former state Rep. Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) left the House in disgrace at the end of 2012, following revelations of a sexual relationship with a female staffer. He'd earlier admitted to hitting his then seven-year old son on the head with a screwdriver. When his successor, Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) announced he would not seek re-election this year, Wingard announced a comeback. Voters didn't buy it, choosing lawyer Richard Vial over Wingard by a 46 percent to 30 percent margin.
Portland Creep is losing its toxicity: Clackamas County Chair John Ludlow swept into office four years ago on a bold platform of fighting the creep of Portland values and the influence of the dreaded centralized planning agency, Metro. He defeated incumbent chair Charlotte Lehan and former House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone) among others, in one of the most significant results of 2012. Turns out Ludlow's brand of populism does not wear particularly well with voters. Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard out-pointed Ludlow 28 percent to 22 percent in a four-way race last night. Now Bernard and Ludlow will battle in November for the supporters of last night's other two candidates, Commissioner Paul Savas and Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay.
Democrats love Medicare but are confused about how it works: The Democratic Party of Oregon wasted no time in producing an ill-considered hit piece on Pierce, the GOP nominee for governor. At 9:41 pm, less than two hours after the last ballots came in, the DPO released its first attack, citing a 2014 Statesman Journal story that reported Pierce was the third-largest recipient of Medicare payments in Salem. Given that the preservation and expansion of Medicare is perennially at the top of Democrats' policy desires, it is illogical for Democrats to hammer Pierce—an oncologist who owns four Salem clinics—for providing the services Democrats want. Absent any evidence that Pierce is over-charging or otherwise gaming the system—and the cited story contained neither—the statistic is meaningless, just an election night cheap shot.