Monday, April 30, 2018

Jennifer Neahring: "the woman doctor."

Candidate Jenni Neahring puts up a make-or-break advertisement.

Neahring got into the campaign late, and is not as well known as Jamie McLeod-Skinner or Jim Crary. 

Click HERE to go to her website and video.
It is too late to shake enough hands to win. She needs a powerhouse ad, and the money to get her name and identity out there.  

Which one of the seven is she? She is the woman doctor. She seems to be betting that this is enough. 

Her campaign created an ad. Click the caption. Here is the verbatim text of the video:

"I've moved to Oregon twenty years ago.  Like many of you, I was drawn by Oregon's unique values and way of life. Oregonians are kind and fair. We value rewarding hard work, supporting our families, and coming together to build healthy communities. As a physician and problem solver, I am committed to bringing innovative solutions to the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Help send me to Washington on May 15th. Vote Jenni Neahring for Congress. I'm Jenni Neahring and I approved this message."

There are a succession of images.  A viewer of the ad takes them in unconsciously, but by reading them one actually notices what flashed by:
   ***A Jenni Neahring logo.
   ***Photo of white-coated Neahring, with stethoscope, talking to an apparent patient or voter.
   ***Neahring wearing a plaid shirt outdoors in ranch land 
   ***Neahring wearing a tee shirt at playground with young children climbing on play structure
   ***Hikers, presumably Neahring, on rocky trail
   ***Flash of Neahring at viewpoint, gazing
   ***Flash of farmer on John Deere green equipment
   ***Flash of Neahring listening to white haired man
   ***Flash of white haired man holding a dog in book lined room
   ***Flash of Neahring listening to unseen person
   ***Flash of sparks flying in an apparent foundry or welding shop
   ***Neahring walking toward camera on a trail, beside white haired man
Neahring outdoors
   ***Neahring walking toward camera on a trail, beside white haired man--close up shot
   ***Neahring in close-up, wearing white coat, looking interested and concerned with apparent patient who is wearing the same plaid shirt as the trail walker, now defining him as a voter, not a patient.
   ***Neahring in still shot, wearing white doctor's jacket

What did the ad actually say?

The ad copy is noteworthy in being a succession of political happy-talk cliche's. It is unusual only in how undisguised is her platitude sharing.  She says Oregonians are kind and fair and they reward hard work, and indeed are uniquely so. Moreover they are special in loving their families and desiring healthy communities. Neahring describes herself is a physician and problem solver for 21st Century problems. Except for her noting she is a physician, every candidate for every office in America, regardless of political party or policy position, could say what she said about their constituency.

What did the ad actually communicate?

Final image of video
The ad communicated she was a doctor who lived in the District, and that she was pleasant and well intentioned.

The ad is the equivalent of the initial conversation at a meeting of strangers: smiles, hello-how-are-you, fine, delighted-to-meet-you, more smiles. Such an interaction is utterly anodyne, but it is not without content and meaning. It assures the two parties that the introduced person has no immediate hostile agenda.  Everything communicated in the ad is communicated in two photos shown above, the outdoor scene and the final scene of Neahring smiling warmly.

Is the ad useful for getting her elected?

I have some concerns. Theoretically, Neahring has a strong case that she is the most electable of the seven candidates. As a physician she has presumed authority on the issue with the strongest case against Walden. Her focus issue has more salience to voters than does Crary's process issue, campaign finance reform. Jamie McLeod-Skinner's overall "story" is more unusual and mentally "sticky" but Neahring's is more relatable and easier to describe succinctly, "the woman doctor." 

My concern comes from the fact that the advertisement is so vey forgettable. The most interesting thing about it is the improbable flattery that Oregonians are by nature kind and fair. When one meets a stranger and engages in the hello-how-are-you-fine-and-you routine, reflect on how often one immediately forgets the name of the person one met. Such interactions are pleasant but forgettable. Just like the ad.

I consider campaign speeches and brochures that say essentially nothing meaningful to be wastes of money and opportunity. I consider this ad to be a likely missed opportunity--except for one possible silver lining. 

There are seven candidates, all of them plausible in one way or another, and all have essentially the same political point of view. It is confusing for voters. Too many choices. The advertisement does communicate one very simple thing about one very simple brand. She is the woman doctor.

