Sunday, April 29, 2018

Whom to Vote For: State Senate for Medford-Ashland

The best candidate for you depends on what you want. Democrats have four good choices. Julian Bell, Athena Goldberg, Jeff Golden, Kevin Stine.  


(Personally, I am voting for Jeff Golden.  His base will turn out for him.  I will explain.)

Things to consider.

Opposition: Jessica Gomez has no credible opposition. Prior elections suggest that she--plus the upstate GOP campaign apparatus working in concert with her campaign--will have a million dollars or more to spend.There will be about 70,000 votes cast in this race, which amounts to $15 per voter, or about $30 for every vote Gomez gets, if the race is close, which is what I expect.

They will spend it because 
    1. They have the money--and more--to spend.
    2. They consider the race winnable, with a candidate who presumably has "crossover appeal" in a district that has a Democratic majority.
    3. They need a reliable Republican vote in the legislature to block a Democratic super-majority, and here is where the GOP thinks it can get it.

Democrats: they all have essentially the same political positions. I consider all four Democrats to be thoroughly liberal-progressive-environmentalist-feminist-pro-immigrant. All four are consistent with the direction consensus Democratic thinking has moved in the aftermath of the 2016 election: Bernie-compliant on issues of taxation and economics, and Hillary-compliant on issues of guns, identity, and culture. Disgust with Trump moved Democrats toward Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and away from Chuck Schumer in their thinking. All four Democrats would face the vulnerability of GOP wedge issues on late term abortion, on sanctuary cities, on crime by undocumented residents, on drivers licenses and school enrollment for the undocumented, on taxation of businesses and the wealthy, on transexuals in public bathrooms, on PERS, on forest management.

Kevin Stine
There would be reason to vote for Kevin Stine:  He is the next generation. He is feisty and willing to speak frankly. He has paid dues as a citizen, serving 9 years as a Navy submariner and now as a Medford City Council person. We need some people in their 30s in the legislature, and prosperous professionals have plenty of representation already. We could use some smart, compassionate, politically savvy legislators who actually do hands-on work with poor and working people. If that is what the voter wants, Stine is the guy..

Could Stine win the general?  Yes.  Stine would surprise the upstate Democratic campaign apparatus were he to win, but they would immediately support him. Stine's campaign might match Gomez' head to head, GOP money versus Democratic money. In the matchup contrast to Stine, Gomez would look like the privileged Chamber of Commerce Republican versus the working person Democratic liberal. Stine's political positions would be acceptable to Ashland progressives, but Stine might add the blue collar Democratic vote that was lost to Hillary in 2016.  Stine could win with that coalition.


Julian Bell
There would be reason to vote for Julian Bell.  Bell would represent a desire by voters to support non-politician types who involve the public directly in political decisions to get consent and buy-in. There is a Common Cause and League of Women Voters tone to Bell. He isn't trying to get voters to trust him; he is trying to get voters to understand the issues with facts and reason. Some voters will think it is high time we had that kind of transparency and fact sharing, and for them, Bell is the right candidate.


Could Bell win the general?  Possibly, yes, but maybe not. Bell, too, would surprise the upstate Democratic campaign apparatus, and he would worry them. They would perceive him as extreme and inner-directed, and his opposition to the Jordan Cove pipeline is so intense that labor groups would split. Bell voted for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2016, and Bell communicates that he is not a team player or compromiser in politics. As Bell said at a campaign event, why compromise with people who are dead wrong?  Bell has integrity and consistency, and since he is fact-based rather than constituency-based, I expect he could have difficulty uniting the Democratic party behind him. He would get the enthusiastic support of Ashland liberal environmentalists, and that is a start, and Bell can defend his positions. But there is a problem.  Politics isn't logical. In medicine, people want an accurate diagnosis and treatment, but in politics people want to be understood and agreed with. Bell could have problems in the campaign, and Kate Brown, who Bell criticizes and ran against, might not support him.

Athena Goldberg
There would be reason to vote for Athena Goldberg. She is an appealing, progressive female candidate, young enough to have a long career, smart enough to learn the ropes, and has already demonstrated she can win friends and alliances. Voters who recognize that legislative politics isn't just about well-reasoned policy positions, but is instead about pulling together coalitions might well think Athena Goldberg is perfect. This blog has contrasted her knowledge base unfavorably against Jeff Golden's, but in fact she knows enough and she believes it firmly. She knows who the reliable progressive agents of change are, and she is with them, so a voter could team up with her in good conscience.

