Republicans refute criticism of District 52 tactics

With less than two weeks before the election, Rep. Mark Johnson's campaign committee, “Friends of Mark Johnson,” hired door-to-door canvassers and provided them with lunch, a strategy implemented when the Republican first ran for House District 52 in 2010.

But an adviser to his opponent, Democrat Peter Nordbye, said the move is unethical, unprecedented and a sign of desperation.

“The conclusion that I draw is that Mark's caucus is worried and that Peter's campaign should not be dismissed,” said campaign adviser Patrick Ryan.

On Oct. 24, Promote Oregon Leadership — a political action committee — contributed $1,315.63 to “Friends of Mark Johnson” for the purpose of hiring temporary door-to-door canvassers.

“From what I know, it's unprecedented from either side of the ticket in the District 52 race,” Ryan said.

But two years ago to the day — Oct. 24, 2010 — the PAC contributed $3,645 to the same committee for temporary staffing, which included canvassers, said Nick Smith, spokesman for Promote Oregon Leadership.

“It's something that we do at this point in the campaign in order to make sure voters are familiar with Mark,” said Smith, who added that the PAC donates funds to other campaigns for this purpose, as well.

The PAC also provided the committee with $444.44 for lunch for the 10-15 volunteer district walkers, which Ryan said, “May or may not be legal under Oregon law.”

A representative of the Oregon Secretary of State's Office told The Outlook that it is legal to hire canvassers and to provide them with lunch.

While Nordbye's committee doesn't have the resources to poll voters, Ryan still questions the timing of hiring canvassers. He said this is a sign from Johnson's campaign, which does have the ability to poll voters, that it believes the race is tighter than expected.

“In my opinion, Mark is concerned because he has some sort of information that leads him to believe it's necessary to put paid canvassers out there,” Ryan says. “He has information that Peter is close or even ahead of Mark.”

Smith says that's “absolutely not” true.

“We're very confident Mark will win next week,” he said. “Our survey research leads us to believe we have widening support. At the same time we don't take any race for granted, especially in a district where there's more Democrats than Republicans.”

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