Grand Old Potty

The Republican gubernatorial primary turns into a pissing match over ex-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

Republican Kevin Mannix promised as far back as March that opponent-to-be Ron Saxton's ties to ex-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt would haunt Saxton in the 2006 GOP race for governor.

And lo and behold, the issue of Saxton's connections with the ex-Democratic governor is being raised, though a Mannix spokesman insists it's not linked to Mannix's own gubernatorial campaign.

On Nov. 16, a self-proclaimed group of "small business people, grassroots activists, professionals, and homemakers" calling themselves "Worried Oregonians" sent out a press advisory expressing concern about Saxton's "lasting financial and political ties" to Goldschmidt and his wife, Diana.

The ties alleged in the letter are nothing new. They boil down to these points: (1) Diana Goldschmidt was minimally active in Saxton's 2002 run for governor when he finished third behind Mannix and Jack Roberts; (2) Saxton encouraged the Portland public school board to hire Goldschmidt's brother, Steve Goldschmidt; and (3) Saxton allied with Neil Goldschmidt during the Texas Pacific Group's ultimately unsuccessful bid to buy Portland General Electric.

The letter then makes the leap that Saxton is "a 'proxy' for Neil Goldschmidt." Not exactly a bumper sticker Saxton would want, given the revelation last year that Goldschmidt repeatedly had sex in the 1970s with a girl starting when she was 14.

And the Saxton camp did issue a memo denying each Worried Oregonians claim.

Regardless of where the truth lies, it does raise the question of whether Mannix is exploiting the Goldschmidt sex scandal by making good on his promise in an Associated Press story last March to air the Saxton-Goldschmidt ties.

Mannix spokesman Jack Kane says no, the Mannix campaign didn't learn about the letter until it went out to the press. "Mark Foster is his own agent," Kane says, referring to the lawyer listed as the spokesman for Worried Oregonians.

But Foster and Mannix aren't strangers. In fact, Mannix, Foster and Saxton worked together in the mid-1980s at the Portland law firm of Lindsay, Hart, Neil & Weigler. Foster currently practices in San Jose, Calif., but maintains a residence in Portland and votes here.

For his part, Foster insists that Worried Oregonians, whose letter has nine other signatories, is grassroots.

"Aren't you worried?" he asked WW.

But the Saxton campaign is happy to insinuate the Mannix camp is behind the letter, saying in its memo prepared for reporters, "It is...suspect to assume this organization is truly independent," but never providing any proof that Foster supports Mannix.

Saxton spokesman Felix Schein says it's a "little unlikely" at a time when Mannix faces scrutiny for debts from his 2002 campaign that "some random person would come out and attack Ron Saxton's character."

Even if the Worried Oregonians letter is factually correct, the letter does raise another question by assigning Saxton guilt by association.

What, exactly, is he guilty of? Involvement in the Goldschmidt sex scandal?

Even a current Mannix supporter like Jack Roberts, the second-place finisher in the GOP's 2002 gubernatorial primary, says any such link between Saxton and Goldschmidt's sex scandal would be "a non sequitur...I don't think any people can conscientiously say that there is any connection."

Roberts says the Worried Oregonians letter "is not raising the real issues in a forthright way."

The real issue, he says, is that Oregon has had a Democratic governor for 20 years and that Saxton critics fear a "Goldschmidt insider" would recycle political old-timers instead of bringing in the fresh Republican faces they want.

With Worried Oregonians promising more Goldschmidt links to come, maybe they could add Roberts' point to their next letter.

WWeek 2015

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