Could Goldberg win the general? Yes. It would be a classic head-to head vote between two professional women, Republican Gomez vs. Democratic Goldberg.  Both candidate are new faces, both would be learning the details of policy at the same time, and each would have upstate mentors and advocates. Their race wold exemplify the hardened political positions of Oregon politics: labor versus industry, trial lawyers versus insurance companies, employees versus employers, services versus tax opponents, Democrats versus Republicans. If the battleground comes down to parties, then Goldberg has the edge because Democrats have an edge in registration and Trump has damaged the Republican brand.

Jeff Golden
There would be reason to vote for Jeff Golden.  Golden knows a lot, both about the issues and about Salem politics, having been Chief of Staff to the former state senate president. That means a lot to me and I suspect many other voters, but I recognize its limitations. Legislative bodies want loyal soldiers, not independent thinkers. I expect to vote for Jeff Golden because I favor the muddling and complications of a few independent thinker and Golden would be one of those, not a soldier.. I have concerns about the Democratic lock-step adoption of anti-Trump positions and the full embrace of Bernie on economics and Hillary on culture.

In fact, though, Jeff Golden (like all the Democrats) is a liberal and Golden has internalized and adopted those policies as a matter of his conscience. Therefore, I don't expect him to be the "centrist" candidate of the four, but I do consider that Golden--like Julian Bell--to be strongly independent in his thinking, and therefore more likely to question Democratic orthodoxy and political authority. Golden has more practice than does Bell in communicating empathetic engagement with alternative views. Golden is more kumbaya; Bell is more black and white, at least in politics.  Therefore,  I think Golden would have more success than Bell in a legislative setting.  Golden might be a liberal disrupter, while Goldberg and Stine would be less inclined, I think, to disrupt.

Some liberal readers will disagree with me, but I think the legislature, almost certainly one with a Democratic majority, needs more disrupters and questioners and fewer soldiers. So that is why I am voting for Golden.

Could Golden win the general? Yes, but it will be complicated. Golden will get massively outspent. I do not believe that the upstate GOP will have the self-discipline to avoid doing what they like to do: spend most of a million dollars simultaneously trashing Golden and praising their candidate Gomez. If Golden is the nominee the election will be asymmetric, with voters getting tons of mail and other media praising her, with relatively little for Golden, because he won't have that upstate PAC money.

Will that cause Golden to lose? Maybe, but I think not.  I think the size of the Gomez campaign will communicate an unintended message: upstate money propping up a puppet agent, versus a local independent person. A media onslaught imbeds a message of out-of-District manipulation, and that syncs up with a Democratic message of GOP-Trump-Koch Brothers takeover. Gomez would be a victim here, being associated with the nasty and partisan gubernatorial race taking place simultaneously. She won't be able to control her own message, which is unfair to Gomez, but a likely outcome. Golden versus Gomez would be Democratic David vs. GOP Goliath, local vs. upstate, clean money vs. PACs. This will energize partisanship.  Democrats will turn out. With Golden as her opponent, Gomez is in a dilemma: either don't spend money or let it be spent on her behalf by her PACs, and let the better well-known Golden win, or spend lots of money and look like a tool of outsiders.

Showing my work.  Math teachers in high school sometimes instruct test takers to "show your work."  They don't just want the answer, they want to see how a student got there.  I attempt here to show my own work and my own process. Voters with other goals will make other choices.

4 comments:

Rick Millward said...

Out of the 30 state Senators only 8 are women, about a quarter, while they compromise more than half the population. For no other reason this underrepresentation needs to be addressed.

Women are an oppressed majority. When they step up and present credentials and a passion for public service it should be rewarded.

All the Democratic candidates for the seat are admirable, but our governing needs a fundamental reorganization that can only be accomplished by correcting this cultural imbalance. Now more than ever, as we face venal men (and complicit women, unfortunately) attempting to dismantle the Republic.

sharryb said...

thanks for all the commentary on the candidates. It is really helpful to look at such good choices from different perspectives, including can they win the general. I also appreciate Rick's comment about needing more women. I am not planning to vote for Athena Goldberg for this position, but she is now on my radar. I hope she will remain in politics, government and be ready for the next time or another position.

Kathy Conway said...

As a math teacher who always graded on "work," not the "answer," this deserves an A+. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Alan Journet said...

I certainly endorse Peter's comments about Jeff Golden. While I agree with Rick that we need many more women and minorities holding elective office, in this race we definitely need the candidate who is the most informed and competent on the issues, the most likely to stand up to the political machinations that water ideas down, and the most resistant to the Trumpist agenda that is reflected in current Republicanism.
I also firmly believe Jeff is the best candidate, and has the best campaign, to fend off the onslaught of outside money that will be coming in to the Gomez campaign.
While I also agree that all candidates have solid values, Jeff's expertise and experience holding office and in the legislature give him the background to understand the job and hit the ground running.