The Oregon Governor Race: Will the Republicans Blow It Again?

First impressions can be deceiving.

Washington, D.C. residents were baffled Wednesday when they saw people appearing to parachute into the city. Alarmed police ordered staff at the U.S. Capitol complex to evacuate due to a “probable threat” from a nearby aircraft. Turns out it was a pregame Army parachute-demonstration team performing for a Washington Nationals baseball game.

Rising public dissatisfaction with Oregon’s direction, delivering the impression that the Oregon governor’s race is going to be a win for Republicans this time around, could be a false alarm for Democrats, too. 

A February 17-23 , 2022 OPB Primary Election Survey by DHM Research asked, “All things considered, do you think that things in Oregon are headed in the right direction, or do you feel that they are off on the wrong track?” An overwhelming 73% of respondents said Oregon is on the wrong track. 

This should bode well for Republicans, out of the governor’s chair since 1987.  But, based on the campaigns currently being waged by candidates in the Republican primary, they could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

An April 13, 2022, poll of likely Republican voters by Nelson Research showed that the leaders were Bud Pierce at 6.5%, Christine Drazan with 6.3%, Stan Pulliam with 4.2% and Bob Tiernan at 3.5%. None of the other Republican contenders garnered even 3%. 

The lack of real Republican enthusiasm for any of the candidates is evident, however, by the fact that with just two weeks from mail ballots going to voters and four weeks until the May 17, 2022 primary, almost 68 percent of respondents were still undecided.

Even counting the undecided who were leaning toward each candidate, Pierce was only at 10.7%, Drazan 8.2% and Pulliam, Tiernan and Bill Sizemore at 5.2% each. 

Pierce, who lost to Democrat Kate Brown in 2016, is pitching himself as “a true outsider” who is “sane, secure, stable”.  But already a one-time loser, Pierce, 65, comes across, to put it mildly, as old hat. He’s the Adlai Stevenson of the 2022 Republican primary.

Christine Drazan, 49, is promising “A new direction. for Oregon,” but she is also embracing some Republican views on abortion that turn off a lot of Oregon voters. “Christine received Oregon Right to Life’s endorsement in her previous two runs for office and is honored to have their support once again in the race for governor,” said Trey Rosser, Drazen’s campaign manager. Most Oregonians, on the other hand, have consistently opposed more restrictions on abortion.

Tiernan, in his current ad, comes across not as a hard-driving man of the people, but as a mean-spirited scold. “I’ve got what it takes,” he says, but his forced smile is insincere and off-putting.

Pulliam isn’t doing himself any favors with his outreach efforts, either.

In one television ad, he complains about critical race theory, a trendy topic that argues racism is racism is systemic in America’s institutions. In another ad, he promises not to “allow transgender athletes to compete in girls sports…Because my girls shouldn’t have to play against boys, and neither should yours.” Despite both of these issues being hot items for the right on the national stage, neither shows up on a list of hot-button issues for Oregon voters and could pigeonhole Pulliam in a general election.

Part of the problem for all the Republican candidates was revealed in a Nov. 2021 poll by  conducted by Republican pollster Fallon Research & Communications.

In the poll of 600 likely Oregon Republican primary voters, 75% viewed Donald Trump favorably, about 58% believed the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump and about 60% said Republican candidates for statewide office should be “more like Trump.” In 2020, Joe Biden defeated Trump 56.5% – 40.4%. Those Biden voters aren’t likely to vote for a conservative Republican candidate for governor the general election.

Sure, a lot of Oregonians are pissed, but do any of the leading Republicans have an answer? Not so far. And as much as many Oregonians are frustrated with things as they are, that doesn’t make them all Republicans. As a politics junkie recently observed on twitter, “More and more I am convinced that the average voter is driven by repulsion, not attachment. They don’t vote for a party because they like it. They vote for a party because it isn’t the OTHER party, which they really despise.”

This may be a weak year for Democrats generally, but to win the governorship the Oregon Republican candidate will need to present a savvy, appealing, inspiring alternative.

So far, they’re all missing the boat.

One thought on “The Oregon Governor Race: Will the Republicans Blow It Again?

  1. The last Republicans to win statewide office (Dennis Richardson and Gordon Smith) were pro-life. With two pro-choice candidates on the ballot, I think a pro-life stance may actually be an asset. At the very least, there isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest pro-choice Republicans do better than pro-life ones. Seems like other factors contribute more to victories or defeats.

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