Opinion: Republicans can win Oregon with moderate candidate
I'm a Democrat who is intrigued by Republican Christine Drazan for governor. As a former House Republican minority leader, she's the strongest Republican candidate for governor since Norma Paulus in 1986. The Oregon GOP has been wandering in the desert ever since. I had been supporting Nicholas Kristoff for governor, but he was eliminated on a technicality by Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. Sadly, I believe Fagan's decision was influenced by partisan politics. She has given us a very weak candidate in Democrat Tina Kotek.
The Oregon Republican Party has been on quite the losing streak. They haven't won a gubernatorial race in 40 years. The Oregon GOP thinks a hard-right orientation will propel a candidate to victory. That strategy has been tried time and again, and it has consistently failed. The Republican Party's grand strategy has been to run unqualified candidates and get trounced.
I like to remind my conservative friends about West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. Donald Trump won West Virginia by near 40% and won all 55 counties. It is a deep red state, represented by a Democrat. A liberal AOC couldn't win a race for dog catcher in West Virginia. Sure, she might be able to win in the Democratic primary, but she would get destroyed in the general election. Manchin votes with the Democrats roughly 75% of the time, a Republican replacement would vote about 0% of the time with the Democrats. 75% vs 0%? Call me crazy, but I'll take the safe 75%. Why would I risk putting the opposite party in power?
Just like a liberal can't win in West Virginia, a conservative can't win statewide in Oregon. That's a reality. Rabid conservatives may like the anarchic mayors from Sandy and Baker City, but they don't have a shot in hades. And Bud Pierce? He downplayed domestic violence in his last gubernatorial bid. Good luck winning the female vote, especially the purple suburbs. I could keep going down the Republican list of candidates, but that clown car of undesirables is too much to bear.
President Lyndon Johnson liked to ask, "Do you want an issue, or do you want a bill?" Essentially, he's asking, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to win?" If Christine Drazan wins the primary, she will be the most accomplished and competitive candidate in over 40 years. She will give conservatives solid victories. She will vote the conservative position at least 75% of the time. If the Democrat Kotek wins, Republicans will get 0% of what they want. Which Republican wants a continuation of the Brown years?
I don't know who I'll be voting for. I will more than likely support non-affiliated candidate Betsy Johnson if Drazan doesn't win her primary. Responsible Democrats have been waiting decades for a serious Republican candidate. Such a historic candidate has arrived in Drazan.
Republicans, Independents and moderate Democrats could unite behind Drazan in a winning coalition. The alternative is a Republican loon who will alienate rational voters and go down to defeat, once again. Republicans have a chance to pivot towards winning. Will they reach for victory, or will they reach for their losing participation trophies once again? I certainly hope for the former. A one-party state gets awfully boring.
Brian Fitzgerald is a Happy Valley resident.
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