That identity does not give anyone a reason to replace Walden with her, but it does make her identifiable within the seven.  That may be enough for the May election.

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.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A close look at Kevin Stine and Julian Bell

Candidate Julian Bell and Kevin Stine define and market their brands.  

They don't have money to spend, but they have a message with focus. Sometimes that is better.

Click: Kevin Stine's videos
This blog has offered this advice to all candidates. Don't bother saying political platitudes (i.e. that you love children and hard work and the American flag.) People tune that out. The only thing you communicate with political happy-talk is that you are a politician who says boring, unbelievable things.

Tomorrow, this blog will look at a campaign video that does exactly that, showing a candidate saying nothing. But today we look at two candidates who actually make the most of a bad situation, the videos by Kevin Stine and Julian Bell.

Julian Bell and Kevin Stine have a big problem. They are not particularly well known, nor do they have money to get well known. That is a formula for losing.  

Julian Bell is visible in climate action circles, and he ran for governor against Kate Brown, but neither made him a household name. Kevin Stine is a Medford city council person, but in the current media environment with hollowed out news organs, Medford council people do not become well known. (Stine, to his political credit, has built a reputation for accessibility with the local TV station reporters and with the newspaper of being available and quotable, so he is the best known of the eight council people.

Bell and Stine use their videos to sharpen and build their brands, and Bell has gotten some visibility by paying Facebook to "boost" their exposure. Their videos hammer out a mentally sticky message. 

"Stine did everything he could"
Kevin Stine: Veteran. Housing. Working people. Stine communicates that he is a veteran, proud of his service, who cares about housing and the problems of working people and does something about it. 

Stine's videos have no consistency of format, other than home-made simplicity. They have a video camera pointed at the subject, either recording the subject talking or hearing Stine in voiceover.  But the message in them that is unmistakable. 

He has a testimonial ad, "Jamie." The woman is a veteran saying she has PTSD from sexual trauma, and that Stine helped her. She looks authentic and persuasive, still damaged from her experience. The grittiness of the video leaves a strong impression. So this is who he works with. So this is who he chooses for an endorsement. Not a high-status businessman or politician, but a woman in pain. This video affirms the Stine biography and story. Stine isn't a secure member of the prosperous professional class and his work doesn't address the problems of comfortable progressive professional in big offices and homes. He works with real people--people who live like the renewed Roseanne on TV, people who are thought invisible to the political class, but visible to Stine and other Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.

More poor people than rich people
The contrast with Jessica Gomez could not be more direct.  Gomez's introductory ad is filled with beautiful people in prosperity, in technology clean-rooms, with big bright smiles. Stine's ad shows poverty and problems in natural light. The median individual income in Jackson County is $27,523. The median household income is under $50,000. Jackson County looks more like Kevin Stine's video than it does Gomez's video. Kevin Stine is talking to the majority, not the minority. 

His video's give a mentally sticky image.

Stine is the young guy, a veteran, a good guy who cares about regular people, and helps them get a place to live. 

That is a good brand for him.

Julian Bell has moved from being the single issue candidate of climate change into a different, more broadly focused one. His videos--and his talk at a public forum in Ashland and on a public radio interview show--now include promotion of a state bank as a potential solution to multiple Oregon problems, including PERS, education funding, infrastructure development, and housing for low income people. Bell has a consistent look to his videos: a close up of Bell speaking right to the camera, presenting a serious explanation on a serious subject.  

Click: Featured Video for Bell
Bell sounds professorial: Oregon collects tax money which are the equivalent of checking and savings deposits in a commercial bank. Oregon can lend them out for financially and socially productive causes, earn interest, borrow against those assets to pay current bills, and earn profits for the taxpayers rather in the way any large commercial bank would. Rather than be a client of Wall Street, Oregon would replace Wall Street.

Some viewers will think it is too good to be true. Some will question whether Oregon will be any better at banking than was Lehman Brothers or Citibank. But the videos cement an impression that makes Bell memorable: he is the serious candidate with a business plan, who takes the time to explain his policy to us. No nonsense. This affirms a mentally sticky image for Julian Bell: 

Bell is the serious doctor guy who explains his ideas on climate and a state bank

This is a good brand for him.

