Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oregon Secretary of State - Non-partisan ?

An Oregonian editorial advocates changing the office of Secretary of State from a partisan competition to a non-partisan office. They reference the Florida fiasco with SoS Kathryn Harris in the 2000 Presidential election. I've read the editorial several times looking for a justification that goes beyond an appearance of partisanship involved in the current system. They do mention a 1962 and 2006 look at the idea, in '63 the legislature decided against and so far nothing on the '06. The Oregonian notes that the '62 Constitutional Revision Commission likened the office to judges who run as non-partisans.

As Hans Linde, the retired Supreme Court justice who served on the commission, wrote: ". . . inviting a suspicion of partiality needlessly undermines confidence in any office when objectivity and impartiality are the essence of its functions."

The Oregonian concludes, "It's time to strip the trappings of partisanship from the secretary of state's office. "

The Oregonian says the current SoS Bill Bradbury vigorously opposes the idea and even somehow agrees and disagrees with him:
Bradbury is right that calling a candidate nonpartisan doesn't change his personal preferences, and in fact, may conceal them from voters. But he's wrong to insist that voters are better served by an avowed partisan than by a professional manager.
Um. What? The Oregonian says "professional manager" right behind "avowed partisan" making some kind of inference that "avowed partisan" equals 'political hack,' and the trappings of being defined "professional" somehow negates "partisanship." They change a couple words and that somehow changes the people who serve? By their reasoning only a person who has never registered with a Party would qualify - registration as a Party member is a declaration of partisanship. I'm pretty sure they're not advocating that only people who don't care to belong to a Party are qualified, if that is what they mean then they are advocating a Constitutional bar to freedom to associate.

I've already noted that SoS Bill Bradbury opposes the idea, Politicker OR asked the current candidates what they thought. Avakian and Brown didn't have anything for the article, Metzger approves of the idea, spokesperson Stacy Dycus,
“If the Secretary of State endorses a candidate, and then something happens so it’s a tight election, then it is difficult for the secretary of State to maintain the appearance of neutrality, even if all the rules have been followed.”
Walker doesn't agree,
“You can dress up a pig any way you want, and it’s still a pig, so it’s not the nature of the office being partisan or non-partisan, but the nature of the individual.”[...] “I’ve been a Democrat all my life, because I believe in their views, and I can’t just turn that off, but it doesn’t mean I can’t behave in such a way that one would expect from an elected official who presides over state elections.”
Let's go back to the Oregonian which portrays Sen Gordon Smith (OR-R) as a moderate Republican (something Democrats scoff at) and see what else is there.
Meanwhile, incumbent Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who once ran against Republican Gordon Smith for the U.S. Senate, gave a speech at a Democratic Party event last month in which he criticized Smith's "far right-wing agenda" and called on other Democrats to "work the next 13 months to ensure that Oregonians hear about the real Gordon Smith." Last week, he insisted again to The Oregonian that Smith and every other candidate on the ballot in Oregon next year will get a fair election and pointed out that he had pledged not to serve in any candidate's campaign nor help raise money for candidates.
OK, "gave a speech" and then "insisted again" links the two events in the readers mind and rather than a nice neutral 'Bradbury stated' we get the defensive "insisted again" as though there was some question about Bradbury somewhere other than in the Oregonian's mind. Readers of any newspaper would do well to remember how their neutrality works when they are advocating it. I've already stated my view on that topic, (to save you time) it's nonsense.

Vicki Walker, in her usual no-nonsense way, nailed the point. I'll expand a little, I don't want an SoS who is disconnected from the political process, whether or not you like the (R) or (D) they are the dominate forces in Oregon politics. The NAVs don't nominate candidates and the others have proven to be ineffectual, who ever effectually runs for SoS is very likely to have either an (R) or a (D) after their names on voter registration. The fact that it does not appear on the ballot has not one thing to do with the person. Considering the political outcomes of so many of the SoS decisions, I'd really like to know just exactly what their political agenda is.

I'm a Democrat, the current SoS is a Democrat, and most likely the next SoS will be a Democrat, so you might think I have a Democratic agenda in scoffing at the idea, not so. I want Oregonians to know just exactly who they're voting for. Now just about anybody who pays any attention at all to politics would have known Bradbury was a Democrat when they voted even if it weren't in the ballot, and it would be pretty difficult to not notice that whatever Democrat is nominated that they (currently) are all Democratic Oregon Senators; so what is it that the Oregonian is stumping for? Quite simply, a ballot appearance of non-partisanship, unless they propose to ban any with political activity in their past. The citizens of Oregon deserve better, but that isn't the Oregonian's agenda.

A couple things ought to occur to readers, there is every chance that the Smith election will be a brawl and there is a good chance that re-districting is headed to Oregon. Now if I had an idea that what Democrats like isn't what I liked I might like to have an Editorial position giving me ammunition to take pot-shots at whatever an "avowed" Democrat did. The Oregonian is no friend to Democratic politics, their endorsement for Governor ought to make that pretty clear. I don't know if Metzger thought this all the way through or if he's also a fan of appearances, I'm not going debate his statement with him, he's free to comment here, but he's flat out wrong.

