Oregon’s Historic Election

Bottom Lines for Oregon Election 2014? Oregon voters are pretty savvy on a lot of issues; Oregon is a one-party state; money still exercises a lot of speech in Oregon – and “Follow the Money” remains the best political advice; New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Carl Hiaasen’s Florida…aren’t the only states with political soap operas and dubious ethics…

Don’t Bogart That Victory…

One cannot lead off about Oregon Election 2014 with anything other than the End of Prohibition (again). Oregon voters passed Measure 91; joining voters in the District of Columbia in legalizing, regulating and taxing recreational marijuana use (the tax is fixed at $35 an ounce with local entities not allowed to tax it – only the state); coming together with Washington and Colorado as Free States that have seen the light…with many more to come.

Whew. It’s been a long haul. It was the fourth try here. Pretty much the sole opposition came from the Oregon Sheriffs and the State Prosecuting Attorneys, who financed the No on Measure 91 campaign. Of course, they feared their Asset Seizure and Butts-in-Jail Beds scams coming to an end.

Many people worked many years on repealing cannabis prohibition. My Flint buddy John Sinclair and friends held the first Free the Weed Concert/Rally back in 1964 or 65 (yeah, at my age, the 60s are a blur). John paid a terrible price for his advocacy of ending prohibition. John served 28 months of a ten year sentence he was given for giving two joints to an undercover cop before his many allies were able to get him released – with the major help of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger and many others playing a legendary benefit concert to raise awareness and funds.

When we were close to ending it in 2012, John came and rallied support for the cause at the annual Hempstalk Festival and in various interviews. Undeterred by 2012’s close loss, Sinclair came again this year, enduring travel glitches and massive repressive security presence to urge Oregon voters once again to end the madness.

As I noted, many people worked on this victory – way more than I even know of. I want to thank you all.  Here are some I do know: Paul Stanford, the sponsor of Hempstalk, medical marijuana and co-host of the  CCTV show Cannabis Common Sense has been a tireless advocate; dating back to even before he lived with famed pot activist, the late Jack Herer, while Jack wrote the seminal book on it all, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. Paul has had many allies on the way; all are celebrating tonight.

Madeline Martinez of Portland’s World Famous Cannabis Café and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and her colleagues came through – many police actually look forward to working on serious, real crimes. Washington’s King County Sheriff John Urquhart, who knows as well as anyone, was a prominent advocate for Measure 91.

John Trudell and his band Bad Dog have been to all ten Hempstalks. The great Native activist/poet/actor has been an advocate for industrial hemp which is also now legal to grow in Oregon. This may well be as important or more important in the long run as legalization of recreational use of the more psycho-active forms of the herb.

The best part of it all for adult cannabis users in Oregon will be the ability to use an herbal ally sans the fear of legal entanglements or the pot-smokers-as-sinners/deadbeats judgmental divisiveness of the past. I was in Washington recently and it really does feel like more of a free state. Ahh.

One Party Rule 

Rural Oregon’s gigantic 2nd Congressional District is always held by an extraction industry rightist Republican. The other four districts are safe Democrat seats. Since Oregon gained a fifth district in 1983, Democrats have always held at least three of them and have held the Fifth District since 1997 and four of its first fourteen years. Statewide, Oregon hasn’t had a GOP governor since the very decent Vic Atiyeh in 1987 or a GOP US Senator since 2009.

The Governor-for-Life and the Fiancée “Consultant”

Oregon does have a Governor-for-life in Democrat John Kitzhaber. The former ER Doctor was reelected to an unprecedented fourth term; despite a month-long public drama that even got international coverage involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes; starting with her admission of a sham immigration marriage for $5,000 to an Ethiopian back in 1997, as the award-winning local Willamette Week exposed it.

It mushroomed from there to her admission to being involved in a rural Washington marijuana grow later in 1997 with another man. She laid it all on that man, whom the “broke college student” had gone on a month-long vacation to Siberia with right after the illegal marriage. Hayes played the victim card and called the man “dangerous” and that it was all his idea. As in the 1995 Sen. Bob Packwood Sexual Assault scandal, it took a paper far from Oregon  – a British paper this time – to get the facts that matter and track down the “dangerous man” who, of course, laid it all on her.

The kicker is that long-time one-party rule invariably leads to smug, questionable ethics – all this long-ago tittle-tattle pales in comparison to the real issue here: the First Lady (yes, they have been together for 10 years and that is her title) has cashed in substantially on her role as First Lady. She’s earned tens of thousands representing various firms; arranging such things as generous tax subsidies to Wind Farms and advising the governor to oppose coal export shipping ports. Four State Department of Energy workers were fired and then rehired (at a cost to taxpayers of over $600,000) after they raised questions about her meddling. Much of her work was done out of the governor’s office. The governor first responded by playing the feminist card: “We did not violate the law,” Kitzhaber said. “We’ve simply given a modern and professional woman an opportunity to continue her career. In 2014, it seems ludicrous that a woman should be expected to give up her career and life’s work just because she will be married — hopefully soon — to the governor.”

He then disingenuously went on to note that no one was bothered by the relationship between former Gov. Barbara Roberts and her husband, Oregon Senator Frank Roberts. In 1994, Kitzhaber shouldered fellow Democrat Roberts out of the way while she was caring for her dying husband and won his first term.

