How The Supreme Court Could Change Oregon Politics Forever

The Supreme Court’s current docket has a number of interesting cases, but there are two in particular that could cause a seismic shift in the landscape of Oregon politics.  Now I am not saying that Oregon is going to instantly flip over to being a red state as soon as these rulings get passed down, but they could go a long way in eroding some of the institutional advantages that help Oregon Democrats hold onto their power.

First off we have Gill v. Whitford, the partisan gerrymandering case coming out of Wisconsin.  In my January 26th article All About Redistricting, I wrote about how national Republicans were able to take the electoral success from the 2010 Tea Party wave and use it to draw some very favorable maps following the most recent census.  Well here in Oregon following the 2010 election Democrats still controlled the Governorship, the Secretary of State’s office, the Senate, and half of the House of Representatives.  So while Republicans in other states were able to draw lines favorable to them, here in Oregon, Democrats were able to do the same thing.  Democrats will say that this last bout of redistricting passed with bipartisan support, which is technically true because House Republicans were forced to play ball for fear of letting then Secretary of State Kate Brown draw the maps.  In practical terms, however, the current electoral districts have been very good to the Democrats.  Since this last round of redistricting Democrats have taken a number of seats from Republicans and Republicans have only been able to take one single seat that was held by a Democrat prior to the election and that was Alan DeBoer winning in a special election following the death of Senator Alan Bates.

Gill v. Whitford could change the way states are allowed to draw political districts going forward.  Right now there really isn’t a national legal test or standard that would cause legislative maps to be struck down as unconstitutional.  The court could very well say that while they don’t know what the line is that would constitute illegal gerrymandering, much like with pornography, “they know it when they see it”. On the other hand, it is possible that the court sets a precedent that establishes a clear test of what would be considered illegal gerrymandering and whatever proposed plan comes about following the 2020 census would have to live up to that standard.  Given the current political circumstances, this is one of those strange situations where what is good for Republicans in Oregon would be bad for National Republicans and vice-versa. The prospect of more fairly drawn districts here in Oregon could really open up some opportunities for political change.

The other big case before the Supreme Court is Janus v. AFSCME, which The Oregon Catalyst’s own Larry Huss wrote about this week in his article “Public Employee Unions Are on the Wane” so feel free to read that article to get more of the legal background on the case.  Should the High Court and our new Justice Neil Gorsuch pass down a ruling that essentially implements a “Right to Work” policy nationwide it would be a game changer here in Oregon. Since Wisconsin passed a law doing away with collective bargaining for public employees Wisconsin unions saw membership drop around 40%.  Let’s assume that Oregon public unions are more popular and they only see membership drop around 25%, that is still a giant chunk of money when you are the undisputed biggest political players in the State of Oregon.  Should union dues become optional you will see a significant chunk of public employees leave, some because they disagree with the public unions ideologically, but I would guess many more just because they want to keep more of their money.  While union representatives can try to downplay the effect that the Janus case could have on their organization, in the long term a conservative ruling would divert millions and millions of political dollars away from the (primarily Democratic) causes that they would otherwise go to.

Of all of the structural advantages that Democrats have in Oregon, the four largest are the control of government and the redistricting process, stable funding through public sector unions, superior political organizing, and a sympathetic media. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules this term we could see a dramatic wind shift in at least two of those.

Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.

Knute vs. The "Anti Knutes"

With the announcement from Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer that she would not be seeking the Republican nomination for Governor of Oregon we are getting a better idea of what the 2018 field is going to look like.  With DeRemer’s exit from the race, it appears that the race will consist of front-runner Representative Knute Buehler and a handful of others jockeying to be the “Anti-Knute” candidate.

As of now, it looks like the other candidates will be Sam Carpenter, former candidate for the US Senate, Bruce Cuff, who ran for Governor in both 2014 and 2016, and Greg Wooldridge, former commander of the Blue Angels who has appeared in recent polls for Governor.