Click: Against Pipeline
Stine and Bell have defined their brands. Voters will know whether the candidate seems appealing or not. Voters who wants a regular guy who does the gritty work of helping poor people get a place to live have their candidate. Voters who want a smart guy with a plan have theirs.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Videos Reveal Democratic Candidates

Democratic Choices for State Senate. Their campaign videos suggest the kind of candidate they are, and legislator they would be.

Today I look at two of them: Jeff Golden and Athena Goldberg.

Democrats have four viable choices on the ballot in the open seat to replace Alan DeBoer who replaced Al Bates. One of them will match up against Jessica Gomez in the general election. Each has professional or political experience sufficient to make them able legislators.

Golden example: Click
Jeff Golden came into the race by far the best known of the four, having done progressive politics in southern Oregon for 40 years, having run for and held offices, and having been on radio and TV talking about community and public policy.  His campaign videos reflect a tone of reflection, thoughtfulness, idealism, and earnestness. Golden often observes that "his side", i.e. progressives, or Democrats, or politicians, or environmentalists, are not fault-free. It is a very Jeff-Golden-ish to observe that Democrats have been in control in Salem, but that there are still problems. "I'm a dissatisfied Democrat," Golden says, and then says we can be better. Oregon can be better. Jeff Golden does not scold, but there is an underlying theme. We--all of us--need to own the problems so that we can all own the solutions. His progressivism holds up a mirror along with his path forward.

Click for Golden Facebook videos  There are about 15 of them. Voters who take time to watch a few will pick up on a theme embedded there, one of responsibility to walk the talk.  We cannot condemn others without being conscious of our own responsibility. A corollary of that thinking is that Golden himself refuses PAC money, even from "good guys", a behavior which has the effect of cooling the enthusiasm of traditionally Democratic-supporting PACs and organizations for Golden. If he won't dance with them, they won't dance with him.  

Some will consider this a strength and a sign of integrity.  Others will consider it standoffish or self-congratulatory, and a political liability.

The overall message of the Jeff Golden videos: he is a consistent, thoughtful, knowledgeable, progressive.  We all can can be and do better, so let's do it together. 

Voters have a choice in this election. Is Jeff Golden's conscientiousness a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe we would rather have something else, a pure advocate, someone clear-headed and certain and unconfused by ambiguities.

Voters have Athena Goldberg as an alternative.

Athena Goldberg's videos make her political case, and are a metaphor and expression of her own value proposition. Click the caption to watch the video. It opens with her striding toward the camera for five seconds. Midway though the video we see another five seconds of her walking briskly forward to shake hands briskly. We see Goldberg in action, moving and engaging, always forward. Goldberg narrates the video with a firm, confident voice. "Together, we an build a stronger, healthier Oregon."

Click: Athena Goldberg "Featured Video"
The video is essentially issue content free. She says Oregon workers need housing and health care--a goal--but with no suggestion of a way to get there other than to elect a "progressive leader." She has one important point of content, saying she will work to fulfill the legacy of the late Alan Bates. She claims the inheritance.

The video sends a simple, powerful message: purpose and progressive politics by a strong woman. It is done essentially wordlessly. Enough with the contemplation! She is a fighter with a purpose. Jeff Golden stands in front of a barn, talking to the camera, speaking of obligations to improve, while Athena Goldberg is in rapid action and engagement, reflecting peppy team spirit and a can-do attitude.

There are other Goldberg videos, including ones of her holding a microphone and voicing solidarity with Providence Hospital nurses and another at a woman's rally. I am with you, she says. The overall impression is of affinity. Her friends know what they want and that is what she needs to know. Goldberg Facebook videos

Golden and Goldberg present two alternative choices. Jeff Golden's value is that he knows what he is doing. Athena Goldberg's is that she knows who her friends are. This helps explain the fact that Athena Goldberg lists multiple endorsers in her voters pamphlet page, while Jeff Golden lists only one--a board on which he served for many years, the League of Conservation Voters.  Golden is on their side because he has deeply internalized their values. The League could also endorse Goldberg because she will reliably advocate for them.

Voters have multiple ways to choose between these two. Man-woman. Familiar-unfamiliar. Experienced-new face.

