Wave Elections and Oregon Republicans

The wave missed Oregon, again.

The past three wave elections, 2002,2010, and 2014 were all great for national Republicans. None was a particularly great for Oregon Republicans. Why is that?

Sure, in 2002, Gordon Smith turned what had been an expected close race into a landslide victory and the Republicans held the state legislature despite the huge reshuffling, some might say gerrymander, of districts by the Democratic Secretary of State after the 2000 Census. However, the Republicans failed to win  the Governor’s Mansion.

The open seats in 2002 and 2010 were there for the taking, some might say. Why weren’t they?

The most obvious, and probably simplest, reason is that the Republican nominees in these years just weren’t ready.

Kevin Mannix, a social conservative, was simply too conservative for the Oregon electorate. Heck, he was too conservative for the Republican Primary electorate. Jack Roberts and Ron Saxton, both to his left on a wide range of issues, together won a landslide majority – had they not split the vote.

Chris Dudley simply had no resume. Oregonians haven’t elected an inexperienced Governor since 1938. And that year Charles Sprague was the editor of the Statesman-Journal.

Oregon Republicans should nominate their best and brightest, not their afterthoughts, for Governor. You never know what might happen.

Turning back to 1938 might give us some inspiration … the Eugene Register-Guard endorsed Sprague in the Primary and staunchly backed him through the year. However, their endorsement in the Primary was something less than optimistic. They liked Sprague well enough, but they wrote that he didn’t stand much of a chance against popular Democratic Governor Charles Martin. Not only was Martin popular, but Democrats had been winning wider and wider margins nearly everywhere in the country since 1928. A funny thing happened, though. First, the Democrats didn’t re-nominate Martin, Instead, they chose a very liberal nominee. Second, 1938 turned out to be, in relative terms, a wave election for Republicans. They made major strides nationally in 1938. These two in combination made Sprague Governor.

Comments are closed.