Additionally former Democratic candidate for Governor, David “Water Slides” Stauffer, and the man with the most epic beard, Keenan Bohach have campaign committees set up to run for the Republican nomination.

In the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney held the position of frontrunner for most of the race.  Some of the more conservative element of the GOP base who didn’t like Romney spent much of the race bouncing around between different “Flavor of the Month” candidates.  Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain all had times where they were up in the polls and seemed to be the chosen “Anti-Romney” candidate.  With this opposition unable to coalesce behind any one candidate all Mitt Romney had to do was hold onto his base and avoid making any outrageous mistakes and was able to win with an overwhelming lead in the delegate count.

An example that is more fresh in everyone’s mind should be the 2016 GOP Presidential Primary where the entire race appeared to be “Trump vs. Everyone Else” and with seemingly countless candidates attempting to position themselves as the counterbalance to Donald Trump it helped him to secure the nomination and eventually move on to win the Presidency.

As Richard Nixon once said, “if you ever hear of a group getting together to stop X, be sure to put your money on X.”

With Chavez-DeRemer out of the race, Knute Buehler seems to have his lane all to himself. Knute is now the only socially moderate candidate with experience serving in government and a demonstrated ability to fundraise.  The other candidates will lock themselves in a battle of seeing who can “out-conservative” the others or who can hit Representative Buehler the hardest.  All the while Buehler just has to do what Mitt Romney did in 2012 and what Donald Trump did in 2016, hold onto your base and hope your opposition keeps fighting amongst themselves all the way to election day.

Oregon deserves better than Governor Kate Brown.  Regardless of who wins, I want to see a GOP Primary that produces the nominee best suited to take on Governor Brown and the entrenched Democratic establishment in this state.  Likely  it could be fairly brutal at times, but at the very least should be entertaining for us political nerds.

Get your popcorn ready.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.

The Johnson Games

Representative Mark Johnson recently announced that he would be resigning from his position as State Representative in order to take up the job of President and CEO of Oregon Business and Industry, the new business organization formed when Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association merged. I am hopeful that Representative Johnson will help bring about a more unified voice for businesses in this state. With such a wide variety of industries and sectors it is easy for the business community to fracture on any number of issues and at times it has led to mixed signals or mealy-mouthed responses when the legislature has approached businesses for their take on policy changes. I am optimistic that Representative Johnson will be a strong voice for business in Oregon, but his resignation presents new challenges for Republicans in Oregon.

With Oregon Democrats only one House seat from being able to raise taxes on a straight party-line vote, every election becomes critical. Johnson has been successful getting reelected in a district whose voter registrations leans Democratic by about 5 points or so, but whoever is chosen to replace Johnson as the Representative for House District 52 will likely face a higher quality better-funded candidate than Johnson would have if he had chosen to stay and face reelection.

So we begin the process of selecting someone to appoint to Mark Johnson’s seat, which I jokingly refer to as “The Johnson Games”. When replacing a member of the legislature Precinct Committee People from that member’s political party vote to put up a slate of candidates to be appointed. That slate then goes to the county commissions that include that legislative district. Votes are weighted based on the population of the county that is included in the legislative district. So in this instance, PCPs from House District 52 will vote to put up a slate of candidates and the County Commissioners from Clackamas, Multnomah, and Hood River counties will make the appointment from members of that slate. While I am not very familiar with the members of the Hood River Commission, the Clackamas and Multnomah commissions are not exactly Republican strongholds these days. The cynic in me thinks they might want to appoint the candidate on the slate least likely to win re-election to the seat, and no one ever went broke being too cynical.

The Precinct Committee People on House District 52 now have a very important responsibility. They need to put forward people who will represent them and their beliefs but also can go out into the community and build strong bonds in a short period of time. Whoever is chosen needs to be able to step into office and hit the ground running in a way that would not be expected of most new members of the legislature. Having briefly interned in Mark Johnson’s office, I know that he puts a lot of effort in maintaining relationships with the people in his district, and the new appointee would do well to learn from Johnson on that.