Jeff Golden might be thought to have a natural advantage here with his deep experience base, and long-standing reputation as a progressive leader. He knows things. He is good at this. He tells us what the thinks, and those are things that progressive Democrats tend to agree with. This should be a slam dunk for him. He is exactly what people think they want.

However, it is possible that voters in the Democratic primary have a different mood, and they actually want something else. Maybe the voter mood is primarily restlessness and impatience, and voters want someone who reflects action. Maybe Golden's experience and knowledge actually work against him.

If impatience is the mood, then Athena Goldberg might surprise people on election night..

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Republican Primary: Gomez

Gomez.  Running unopposed.

Republicans have no other choice, but it is OK.  Gomez is a Republican

I thought for a while she was actually sort of a Democrat, but she isn't.  

[Tomorrow I will write about the Democrats].

There is some buzz going around that since Jessica Gomez is new to the Republican Party, that she might really be a Democrat. After all, she doesn't sound like Trump, or talk radio. She introduced herself to voters with talk about harmony and community, not Mexican rapists.  She spoke about improving education, not cutting taxes to pay for education.  She didn't seem angry and there was nothing about "carnage." The video suggested inclusion and people working together, not white identity and firm borders. America isn't under siege. 

She was hitting Democratic notes, not Trump notes.  

But the Republican Party is bigger than Trump, and there is an older tradition of good government, civic minded Republicanism, and we have intimations that, really, she is a Republican of that older style. A Mark Hatfield-John Dellenback-Bob Packwood Republican.  That makes her Republican-enough.

Plus, she is on the Republican team, even if the team in general sounds more like Trump than Hatfield.

She is writing about fixing PERS. There may in fact be little to do that can change PERS other than to do what has already been done: stop new damage by changing the formula in 2003 to something realistic, and then prepare ourselves mentally to pay for the obligations we incurred under the formulas of the 1980s and 1990s.  Still, she did a Republican thing by bringing up the subject. Anti-tax and anti-public-employee GOP voters want to hear that "something will be done about PERS" and maybe pre-paying some of the obligation will save some money and be constitutional, both.

She lined up with Republican legislators in wanting to give a tax discount on Oregon taxes for "small business", and stuck to that story, even though the beneficiaries are pass-through entities, not actually "small business," and the vast majority of federal benefit goes to people with incomes in the top 2%, especially incomes of people making over $1,000,000 a year.  Jessica Gomez lined up with the GOP team. If it is a tax cut, it must be good, even if it is hit and miss, and even if it disadvantages some people in order to advantage others, and even if it mostly helps millionaires.

Both Pam Marsh, a Democrat, and Alan DeBoer, a Republican have told me that Salem politics is all about  party. Democrats act like Democrats. Republicans act like Republicans.  Few dare cast independent votes or break ranks.  Both Marsh and DeBoer are sick about the situation but they both describe it the same way.  Salem is tribal.

Jessica Gomez is demonstrating the most important thing for the Republican caucus: that she is a loyal teammate. She has adopted the tribe. This means she will get hundreds of thousands of upstate lobby and party money to secure the vote for a Republican--any Republican--so long as she votes with the team, and she has communicated that she will.  

Republican voters can cast a vote for Gomez, knowing she is will be a Republican when it counts.

Do Republican voters have a choice?  No. Earlier blog posts here had mentioned a primary election alternative to Gomez, and  I posted a summary of that candidate's thinking. I then received a series of comments and emails from that candidate. I considered them of such a nature that I consulted an attorney, and was advised to stop writing about that candidate or communicating with him. I deleted his name and expunged all references to that candidate beyond the fact of his expungement. I now consider Gomez to be running unopposed.  

There is no alternative to Gomez in the Republican primary, but GOP voters need not be dismayed.  Gomez is a Republican.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Jessica Gomez ends the honeymoon.

Her video introduction was lovely.  Smiles, everyone happy, community.  That's over.  She is a politician now.

She is defending a tax loophole to help "small business." Most of the benefit goes to the very wealthiest.

It turns out she is a Republican after all.
Jessica Gomez posted in Facebook that she is disappointed that the legislature passed, and Governor Kate Brown signed, a bill that closed a loophole in the Oregon income tax. 

