The negativity being spread by many political campaigns - and supporters of some candidates - as the Nov. 2 election enters its final days has the shameful intent of depressing voter involvement.
Politicians, political parties, election consultants and unrelated campaign groups are spending millions on attack advertising. They do this not because it demonstrates a candidate's leadership promise or motivates anyone to take positive action - but because it de-motivates voters.
If this is what it takes to get elected - if this is what leadership has become in this state - we think Oregon voters are the losers and some candidates are villains.
Like voters, we are disheartened by the tone of the 2010 campaign and by the outright dishonesty being disseminated on TV, on the radio and in the mail. But we strongly encourage voters to avoid falling into an apathetic trap, and instead consider that this is one election in Oregon when every vote has real meaning.
As close as it gets
The closeness of this election - and its importance to Oregon's future - is underscored by results of a recent poll conducted for the Portland Tribune and its media partners, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Community Newspapers and Fox 12 television. That poll shows the governor's race between Democrat John Kitzhaber and Republican Chris Dudley remains so close that it's impossible to call.
The contest between Kitzhaber and Dudley will decide who will lead Oregon in what we believe must be a much different direction than the recent past. But voters must make other essential decisions as well - including choosing between Tom Hughes and Bob Stacey in the race for Metro president and determining which party will control the Oregon Legislature.
The poll, which was conducted this week by pollster Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall, shows a public that's narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats. When asked whether they intend to support a Republican or a Democrat in legislative races, 42 percent of poll respondents statewide said Democrat, and 40 percent said Republican. That 2 percent difference is within the poll's margin of error, and the results represent a substantial erosion of support for Democrats from the levels they enjoyed two years ago.
That means competitive legislative races - particularly those in the Portland suburbs - could go either way this time around.
All this adds up to an election that ought to be compelling for both Democrats and Republicans, because truly either side may come out on top. But as of Monday, voters weren't exactly flooding to return their ballots - just 13 percent had done so in Multnomah County.
Call off the hit pieces
It's easy to understand why voters get discouraged when most of what they see in the way of political advertising is deceptive and depressing. A particularly egregious example is the pro-abortion rights group NARAL's claim that Dudley is anti-choice - when he has repeatedly stated he favors a woman's right to choose. Also failing the honesty test is the Oregon League of Conservation Voters mailer that claims Metro candidate Hughes favors busting the urban growth boundary and opening the region to unrestrained sprawl. Again, this is simply not true.
No election ought to be decided based upon who can tell the biggest lies.
We offer a challenge and true measure of leadership. We urge all candidates to cancel immediately all remaining 'political hit' advertisements scheduled to air before Nov. 2 and require their supporters to do the same. That would be honest, bold leadership for a change.
Here, at the right, are the Tribune's recommendations for selected races and ballot measures, but the important thing for voters is not to follow any particular person or group's advice. Rather, they should make a point of ignoring campaign deceit, best educating themselves about the candidates and the issues, and returning their ballots no later than 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
Tribune endorsements in selected races
• Federal offices
U.S. Senate: Ron Wyden
U.S. House District 1: Rob Cornilles
U.S. House District 3: Earl Blumenauer
• Statewide offices
Governor: John Kitzhaber
Treasurer: Ted Wheeler
• Statewide measures
Measure 70, veterans home loans: YES
Measure 71, annual legislative sessions: YES
Measure 72, state bonding: YES
Measure 73, minimum sentences: NO
Measure 74, marijuana: NO
Measure 75, Wood Village casino: NO
Measure 76, lottery funds for parks: YES
• Regional race and measure
Metro Council President: Tom Hughes
Measure 26-119, TriMet bonds: YES
• Portland measures
Measure 26-108, public campaign financing: NO
Measure 26-117, fire vehicle bonds: NO
• Multnomah County race and measures
County commissioner District 2: Loretta Smith
Measure 26-109, lift term limits: YES
Measure 26-110, midterm election eligibility: YES
Measure 26-111, sheriff, district attorney salaries: YES
Measure 26-112, commissioner must live in district: YES
Measure 26-113, limit election dates: YES
Measure 26-114, allow future library district: YES
Measure 26-118, history levy: YES