Within a week from the beginning of the scandal, Kitz back-pedaled and noted Hayes would now mothball her consulting firm, if he got reelected. All along, Kitzhaber had ignored sound advice about the ethics of the fiasco from his spokeswoman and others.

Back in the mid-80s, I caught John Kitzhaber and fellow state Senators Bill Bradbury and Steve Starkowitz sneaking into Breitenbush Hot Springs one night. Realizing who they were, Starkowitz was our Breitenbush area senator, even; rather than kick them out, I joined them in the hot water and lobbied them about the  logging of the adjacent Ancient Forests  –  we were in a pitched battle with the U.S. Forest Service and the timber industry over their fate.

Back then, State Senator Kitzhaber was not the Governor Kitzhaber who called the Legislature into a one day special session to grant tax breaks of over $500,000,000 to NIKE. He was the fly-fishing guy in blue jeans with a Hayduke Lives! bumper-sticker on his pick-up.

Kitzhaber became one of our champions for forests. He co-sponsored Senate Bill 500, a bill George Atiyeh (Governor Vic’s nephew) and some of us dreamed up to make Opal Creek a State Park under a lease agreement with the Forest Service; keeping Opal Creel’s 35,000 acres of magnificent forest intact and roadless. It was a milestone event: the day of the bill’s hearing, Big Timber gave their workers the day off and they all descended on the Capitol, surrounding it with honking log trucks, grid-locking the city.

We reeled our multimedia Opal Creek show into the place through a hostile crowd. It was shown in the main room and on the closed circuit TVs in every room of the packed Capitol. The images of magnificent Ancient Forests taken by a  number of activist friends juxtaposed against ones of ravaged clear-cuts were stunning. It ended to prolonged silence. At that moment, Mark Ottenad, Trygve Steen, Susan Gordon, Julio Viamonte, George and I looked at one another and knew that Opal Creek would not be cut. It took a while longer, but it is now a beloved designated Wilderness Area.

Well, that John Kitzhaber is also not the current governor who has used his spot on the three-person State Lands Board to oversee massive increased logging on State Forests; the current governor who has urged the Feds to up the cut on our national Public Lands, as well. The governor who does nothing/says nothing about raw, unprocessed log exports from Big Timber’s private lands – almost 100% of said logs are exported. I sure think we could use some money-following here.

No matter the in-doubt ethics of the situation, Kitzhaber was reelected with 49% of the vote over GOP wing-nut Dennis Richardson, the GOP State Chair, who garnered 45.4% despite being all the things that are wrong with the GOP today – a complete Koch-head with even wilder beliefs than the usual GOP Bachmann-esque loon. There’s a reason Oregon is a one-party state, doncha know? (And Democrats gained in the State Legislature, now holding a 35-25 majority in the House after it being 30-30 for the past two sessions and 17-12 – with one undecided – up at least one seat from the past 16-14 split in the Senate.)

The Governor-for-Life and the Fiancée melodrama/questionable ethics or the Koch-addled, big timber/pro-police state regressive – that was the two-faced parties’ offered choice.

My prediction is that Kitzahber will not serve out his fourth term and Richardson will quickly be replaced as GOP Chair – by someone equally as odious.

The Not Ready for Prime Time Senate Candidate

In the Senate race, the invisible Sen. Jeff Merkley cruised to reelection 55% – 38% against the very odd, Koch Brothers-funded Dr. Monica Wehby, who ran perhaps the worst campaign in the nation. From a no show at a paper’s endorsement interview to refusal to debate to allegations of stalking a former lover and harassing her former husband to plagiarizing GOP talking points that Wehby couldn’t explain or even understand…it was a train wreck.

Her stilted, incoherent “Concession Speech” is one for the ages.

My prediction is that within a year Wehby will be a called-on medical expert on Fox News… once she learns how to more smoothly read what’s put in front of her.

Oregon Equal Rights?

Voters passed Measure 89 – an Equal Rights Act 63% to 37%; amending Article I, Section 20 of the state constitution guaranteeing “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.”

At the same time, Measure 88 which would have allowed for driver’s card for less-than fully legal immigrants failed 68% to 32%. since such folks drive to work, their kids to school, etc., it was considered a good thing to have them able to acquire insurance, etc.

“Money Doesn’t Talk; It Swears.”

Measure 92, which required the labeling of Genetically-Modified Foods (GMO) is losing 51% – 49% with 75% of the ballots counted. Opponents of the Measure spent over $20 million, led by Monsanto’s $6 million. Supporters raised another $8 million; making it the most expensive ballot measure in Oregon history.

Oregonians turned down a well-funded effort to change our election system to a run-off between the top two vote getters in an Open Primary  by 68% – 32%. It was a transparent attempt to kill of any possible third parties and consolidate even further the gerrymandered one-party voting districts and Oregonians saw thru it.

National Bottom Line

My final predictions are about the national scene: by mid-January, unlike the wimp Democrats, the Republicans will have changed the Filibuster Rule in the Senate. No longer will it take just 40 votes to get your way. By mid-summer, Obama will approve the KXL Pipeline, after a Warren Buffett-owned Tar Sands oil train explodes in a Mid-west city. By December, even in one-party Oregon, most people will be horrified by the prospect of another Clinton vs Bush presidential contest. I predict that neither will be their party’s nominee.

MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in Salem, Oregon. He has endured many elections. He celebrated Tuesday night.



MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com