Gomez is making the transition into the hard slog of being a politician.

The new federal tax law allowed certain kinds of businesses characterized as Pass Through entities to get a 20% tax deduction for Qualified Business Income.  

Only some people qualify for the deduction, because it isn't based on being a small business, or jobs created, but rather whether a business is organized as a "pass through" entity or not. Wage earners don't get it. Some types of business aren't eligible, some very big businesses are. Lawyers and accountants are scrambling to see if their clients can reorganize their ownership in order to qualify. Some can, some cannot.

Oregon, by default, would normally adjust its tax rules to comply with the federal code, creating for those lucky people the 20% deduction on the taxes they would pay to the State of Oregon. Senate Bill 1528, signed by Brown, stops that, leaving Oregon's rules as they were. No special treatment for LLCs on Oregon taxes.

In Salem this was argued as a "small business tax increase", and Republican legislators opposed it.  In fact it was a benefit for a certain kind of business structure, neither large nor small, and the Senate Bill kept the status quo in Oregon.

Gomez acted like a Republican soldier here. All Republicans opposed the bill, meaning they wanted the provision extended to Oregon taxes as well. She is a member of the Republican tribe.

Who was really helped by the change in federal law to create the special tax cut for pass through businesses, and should Oregon incorporate that into Oregon law?

The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation published a report. It showed that almost all the dollar benefit goes to the top 2 percent of taxpayers, and with nearly half the benefit going to people earning $1,000,000 or more a year.  That is the small business getting the special tax break federally, then urged by Republican legislators to be extended to Oregon.
Click for the PDF file

This is a problem and opportunity for Gomez. There is a case to be made that very high income people in Oregon feel over-taxed, and they need a courageous new legislative defender, and Jessica Gomez can play that role. Jessica Gomez can make her case that people with incomes above $1,000,000 should have more tax breaks, like the one closed by Senate Bill 1528. Having made out so well with a federal tax cut, they should also do well with a reduction of state taxes. 

It could be a tough sell to the general public. Most Oregonians don't think people making a million dollars a year are "small" anything.

Selling the pass through loophole details on its merits has the difficulty that some people get it and some don't, with no apparent reason in equity or policy. If it is worth doing, why do it via a deduction for certain business organizations, but not others? Is a pass through organization any better for Oregon than a sole proprietorship or C-Corp. A business person whose company makes a medical device might qualify, but if he has multiple stock holders would not.  Why benefit a businessman making a million dollars a year who can organize his business as a pass through, but not a physician working on salary at La Clinica, earning a fraction of that? Is that fair?  The special treatment isn't for "small business." It is for businesses of any size whose accountants can manage to shoehorn their business organization to fit the law.  Forbes Magazine explains some of the quirky inclusions and exclusions:  Click: Good Forbes article  
Click for the lovely video

Jessica Gomez is on record wanting to preserve the Tax Code 199A exemption to the Oregon income tax, that is both haphazard and which primarily benefits the very richest taxpayers. 

She has a problem whatever she does.

If Gomez attempts to wiggle away from defending the special benefit for pass through entities on its merits, she would look weak. She does not have credible GOP primary opposition, but, still, she cannot let herself look disloyal to her GOP team. 

On the other hand, if she defends the special benefit for pass through entities, presenting it as a benefit to "small business" when in fact something with primary benefit to the richest Oregonians she can be made to look out of touch with the average Oregonian. Most Oregonians don't think people with $200,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 incomes need tax breaks. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A close look at campaign Meet-and-Greets

They are important. They aren't a mystery.

President or local office, it is about the same. Meet and greets are a classic way to build a network of supporters. I look closely at two of them.

Presidential Meet and Greet in New Hampshire

I attended a meet-and-greet event for Chris Christie in September of 2015--four months before the New Hampshire primary election. He was considered a likely frontrunner at that point. Donald Trump got bigger crowds, but Trump, then, was considered a novelty candidate, getting crowds because he was famous and controversial and said things that surely made him un-electable. The prevailing thought was that Trump would implode and Chris Christie would be the experienced successor and beneficiary.

Meet and Greet phase
Chris Christie had a meet and greet. It was advertised widely. I attended.  It would be a chance to meet the next president, maybe.