Best of luck to the PCPs who will soon be making this decision. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.

Social Media Unleashes On White Male Portland City Council Candidate

Spencer Raymond seems like a nice enough guy.  The owner of The Civic Taproom took to social media the other day to announce that he was moving on from OPB where he worked as an announcer and producer in order to take a more active role in the community and seek a seat on the Portland City Council.  Seems like an innocent enough act, but social media thought differently.

Facebook commenters piled on the brand new candidate for Council Seat number three, with calls for him to drop out of the race and support one of the three women of color currently in the race. 
Some of my favorite comments include:

“How. Dare. You. Run. Against. Three. Women. Of. Color.”

“There are THREE qualified women of color in this race. Seriously, bruh? This is some out of touch, cis white male bullshit.”

“I will FORCE-FEED this man WASPS until he BEEHAVES”

“Talk about doing the white thing instead of the right thing.”

“Tone. Deaf. Also, for those who think it’s just white hoods or torches or extremists, THIS is exactly what White Supremacy looks like.”

Even State Representative Diego Hernandez weighed in posting: 

“Spender, do yourself a huge political favor and don’t run.”

Apparently, the earnest city council candidate is not at the top of Representative Hernandez’s list.

There is value in getting diverse perspectives involved in the political conversation.  Conservatives should work on reaching out to new communities and help make the Republican party more diverse.  Increasing diversity is a worthwhile and laudable goal.  That being said identity politics in its current form is more about promoting leftism than it is about promoting diversity.  Given the opportunity, I guarantee you each and every one of those commenters, including Representative Hernandez, would replace Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with a liberal white male in a heartbeat if given the chance.  I didn’t see him supporting Republican Laura Morett over WHITE MALE Democrat Paul Evans in the last election. 

Because Identity politics is 10% Identity and 90% Politics.

Spencer Raymond has the same right to run for public office as anyone else, and folks in Portland have every right not to vote for him if they don’t want to. As a columnist for the premier conservative blog in Oregon, I am not usually in the business of defending liberal Portland types, but it really does break my heart to see what the political left has become in this state.  We have a Portland business owner who just wants to roll up his sleeve and get involved in his community and for that, he faces an onslaught of mean-spirited comments primarily because of his race and his gender.  God forbid we give the guy more than 48 hours to attempt to get his message out on how to improve life for folks in Portland before we start accusing him of being a White Supremacist.

It scares me how divided our nation is right now, and there is enough blame to go around on both sides of the political spectrum for that. I want to look for solutions on how to fix that, but if a guy can’t even make it two days into a city council run without calls for him to drop out because of his race and gender, I don’t know how we are supposed to come together.

Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.

We Need To Talk About The College Protestors

In 2010 I stumbled onto the Oregon State University classroom as a college freshman.  As a political science major with conservative/libertarian values, I quickly found a home with the OSU College Republicans.  I can remember the first time I volunteered to table in the quad, a woman approached our booth and accused one of the local candidates of being a racist, being unfamiliar with that particular individual and not quite sure what to say I awkwardly smiled at her only to be hit with “that’s great, smile for your racist candidate you fucker!” as one of her friends dragged her away from our table.  Little did I know that that was only the first step on my adventure of being an outspoken conservative on an American college campus.

Even at Oregon State, which in comparisons to places like Portland State, University of Oregon, or Reed College was relatively friendly to conservatives, I could see seeds being planted for this new wave of “full-time protesters” that we have all come to be familiar with in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.  

A while back a group of student protesters from the University of Oregon stormed the stage during the announcement of an anonymous $50 million dollar gift to the university. The protesters raised their fists and chanted “Nothing about us without us” while holding up a sign saying “Take Back Our Campus”.  Following the event one of the protest leaders spoke on cameraabout how the university belongs to the students but has been taken away from them over the years.  It would not be unreasonable for someone to walk away from the event without having any clue what was being protested.

