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Dudleys missteps left other Oregon in the dark

MyView • Candidate missed an opportunity to connect with motivated voters
by: L.E. BASKOW, Americans for Prosperity members rallied outside Democrat Kurt Schrader's Congressional town hall meeting in Oak Grove last March. A MyView writer believes Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley’s campaign’s failure to reach out to the Libertarian and Constitution parties could have been pivotal to his loss.

Outside a dark restaurant in a Lake Oswego strip mall on Nov. 3, Chris Dudley announced his concession to John Kitzhaber in the Oregon governor's race. Dudley was backlit by a single suspended swinging bulb revealing the location of his concession: El Ranchito Mexican restaurant.

It was a humiliating end to Dudley's high-wattage, well-run (with notable exceptions) and classy campaign. When that bulb went out at the El Ranchito, the hopes of half of Oregon went out, too.

It didn't have to be that way. We deserved better.

Dudley threw in the towel while he was still up in the count. He understood, however, that if all the votes were coming from Multnomah County he was toast. He lost by fewer than 2 percentage points.

Here are some of the things Dudley did to himself or which worked against him this election cycle:

1. Oregon's fraud-inviting mail-in balloting could have been part of the problem. While there's no evidence right now that any fraud has occurred, the Legislature in the last session changed when actual votes can be counted. Now, they can be tabulated seven days before the election. As attorney Bruce McCain has pointed out, the only things between someone leaking the latest vote count is a piece of tape and a laughably small $250 fine. In a year where the enthusiasm gap favored Republicans, liberal Multnomah County saw an amazing, last-day voter turnout favoring the Kitzhaber campaign.

2. The Dudley campaign's failure to reach out to the Libertarian and Constitution parties could have been pivotal to his loss. Fusion candidates have been the rage this election cycle with mainstream parties buddying up with lesser third parties - such as the Democrats with the Working Family Party. If those more conservative voters had been wooed by Dudley, he would have won the race.

3. The Dudley campaign kept its distance from the GOP. He was noticeably absent from big GOP-heavy events such as the Ann Coulter event at the Schnitz. Others in the know suggest that Dudley wanted nothing to do with the party.In fact, the party didn't recruit him - Gordon Smith's old political consultants did.The GOP appeared to be on a 'need to know' basis with Dudley's campaign and, apparently, they didn't need to know very much.

4. Perhaps the most damaging move was Dudley's failure to engage the most energized voter base the United States of America has seen in generations: the Tea Party movement. The movement is purely motivated by grassroots activism and populism as Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen point outin their new book, 'Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System.'

Here's what they contend:

The Tea Party movement is not a flash in the pan, as many have assumed. Nor is it a movement of racist rednecks and ignorant boobs, as its detractors have crudely suggested. To the contrary, it is an authentic grassroots movement of concerned American citizens demanding to be heard by an out-of-touch political establishment. Their concerns are real, and their issues are legitimate. Moreover, the new populism is here to stay, and it has already changed our politics for the better.

While Kitzhaber is the embodiment of his party's 'tea party populism' - the socialism and big spending embraced by the Democrats' left - Dudley's campaign eschewed the Tea Party's constitutional underpinnings of smaller government and fiscal accountability. Imagine if he'd bothered to compare and contrast the two viewpoints.

Dudley's organization, however, stiff-armed the Tea Party at every turn. It turned down or simply didn't respond to invitations from the various organizations that comprise the Tea Party: Oregon 9/12 Project and Oregon Tea Party. I started asking Dudley to our special 'Rock the Republic' election night party months in advance - win, lose or draw - and he was noncommittal. Back channel invitations - including ones where we promised not to announce him in advance (so as not to turn off some voters who believed the worst about Tea Partiers) were rebuffed and ignored.

Dudley eventually personally approved a special video phone connection to our election night soiree with Clackamas County Americans For Prosperity.When their tech person showed up (in suit and tie) to make the hookup, he was chased off by Dudley's people.

Dudley came the closest to beating a Democrat than any Republican in years, but the 'other' Oregon, not the Democrats' 'Our Oregon,' needed him towin, and we were willing to help.Dudley's choice to hastily call the media to bring to an ignominious end to a hard-fought race was more than disappointing - it was disgusting.

The 'other' Oregon deserved better (See Meg Whitman's concession for some pointers). In quitting the way he did, without formally paying homage to the 'other' Oregonin red, white and blue regalia,Dudley made it seem as if this had simply been about him the whole time.

Once again, the 'other' Oregon is left in the dark, with no representation. Dudley may as well have turned around, unscrewed that lone light bulb at El Ranchito and turned off the lights.

Active in Oregon's Tea Party movement, Victoria Taft is host of a live talk show on KPAM 860 radio from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.