Here is what I saw:

1.  Widespread advertisement of the event, and the clear goal was to get people there. Invitations were published in the Candidate Tracking news sites and Republican newsletters. It was advertised to the public and the public was invited. Come and meet Chris Christie!

2. The venue was an upper-middle class type private home with a big front yard on a Sunday afternoon. The hosts served desserts, cheese, crackers, pate, chips, all things that could be eaten without a plate. They served wine and beer and sparkling water in plastic cups.  My estimate of the food cost for the Christie event is $250. There was food for fifty or sixty.

3. The hosts were politically active; the husband a sitting County Commissioner, which in New Hampshire is a part time job paying about $20,000 a year. The host was an attorney.

4. When guests arrive they were met by campaign volunteer staff, who captured the guest's name, address, phone, willingness to volunteer. 

5. Time table for the 90 minute event:
  35 minutes: Informal wandering around and chatting between candidate and guests.
It turns out he is not the next president.
   5 minutes:  Host goes to raised spot, he thanks everyone for coming, and then the host says nice things about the candidate.
  15 minutes: Christie goes to the raised steps, thanks the host, then gives his stump speech saying why he should be elected president. 
  15 minutes: Candidate takes questions by the attendees. (I asked him about Bridge-gate.  He said he barely knew the perpetrators.)
   5 minutes:  A well-regarded guest goes to the steps, thanks the candidate and then then does the "ask"--i.e. a call to action in the form of general support or a financial donation.
  20 minutes: Christie leaves amid people wanting to buttonhole the candidate.

6. No media attended, although photographer David Kennerly was there on assignment from some news magazine to take photos only.

7. Headcount: about 40 people.

Michelle Blum Atkinson 

What happened at the event for Michelle Blum Atkinson? Essentially the same thing.

Michelle Blum Atkinson arrived early, bringing lawn signs and donation envelopes. Two campaign volunteers also arrived early and set themselves up to help greet and log in guests. Guests arrived approximately on time. The candidate made the rounds greeting people. Guests ate the food and drank the wine--more red than white.

After about 35 minutes a former county commissioner (i.e. me) introduced the candidate. She spoke for about 15 minutes and answered questions for another 15. Former State Representative Peter Buckley went to the microphone and urged people to support her--i.e. "the ask." Current State Representative Pam Marsh spoke about how useful it would be for this seat to be held by a Democrat and re-affirmed the call for support for the candidate.  

Then the candidate resumed visiting with guests.

No media attended, although photographer Allen Hallmark was there as a volunteer taking photographs, including all the photos shown here. (Thank you, Allen.)

Time: about 90 minutes. Headcount about 30 people.

What was different? We had live music playing during the meet-and-greet period by a band that called themselves "No Collusion" consisting of Rick Millward, Art Baden, and Tom Fuhrmark, who volunteered their service. The music defined the event as a bit more informal and party-like than it would have been without it.

Democracy in America. This is how it is done. The events cause networks of "endorsements", i.e. the hosts are communicating to the many people invited that they like the candidate, then people who attend tell others that they saw and liked the candidate. People often contribute financially in response to the call to action. and write checks, take lawn signs, etc.

The most important element to the meet-and-greet gathering is the invitation.  The New Hampshire county commissioner and the Republican party in the area placed advertising, associating the county commissioner and Chris Christie and inviting the public. Thousands of people would have seen the invitation. 

In the event for Michelle Blum Atkinson, I sent an invitation to a hundred local attorneys, to 250 people in my email address book, to 200 Democratic precinct committee people, and to hundreds of local Facebook friends, totaling perhaps 800 people. This is fewer than were reached by Chris Christie, but still significant. The invitation is a kind of endorsement advertisement and referral.

Photos of the event:


Former Rep. Peter Buckley did the call to action
State Rep. Pam March praises the candidate
Attendee Lee Murdoch
Lawn signs available for pickup

Refreshments are traditional. 
Left to right: Baden, Millward, Fuhrmark.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Greg Walden: Safe from the Right.

Greg Walden sounds moderate but votes hard right. The GOP moved, and Walden moved with it. He protected himself on the right.

But he still sounds like Good ol' Greg Walden. Nice guy. Unflappable.