Recently National Media has picked up on the story of the protests over at Reed College where a Humanities class lecture was canceled because of protests from the group “Reedies Against Racism”.  On their list of demands the group wrote:

“The required freshman course should be reformed to represent the voices of people of color. Lecturers should structure delivery and analysis of content that is sensitive to and proactive for inclusive practices. There should be an articulated understanding that “foundational texts” are subjective and that the importance of the course is to foster student’s abilities to read, write, and listen/respond. Before this is accomplished, Hum 110 should be conscious of the power it gives to already privileged ideas and welcome critique of that use of power. This could be done by 1) allowing alternative readings that critique texts on the current syllabus, 2) making Hum 110 non-mandatory until reform happens or 3) alternate options for Hum lecture.”

Humanities 110, Introduction to Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean has been the cause of quite a bit of controversy at Reed College and has been an issue for a while now.  As you can see in the video, the lecture was very quickly called off when the Reedies got up to protest the “Euro-centrism” of the course and provide a counter to what was about to be presented in the class.  Additionally, students are currently camping out in the halls outside of the Reed College President’s office right now and have been for a while now. But hey, maybe they have a point.  I would have loved to be able to demand alternative readings and lectures to some of the stuff a few hard left professors tried to shove down my throat when I was in school.

While on one hand, I do find it incredibly entertaining to see left-wing college professors and administrations fighting with even further left-wing student protesters, it is time to have a serious talk about what is happening on these campuses.  The First Amendment right to protest is sacred in this country, but we have gotten to the point that it appears folks are carrying out protests almost for the sake of carrying out protests.  Much like Don Quixote tilting at windmills that be believed to be giants, we now have student protesters fighting Greek and Mediterranean history classes that they believe are white supremacist indoctrination and liberal college administrations that they believe to be oppressive structures.

There are a lot of injustices in the world, but chief among them is not the Hum 110 curriculum at Reed College, the fact that Reed has investments in Wells Fargo, or anonymous $50 million dollar donation to the U of O, but none the less these are all things that have been targeted by the current protest culture that exists on our college campuses.  As long as the media gives these protesters a platform and as long as university administrations treat them with kid gloves we are going to only see more and more of this.  Watching the leftists on these American universities cannibalize themselves in this manner almost makes me think that these protesters could be the MVPs of the Donald J. Trump reelection campaign.

Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.

Gubernatorial Races, Independent Voters, and The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

According to the most recent voter registration numbers, Democrats in Oregon have around a 10.16% voter registration advantage over Republicans.  Democrats are sitting at around 36.66% of all registered voters and Republicans come in around 26.50%.  We have not seen a Republican elected Governor since Vic Atiyeh’s reelection back in 1982.  Pretty bleak picture for the Republicans in Oregon you might think, but let’s take a look at another state.

According to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office, in early 2017 Massachusetts Democrats had around 34.03% of registered voters, pretty close to the number here in Oregon, but the real kicker is the Massachusetts Republican registration number, only 10.68% of Massachusetts voters are registered Republicans.  Since 1982 though Massachusetts voters have selected a Republican Governor in 5 different elections, despite giving overwhelming legislative control to Democrats. Currently, Massachusetts has Republican Governor Charlie Baker, but their House of Representatives has 126 Democrats, 33 Republicans, and 1 Independent. The Massachusetts Senate has 34 Democratic Senators and only 6 Republicans.  

Massachusetts, a state that is measurably more Democratic than our beloved Oregon seems to be really good at electing Republicans to the Governor's office.  Not to mention in 2006 and 2010 when Democrats did manage to get a Governor elected in Massachusetts there were strong 3rd party candidates that carried off more than 9% of the vote.

Since 2002 the percentage of the vote Democratic Gubernatorial candidates have won has remained pretty flat with around 49% on the low end and approaching 51% on the high end.  While these wins are comfortable enough, it is difficult to say that Democrats are running away with these elections. Outside of the time Republicans ran Bill Sizemore in 1998, Democratic candidates for Governor have had a ceiling at 52% since Governor Atiyeh left office.