The Kathryn Harris debacle had not one thing to do with her political registration on the ballot, it had everything to do with her/their idea of the political process. There is some chance that Florida voters will have gotten the idea that SoS politics count, and maybe next time they see that (R) they'll remember being the butt of a bad joke. Not likely, but they're not Oregon. The Oregonian did not point out any bad outcome of the partisanship of Oregonian SoS, they have not one Oregon fact to back their assertions. I assert that the Oregonian's Editorial is an act of partisanship under the guise of responsibility, the very thing they condemn.

***if the Oregonian doesn't like that, they're free to use the Comments button, also***


Steve Culley said...

Redistricting is what it is all about. Any support for removing this function from the secretary of state and going with an evenly divided committe of R D and independants?

KISS said...

Bi-Partisan is pure bullshit for any elected office. Biased will prevail and it is better to be open on what party you are a servant. Vickie Walker is right on the money. “You can dress up a pig any way you want, and it’s still a pig, so it’s not the nature of the office being partisan or non-partisan, but the nature of the individual.” Yup, the trick is to re-district the boundaries to your political advantage, both sides do it...just part of the game.
While Vickie thinks not much of me I think she is the best choice for sec of state.But than honesty hasn't much of a chance in this position.

Anonymous said...

Bradbury is the "worst" SoS ever!!!

Hell Chuck, you should run.

Wait a minute, you still have that "distributor" issue...NEVER MIND.

Chuck Butcher said...

An evenly divided R & D ? Why ? They have a lower registation total than D so even would give them essentially more than 1 vote. Nah, it would never get done and you live in a district that would, what, get gerrymandered Democratic? The rest of them are already reliably D. I think the SoS can handle it, the leg. is involved anyhow.

Chuck Butcher said...

Thanks Dat, but any one of the announced is better than I am. Seriously, I'm way too ornery

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dat, but any one of the announced is better than I am. Seriously, I'm way too ornery

Chuck: I want ornery!!!

Told Randy Leonard here in PDX once that we should hangout together, we both have alot in common...we never backdown from a verbal or a physical battle, and we're both a$$holes....he had no sense of humor. You understand that one.

Chuck Butcher said...

Well, I appreciate that, Dat and one day we'll swap car talk over cold drinks and the smell of high octane burning; but I'm not the guy for an office like SoS. You want tough and ornery, you have a chat with Vicki Walker some time, she's real nice, but she packs a big hammer and knows how to hit a nail and isn't much scared to do it.

I told her something once that she didn't want to hear about something important to her, it didn't stop her from us being friends, that says a lot to me.

Steve Culley said...

Last time redtricting came up I asked Bradbury to put Mutlnomah county in with Vancouver.

Chuck Butcher said...

Ahahaha, ha.

Whether E OR likes it or not, we need those folks. We all need to learn to get along, and it is a 2 way street.

Steve Culley said...

You might neeed them. I don't. Would vote in a heart beat for an eastern Oregon state.

Chuck Butcher said...

And our poor infrastructure would disintigrate. The Feds keep backing out on their responsibilities under "in lieu of taxes" and we don't have a tax base. Keep in mind that we would have to fund 100% with a 30% tax base.

Steve Culley said...

We could let The Valley keep sending school money, or realize that Oregon's land use laws, kept in place for 3 decades by the left side of the state, has an effect on our tax base. You have 4 or 5 houses on every acre in Portland and a forced urbanization of rural Oregon. We might get a chance to debate all that if the Big Look is allowed to be funded by the senate democrats. I have a pretty good list of urban/rural issues, going back a long time and have been for independence from urban Oregon. I'll take my chances.

Chuck Butcher said...

Steve, 70% of our tax base is eaten up by the Feds. A good sized chunk of them would like to see us go. If you think this is bad try Michigan and the Upper Penninsula, there's one bridge connecting them, and not much else in common, same problem, no tax base. C'mon, let's fix the problems.

dartagnan said...

Let's look at this issue from another angle: What BENEFIT does Oregon derive from electing secretaries of state on a partisan basis? I can't think of any.

Chuck Butcher said...

The process is straight forward with no BS involved about "non-partisan" and the Parties can get out the troops. Elections for SoS are not "sexy," that's where DPO comes in, or ORGOP. Nobody can claim sneaking by undercover partisans.

The Oregonian is pushing a fake issue for their reasons, not because it would improve anything.

lestatdelc said...

The SoS is not at all involved with Congressional redistricting. If the Leg. and the Gov. can't approve a Congressional redistricting map, it goes to Federal court for adjudication, not the SoS's office. The SoS's office only deals with STATE LEGISLATURE districts if the Leg. and Gov. can't agree.

Chuck Butcher said...

um, ooooops