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End can't justify the meanness

Oregon deserves something more than negative campaigning

Labor Day - the campaign season's traditional starting point - is two weeks away, yet political candidates already are attempting to define their opponents in unflattering ways.

What they ought to define instead are their aspirations for Oregon and their specific priorities for moving this state forward.

In the governor's race, now minus centrist candidate Ben Westlund, the Democrat and Republican are busy in these late-summer days creating caricatures of each other that they hope will stay in voters' minds all the way up to the Nov. 7 election. Thus, we are told via Republican Ron Saxton's campaign that Gov. Ted Kulongoski is a captive of labor unions. And the Democratic incumbent's response has been to say that Saxton represents large corporate interests and big oil companies.

The name-calling is mild so far, but experience ensures that the insults will intensify as the election draws near. And the negativity won't be confined to the governor's race - it will poison nearly all elections for state offices, including legislative seats.

Oregon voters, however, deserve better. And they unquestionably must demand more from the two men who aspire to lead this state for the next four years. Rather than making their opponent the sole matter of the campaign, both Saxton and Kulongoski must describe the priorities most important to Oregonians and say exactly how they would lead on those very issues. In demeaning each other, they diminish themselves - and underestimate the citizens they intend to lead.