3rd Party5.935.982.956.524.81

In my previous article How Blue is Oregon Really?” I wrote about Democratic Statewide candidates in Oregon only getting an average of 47.5% of the vote.  Hillary Clinton was barely able to get above 50% of the vote here in Oregon.  Compare that to Massachusetts where Clinton received about 60% of the vote, and I fully expect them to reelect Governor Charlie Baker in 2018 regardless.  Maybe Massachusetts voters have a proclivity for electing Republican Governors in order to keep a lid on their more liberal tendencies.  Maybe Oregonians are just less likely to take a chance and split their ticket in our direction.  Or maybe Oregon Republicans just have not found a way to effectively appeal to independent voters.When Chris Dudley ran in 2010, the closest a Republican has gotten to winning the Governor’s race it is interesting to see that the percentage of the voter going for Governor Kitzhaber was not necessarily any lower than a Democratic candidate for Governor normally gets, but what is different is the number of voters going with third party candidates.  In 2010 less than 3% of voters cast their ballot for 3rd party candidates whereas in elections since then the number has been closer to 6%.

So if I am taking anything away from these numbers here today it is that as a party we need to have Republican candidates for Governor who can appeal to independent and non-affiliated voters in the same way that Massachusetts Republican Gubernatorial candidates do.  Whether that is through a change of rhetoric, pivot to specific issues, or through something more structural like opening up our primaries, I don’t know.  What I do know is that the election with the lowest percentage of ballots cast for 3rd parties is the year Republicans have been the most successful.  So whatever we have to do to appeal to voters outside our party and make the race a binary choice between our candidate and Kate Brown, we need to do it.

Abolish The Short Session

In early February Oregon legislators will be returning to the capitol in Salem to convene the 2018 Legislative Session. The “Short Session” or the 35-day long session that occurs during even-numbered years is a fairly new concept. Ballot Measure 71 passed back in 2010 changed it so that the legislature would meet annually instead of biannually. At the time that the ballot measure was being debated, it was pitched as a time for legislators to address budget issues, make fixes to legislation passed earlier, and to deal with emergency issues as 35 days would not be a long enough period to give due diligence to any significant legislation. However, given the reality of what occurs during a short session, it is clear that Oregon voters were sold a bill of goods.

Our Democratic Overlords in Salem have seen fit to ram through major legislation, such as the increase in the minimum wage, in these short legislative sessions. Now Governor Brown and the Democrats in the legislature plan on tackling an issue as big as Cap and Trade, despite only having a 35-day session to work on it. The short session has become an abomination where major issues are rushed through and bills are introduced simply to make political opponents take hard votes in the run-up to the election cycle.

Some would say that we should just make the move to a full-time legislature and have two long annual sessions, but I am a firm believer that the less time legislators spend in session the less harm they can do, so while two long sessions would be preferable to what we have now, abolishing the even yeared session entirely would be the best course of action.

A stable set of rules is good for the economy. Business owners can overcome great obstacles, but when they do not even know what they have to plan for in the future because they don’t know what new rules or regulations are going to crop up every time the legislature goes into the session it makes long-term planning almost impossible. Now instead of only having to fear what politicians will do once every two years, Oregonians have to worry about what they could do every single year. While eliminating the short legislative session would only be a small victory against the constant wave of new regulations coming out of Salem, it would be a victory nonetheless.

Make no mistake, whatever good comes out of this next legislative session will pale in comparison to the bad. Get ready for political posturing ahead of the 2018 election and a rushed through Cap and Trade proposal among others. As the old saying goes “That government is best which governs least” and the short legislative session has done nothing more than giving us more and more government. It is time to recognize the mistake many Oregonians, myself included, made at the ballot in 2010 and move to abolish the farce that is the short legislative session.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.