Blame campaigns for low turnout
So what are the key messages from Tuesday's primary election? There are many: • Unfortunately a growing number of voters are apathetic about politics, voting and their ability to influence the direction of state and local government. It's time for candidates to better address and fulfill the needs and interests of citizens, not the needs and interests of special-interest groups.
• Instead of being bombarded by negative campaigning, we bet voters would opt to listen more and vote for candidates who provide passionate, well-articulated visions of where Oregon and its communities should head, and how we should get there.
Incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Ron Saxton have the greatest opportunity to create this change by immediately making themselves and their campaigns relevant to everyday Oregonians on such issues as employment, health care, education, congestion and PERS reform.
• Oregon's primary election system is broken. When more than 100,000 registered Independent voters living in the Portland area cannot vote in the primary and help decide who should be on the November general election for the state Legislature, the governor's office or Congress, something is wrong.
The solution is an open primary system advocated by two former Oregon secretaries of state, Phil Keisling and Norma Paulus, who hope to place an open-primary ballot measure before voters in November. What's so special about this? Independent voters would be allowed to vote for whichever primary candidate they wish.
• Neil Goldschmidt is an election nonfactor. In primary campaign ads for governor, 'hit' pieces attempted to connect the former Oregon governor, who admitted to having sex with an underage girl three decades ago, to both Saxton and Kulongoski.
The smear-campaign criticisms didn't stick. Let Goldschmidt stay a recluse and a campaign nonentity.
• City of Portland voters appear content with the makeup of the City Council, having re-elected Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman in Tuesday's primary.
But we don't believe that Portland voters are content with a City Council that is yet to become unified on a vision for Portland's future Ñ a vision that addresses critical issues such as the safety and vitality of Portland's downtown; a crackdown on the manufacturing of meth; creating more affordable housing; transportation improvements that benefit commuters and the economy; an improved partnership with Portland Public Schools that will provide more stable school finding; and economic development attitudes that promote opportunity and growth for new and existing Portland businesses.
• Successful campaigns must be followed by effective leadership and programs that achieve consistent and significant successes.
Multnomah County Chairman-elect Ted Wheeler had little trouble unseating Diane Linn from the dysfunctional county commission she led. Wheeler will have a little more than six months before taking office. He better begin figuring out now what is broken and identify how to improve it.
• Portland Mayor Tom Potter must do the same. Not even halfway into his first term, Potter should take stock of how he can improve his leadership of the city and turn his tenure in office from OK to great.