Tuesday, October 17, 2006
It's time for real leadership in Salem
Published: October 7, 2006
We have two solid choices for governor this year in Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski and Republican challenger Ron Saxton. Each major party got its best standard-bearer through the primary, so there's no point wasting votes on minor-party gadflies.
Kulongoski, a lawyer who served as insurance commissioner, attorney general and Supreme Court justice, is a decent and honorable man who gets high marks for integrity. The same is true of Saxton, a lawyer who played a strong leadership role on the Portland School Board before setting his sights on the governorship.
Both are pragmatic and policy-oriented. Both have the best interests of Oregon at heart.
Kulongoski has largely eschewed the extremes of Democratic liberalism.
That perhaps was best shown when he shepherded through some desperately needed Public Employee Retirement System reform measures. While not going so far as to truly solve the problem, they went plenty far enough to alienate the unions that supply the money and manpower typically propelling Democrats into high office.
Saxton has largely eschewed the extremes of Republican conservatism.
That perhaps was best shown when he refused to endorse Measure 48, a version of the TABOR amendment that brought Colorado to its fiscal knees, knowing it would wreak like havoc in Oregon. While not going so far as to campaign openly for the measure's richly deserved defeat, he went plenty far enough to alienate the conservative associations that supply the money and manpower typically propelling Republicans into high office.
Both men are personable, intelligent, thoughtful and well-meaning. Both are palatable in most respects to Oregon moderates.
The choice comes down to this: Who offers the best hope of providing the dynamic leadership Oregon so desperately needs in the face of near-total abdication by a partisan and parochial Legislature? We give that nod to the Republican, Ron Saxton.
Kulongoski has shown flashes of leadership in attacking the PERS crisis, mandating tougher emissions standards and cracking down on over-the-counter sale of the meth precursors.
But he's spent much of his term following rather than leading, despite Democratic dominance in the Senate and executive branch. He's failed to chart a clear course for Oregon's future and rally the requisite support.
It's time to give Saxton a shot.