Tuesday, October 17, 2006
EDITORIAL: Saxton for governor
Challenger shows willingness to tackle tough issues
October 17, 2006
When a first-term governor runs for re-election, as they most always do, voters have four years of work on which to judge them. A number of Oregon governors have put such a strong stamp on their time served that re-election is almost automatic.
This isn’t one of those times.
Fortunately, it comes when the Republican party has elevated the most promising candidate in at least eight years to challenge the Democrats for the state’s highest office.
Challenger Ron Saxton — not Gov. Ted Kulongoski — should be voters’ choice in this November election.
Many issues swirl around a governors’ race. Most important for Oregon now is that our next governor be a strong leader with a defined vision of where the state should be headed.
Saxton is ahead on both counts.
Kulongoski, especially during the last legislative session, simply has not stepped up to lead as was hoped. Despite his years of strong service in the Oregon Legislature and his military background, the governor does not come across as an inspiring leader. His approach may work fine when the economy is booming and there are no major challenges ahead. That’s not the case now.
The best example of this was Kulongoski’s last-minute proposal for funding education that wasn’t presented until the waning days of the last Legislature, too late to be taken up. He was a virtual no-show when it counted.
Kulongoski does earn kudos for his heartfelt eulogies at the funerals of Oregon soldiers who die serving their country.
Oregon Republicans were wise to choose Saxton to challenge Kulongoski. In years past, the party’s primary election winners were more flamboyant, but so far right of center they couldn’t attract crossover votes in a state with a slight Democrat voter majority.
This year, leading conservatives urged a different approach. They could either refuse to concede a single issue and stay rigidly true to the most dogmatic party philosophy, or they could instead offer a centrist candidate with a good chance of replacing a vulnerable Democrat.
Saxton, who answers interview questions with refreshing candor, said he had not planned on running again after losing in the Republican primary four years ago. He assumed Kulongoski would be in a strong position by now. It soon became apparent to him, however, that many Oregonians of both parties shared his disappointment with Kulongoski’s performance.
Saxton deserves credit for years ago waving the red flag about the severe problems with the Public Employees Retirement System when no other politicians wanted to tackle it. A former school board chairman in Portland, Saxton speaks earnestly when he criticizes what he considers a state school system that is high in cost but isn’t producing top results.
Unlike Kulongoski, he doesn’t believe enough has been done to bring down the state’s costs of funding PERS. He believes there are savings to be found in the state’s education system, for example, which can be directed where it can help the most, to classrooms.
Oregonians have a curious voting history, selecting Democrats for governor, but often electing a Republican majority to the House and Senate at the same time. Instead of creating a balance, however, it has become a battle to a standstill.
It would be refreshing to see what a Republican governor could do, especially one who understands the state’s diversity and the need to reach across party lines, not just to get elected, but to get substantive things accomplished.
Oregon needs a governor who insists that residents get the absolute most out of their investment in government, and who helps secure the state’s economic recovery.
Kulongoski has had four years to show he can do that, with unimpressive results.
Oregonians should vote for a strong, determined governor to lead the state forward. Ron Saxton fits that role, and is the clear choice in November.