We Sorted Through Election Mailers Many Voters Just Recycled

Accuracy and the truth sometimes lose out to convenient narratives.

The results of the Nov. 8 general election unspooled after WW’s press deadline. You can find complete coverage at wweek.com.

In print, we can’t predict the ends, but we can examine the means.

Record spending fueled the governor’s and legislative races that officially concluded Tuesday. Candidates for governor spent more than $68 million, and two state Senate races collectively cost more than $8 million. That paid for a lot of TV ads and filled voters’ mailboxes.

Even in Multnomah County, where campaign spending limits in both city and county elections have sharply reduced paid communications, independent expenditure campaigns generated hundreds of thousands of mailers.

Do they work? We don’t know. Will we enshrine their most interesting, annoying, and sometimes downright misleading claims for posterity? You bet. Here are some high- and lowlights from the biggest election until the next election. (Plus, three outright falsehoods we spotted.)

Best Use of an Insect: The cricket on a Democratic Party of Oregon mailer titled “Christine Drazan’s plan to end homelessness and crime in the Portland Area…Nothing.” (A cricket is pictured lower left.)

Laziest Fact-Checking: The Portland Accountability PAC spent $500,000 on an independent expenditure supporting Multnomah County chair candidate Sharon Meieran and Portland City Council candidate Rene Gonzalez…and spelled Gonzalez’s name “Gonzales.”

Most Annoying Get-Out-the-Vote Tactic: The smarmy Center for Voter Information, an Olympia, Wash., dark money nonprofit that supports Democrats, crossed the Columbia to shame voters into casting their ballots with form letters warning they were irregular voters. Go away!

Sleaziest Virtue Stealing: We saw way too many attempts at guilt by association this election cycle. Even worse: stolen virtue, which is what we saw from groups such as Our Oregon, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and the DPO. All slapped the term “voters guide” on their propaganda, attempting to hitch a ride on the nonpartisan Voters’ Pamphlet the Oregon secretary of state publishes.

Most Disingenuous Smear: The Drazan campaign targeted Betsy Johnson, an outspoken critic of Oregon’s drug laws, for voting yes on a bill that implemented drug-decriminalizing Measure 110. Not noted: Republicans in both chambers also voted yes, while Drazan herself skipped the vote, being recorded as “excused for business of the House.”

Nastiest Hit Pieces: In a year when crime hit recent highs, Republican fearmongering reached new lows: Take, for example, the reproduction of a hand-drawn illustration of the “jogger rapist” Richard Gilmore that Hillsboro state Senate candidate Carolina Malmedal used to tar incumbent Sen. Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro). In that and other suburban districts, voters also got a nationally funded race-baiting mailer seeking to pit white and Asian voters against all other ethnicities.

Lies My Mailers Told Me

Lie #1: “Christine Drazan wants to bring extreme MAGA Republican values to Oregon,” screams a DPO mailer, with three photos of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The problem: The three bills cited in the mailer are routine GOP positions, not anti-democratic efforts. And more importantly, Drazan led the charge to hold MAGA-loving former state Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence) accountable for letting rioters into the locked state Capitol, making him the first Oregon lawmaker ever voted out by his peers.

Lie #2: “A ‘yes’ vote on Measure 111 this November requires the state of Oregon to make sure that everyone can access cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable healthcare,” says a mailer from the committee that wanted Oregonians to enshrine a right to health care in the Oregon Constitution. Not stated: The measure didn’t say how the state would comply, provided no funding, and specifically said other state services could not be reduced to pay for health care.

Lie #3: The implication that Rene Gonzalez is a Republican. The bright red mailer from the Jo Ann for Portland Committee did not explicitly make that charge, but it used the word “Republican” four times in a silhouette of Gonzalez, along with the names Marjorie Taylor Greene (four times), Christine Drazan, Ted Cruz, Kevin Mannix and “Right to Life” (three times). Gonzalez is certainly more conservative than Jo Ann Hardesty, but he’s a pro-choice Democrat.