The Greg Walden in the popular mind of many Republican voters is the mild-mannered, Main Street, Chamber of Commerce Republicanism of Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney.  In the District he looks and sounds the part.

Mild and calm amid angry crowd.
Primary Threat. Some Republican incumbents are facing competition from the populist Trumpist right. Polls show GOP voters back Trump, and the winning GOP style is Trump populism-nationalism. Steve Bannon threatened a primary attack on every Republican Senator except Ted Cruz. Incumbents watched Richard Lugar in Indiana lose a primary election, and up and coming House leader Eric Cantor--with a presumed 30 point lead in the polls--lose to a Tea Party insurgent. The word went out: the real risk to an incumbent in a safe seat was from an insurgent on the right.

Walden was theoretically vulnerable. His tone is not Trumpist. He is mellow-establishment, not insurgent. Primary challenges to people like Walden are emerging. For example, Mark Sanford, GOP Representative in South Carolina, faces Katie Arrington, an unabashed Trump-supporting Republican, who calls Sanford the "Jeff Flake of Congress."  The shooting in Parkland, Florida created pressure on GOP incumbents to be "flexible" on gun registration and on assault type rifles, which creates a risk. Anything less than a pure "A" rating from the NRA gives a GOP incumbent's opponent an opening to attack from the right, but which might leave the incumbent looking insensitive to gun violence.

It is a dilemma. CNN reports the comments of a GOP strategist in Florida: "Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  If you don't, you may not win the nomination. If you do, you may not win the general election."  Click 

A strong Republican primary challenger might have pushed Walden to the right.  

Greg Walden has no primary threat. 

Paul Romero, Jr., who calls himself a Constitutional Conservative, filed against him as a Republican. A person with a "Constitutional Conservative" label would be the trademark signal of an opponent on the Tea Party insurgent Trumpist right.  

Romero shows no sign of a viable campaign. He holds no public office and has what he calls a "low budget, grassroots campaign" using his own personal funds. He cites some issues, none of which are a real threats to Walden. Romero wants to protect Social Security, citing a 1999 vote by Walden. Romero says he opposes illegal immigration, supports good federal land management, says he supports more jobs, wants to lower taxes, supports the 2nd Amendment, supports keeping dams, and supports term limits. All of these are standard GOP positions, none of which are directly a threat to Walden, except term limits. On the hot issue, guns, Walden has an "A" rating from the NRA. and is one of the top recipient of NRA financial support. 

Romero's only real criticism of Walden is that Walden has become wealthy and powerful while serving as a Congressman, and that he can no longer relate to his constituents. It is a powerful argument if he could make it with force, and it echoes what Democrats are saying.  But he is nearly invisible. I see no sign of campaign beyond a few personal appearances, the Voters Pamphlet, his website, and a personal Facebook page. 

Webpage:    Facebook:  Click: Romero Facebook 

An Independent candidate, Mark R. Roberts, is the sole filer on the Independent ballot slot, but at this point his campaign focus appears to be running a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot. He has both an active web page and frequently updated Facebook page.

Roberts' billboard
Webpage: Shake a Million Hands  and  Facebook: Mark Roberts  

The activity of his Facebook page suggest an intent to run a real campaign, but his omission from the Voters Pamphlet suggests the opposite. In any case, billboard advertisements urging people to write in "Roberts" instead of voting for Walden is not a viable insurgency.

If Roberts could raise and spend money he might be a significant factor. He has detailed policy positions and he makes direct criticisms of Walden.

What this means for the general election 

It means Walden is safe in presenting himself to the voters as Mr. Nice Guy moderate. The near invisible agitation from the right helps Walden. Walden gets to tell donors that he has been pressured from the crazy Tea Party fringe, which positions Walden as some kind of responsible centrist within GOP establishment donor circles.  

Every Democratic candidate has a parallel criticism of Walden. The Democratic message: Walden isn't what he appears to be. He became a captive of the Trump-Tea Party-GOP caucus. Look what he did on the ACA. Walden is part of the Republican House disfunction that cannot even keep a Speaker. 

It would have been an easier argument to make if Walden had needed to protect himself from the right and have associated himself with Tea Party radicals. But he didn't.