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A Weird Landscape

Notes from the lumpy proletariat

We each have our own perch from which we watch the political season play out. These days I’m just a rural geezer down here southeast of Cottage Grove in the foothills of the Cascades, watching the game from afar. No more “Insider Baseball.” These days I’m literally shoveling horse pucky and reminiscing about the days when shoveling horse pucky WAS my day job in the Legislature. 

I still visit Eugene occasionally, just to watch its downtown’s glacial rise to pre-zombie prosperity, or to gaze at abandoned Civic Stadium dying like a nine-acre beached whale while Pat Kilkenny and the Ducks await their NCAA football fate in Autzen Stadium’s parking lot baseball park. Or, for giggles, I might go to Springfield if I need to feel culturally uplifted. Coburg, however, I only visit if I want a speeding ticket.

Now, nine years removed from a vote in the Legislature, I watch the world from a seat on the state’s Employment Appeals Board, where we’ve seen adjudicated unemployment insurance cases rise from an average of 2,750 to 4,200 a year over the last two years. We have an incredibly dedicated staff who have withstood this onslaught even while facing reduced salary in so-called “furlough days,” aka unpaid leave.

These days, I’m the country mouse watching Lane County rural/urban politics unwind and wondering what to hope for. I’ll be 63 years old two days after the May primary and I’ve never seen such strange, scary economic and political times. What a weird political landscape this year, from the top down. 

The Republican presidential primary’s circular firing squad was amusing. It ended up with no Christians in the race — alas, a Mormon and a Catholic at the end! — so you got to pick your favorite misogynist! Unfortunately for Oregon Republicans, they can only make a pointless primary vote May 15 for either Mitt Romney, Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich (I was SO looking forward to meeting Newt’s fouth wife); despite the fact they’re already stuck with Romney.

Here in Oregon, things got even stranger. In the 1st Congressional District, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, who trounced lightweight Rob Corniles in a special election last January to replace David Wu, drew no Republican opponent in the general election! Things got stranger yet in the 4th District, where Art Robinson appears to be running his son, Matthew, newly registered as a Democrat, in the primary against that famously known “Congressional Crony Capitalist”: Peter DeFazio. The “Switched Family Robinson” website says it all: http://wkly.ws/19r 

Peter told me he agreed to debate Matthew only if Matthew’s daddy shows up, too; sounds fair enough to me. Who’s funding this guy anyway? Good luck with that one, Art, even the R-G called you on that one.

Again, in our statewide race for attorney general, the Republicans didn’t even field a candidate — and the Democrats, of course, fielded two: Ellen Rosenblum vs. Dwight Holton. Both good folks. Two progressives, Rosenblum probably more so than Holton. Holton’s more old school, but we don’t lose either way. The only thing that bothers me about Holton is his ties to Kroger, whom I think was a mistake as AG back when … my bias. And Holton’s getting more out-of -state money. We don’t need another law-n-order guy. Kroger’s staff’s potential misbehavior in the Dept. of Energy investigation, including his Marine buddy, a demoted assistant AG, left a lot of unanswered questions about public records requests and Kroger’s overall mismanagement of the AG’s office. Ellen Rosenblum, on the other hand, a well-respected Oregon judge, could be the first woman to serve as Oregon’s AG. 

And here locally in Lane County, more strange happenings. Andy Stahl vs. Peter Sorenson for county commissioner. Two credentialed progressives, no question. Sorenson has a loyal base, no question. But it’s telling that not one member of our Lane County Democratic legislative delegation nor our congressman has endorsed Sorenson. There might be a reason for that. Maybe it is time for a change. Loyalty should not trump effectiveness. I think there’s a reason the entire Lane delegation refused to endorse Sorenson and most are supporting Stahl. There are many of us in Lane County’s progressive community who have watched Pete play his “book club” game, costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend stupidity aimed at subverting public meeting laws. Enough is enough. Now we’re facing the strong likelihood of a 4-1 conservative majority on the County Commission for the next two years. So, Pete or Andy … good luck.