Primary elections suck for a variety of reasons, especially if you’re a rookie politician.
My first primary as a candidate was May 17, 1994. I had no name familiarity; I was talking to lobbyists and other moneyed interests I’d never met before who couldn’t give a flyin’ f*** in a doughnut hole about my race, and I was (still am) short, fat and ugly. A “radio face” as my friends politely describe it.
The 1994 primary was memorable because (a) It was held on my 45th birthday, (b) I got a speeding ticket on election day going 58 mph on Highway 58 on my way to Oakridge and (c) It took state elections officials three days to determine I had actually won, thus ruining a family vacation! Politics is brutal.
The speeding ticket on election day really freaked me out at the time. My immediate reaction was: Oh shit — the public’s gonna find out about this today and I’m sunk. Fortunately this was before Al Gore invented the internet. Nobody knew.
The day after the primary, my wife, Jeannie, son, Simon, and I escaped for a week to Key West, Florida, because I was convinced I was going to lose. Convinced because two pollsters doing daily trending polls had me dead in the water for the last two weeks of the campaign.
I wasn’t surprised by their polls because I was running against a popular mayor from the biggest town in my district outside of Eugene, and there was another “progressive” running in the race as well who would siphon votes from me. That’s why, since then, with my prodigious Irish math proficiency, I have never been a big fan of multiple progressives running against each other when there’s only one conservative opponent in a race. Duh!
Flash forward 24 years to our recent primary, specifically the Springfield and East Lane County commissioner races. Teachable moments in math.
The good news is that Joe Berney defeated Sid Leiken in a classic “non-partisan” race between one Democratic progressive and one Republican conservative. Because he won a two-way race by over 50 percent, Joe wins in the primary and doesn’t have to run again in November, and Lane County is a better place to live because of it.
The other good news is that Heather Buch placed first in a six-way race featuring five progressives against one conservative in the east Lane race. Heather not only beat the other four progressives handily, she got more votes than the conservative Gary Williams.
Heather Buch 31.3 percent
Gary Williams 30.7 percent
Kevin Matthews 19.6 percent
Tim Laue 9.5 percent
James Barber 7.1 percent
Frank King 1.4 percent
Do the math. Imagine progressives putting aside single issues and egos to coalesce around one winner.
The bad news is she didn’t win by 50 percent and will have to face Gary in the general. This is bad news why? Because we have awakened the angry bears.
Reporter Henry Houston pointed out in a recent EW article that if Buch wins it will create a 3-2 progressive split with the two chameleons Bozievich and Farr as the outliers “that will no doubt bring even more timber and development cash for Williams …” Labor’s not flush with cash. Enough said, roll up your progressive sleeves. Between Heather’s race and a hot governor’s race we’ll have plenty on our plate.
So congratulations to all the winners. Thank you Marty Wilde and Kimberly Koops for running wholesome campaigns. In a perverse way I’m even happy for “Radiant” Art Robinson in his fifth attempt to unseat the best man in the House, Peter DeFazio. As the grumpy cynical geezer observer, my hope as we move forward is that we progressives forget our minor differences and unite behind Buch, Brown, Wilde and DeFazio in the Nov. 6 general election.
Speaking of November, Knute Buehler emerged as the Republican candidate against Kate Brown in the governor’s race. His problem will not be raising money, believe me. His problem is probably best exemplified by his Lane County primary numbers. He didn’t even get a majority of Republican votes against two Trumpophiles, Greg Wooldridge and Sam Carpenter. Lane County barely has a higher proportion of “moderate” Republicans than the state at large.