A Devil on Each Shoulder: Oregon’s Race for Governor


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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52 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “Those of you who come in with me now will receive a big piece of the pie. Those of you who delay, and commit yourselves later, will receive a smaller piece of pie. Those of you who don’t come in at all will receive – Good Government!” usually attributed to Huey LongReport

  2. Avatar Kim says:

    Sometimes, you vote.
    Sometimes, you vote with your feet.
    Sometimes, you call the fucking FBI.

    As choice three appears to be happening without your intimate involvement, I would like to congratulate you on living in a good (non-corrupt) state. And remind you that at any debate, you ought to be asking, “When/If Kitz goes to jail, who’s our governor? And what do they think about the issues?”Report

  3. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Frankly, the thing I have no problem with is the immigration thing. In the grand scheme of things, there was really no harm done here, especially compared to the policies that other politicians support that kill thousands of people a year, but because it’s done in the name of our system of legalized bribery, it’s all good.Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    Can the idiot do more damage in 4 years than the crook will almost certainly do? If the answer is no, sending the Democrats a message, one that says that they’re not so secure in their dominance of state government that they can do whatever the hell they want without worrying about being reelected, seems like a good strategy. If yes, then go with the crook and hope an idiot who might be less destructive comes around next time.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

      In addition to your calculus, I’d add that re-electability matters. Which sorta stacks the deck a bit towards the minority party in a politically lopsided state since the member of the opposing party is likely to face a tougher road to re-election.

      Relatedly: I’m really, really glad I never had to vote in the Duke-Edwards election.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Chris says:

      Political parties, like rugs, need regular beatings to keep clean.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I remember Kitz from his former gubernatorial stint. I always thought he was one of those slightly naive but good hearted Dems. It’s a bit sad to hear about the corruption.

    I remember Sizemore as well. Heh. I never thought he was good hearted.

    My approach on these is to consider voting third party, if there’s a candidate who offends me less, or just don’t vote that part of the ballot. T’ain’t no crime. If I was to choose between the two, though, I’d go with a dope over a crook.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

      I concurr with Chris and the Prof. The Dems need regular kicks in the groins to keep them semi-useful. It seems to me that this is a striking example of it. Vote the dope; his capacity to do genuine harm is going to be limited by advisors, the institution and the legislature. Worst case scenario he turns out crooked or kooky and in either of those cases being an idiot will likely expose him and hopefully the Dems will produce a competant ordinary pol to replace him.

      Or if you wish to remain pure as the driven snow vote for a third party candidate who speaks to you. Go ahead, throw your vote away!*

      *At which point Jason K parachutes in wearing red flannel devil pajamas and points out that voting is irrational and pointless in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

        Jason’s right (except when he’s not, and I can show you stats on governmental responsiveness to prove it)
        But propaganda isn’t pointless, is it?
        Neither is calling the FBI — or running a political campaign.

        Saying voting is pointless should be a call for the rest of us shmucks to do more, not less.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to North says:

        The one thing I worry about is that if you elect a truly incompetent Republican, and this guy looks like he might be just such a Republican, you end up only strengthening the Democrats complacency, because the electorate will be so wary of voting for a Republican that Democrats can get away with doing even less non-corrupt stuff and even more corrupt stuff.

        In Texas, we’ve had 14 years of a governor who enriched himself through the office, has basically given away state money to his buddies, and sold or given his buddies control of virtually every aspect of the state government, and he’s gotten away with it largely because there is no way a Democrat is going to beat him and Republicans who might have were too afraid of him (or incompetent, as KBH turned out to be). His popularity ratings among state Republicans have been incredibly low, and he still hasn’t been challenged. Hell, he’s basically appointed his successor. This is what a complete and utter lack of viable alternatives gets you.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        As a unapologetic partisan the prospect that the GOP will fish it up so bad that they stain their repuation for a long time is not something that bothers me. Lord(Lady?) knows I feel like they’re due for it on some level.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North says:

        After 2010 and how quickly people turned on Obama once he hadn’t cleaned up 8 years of messes in 18 months, I think that day is far, far away @North and your average voter is far too quick to forget or even realize what the causes of the problems within the country are.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to North says:

        After 2010 and how quickly people turned on Obama once he hadn’t cleaned up 8 years of messes in 18 months…

        Is there an official name for this particular way of keeping time?

        You have the Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew calendar, the lunar calendar… and the Partisan calendar.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North says:

        @j-r I’m going by the fact that the polls had turned against Obama by the middle of 2010. The loss in 2010 was already baked in the cake by the summer of 2010. Maybe I should’ve said 20 months to indicate when the polls really shifted against Obama and the Democrat’s in ’10.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    When one of my best friends from college was applying for grad school, she looked at some universities in and around Portland. Her general feeling of Oregon was that outside of Portland, Eugene, and some other cities, things got very red and very fundie very quickly and she did not like this as an LGBT person. Her prospective is that her native New England state and California and others allow her to be LGBT openly in a wider variety of areas. She seemed to think (reasonably or not) she could be out and open in Portland but not right out of Portland.

    YMMV obviously.

    I have no doubt about your characterization of the moderate GOP senator but the problem is that when you have political parties is that sometimes you vote for the party. Yes North and Chris are making points but it really doesn’t matter unless one likes committing ritual suicide from time to time. Control of Congress matters and there is plenty of evidence that the most conservative Democratic Party Senator is still going to vote for Democratic priorities more often than the most liberal Republican. People still with their parties usually. I think your moderate GOPer can sound reasonable on the campaign trail but become on reasonable when in office because of the realities of the parties.

    Now this can be another example of IITE or why we should get rid of political parties but neither is going to happen. People do have ideologies, it is in our nature. If we did not have ideologies, there would be a million happy technocrats being able to rule like the Guardian Class from Plato’s Republic and we would be in a utopia (or dystopia). Political parties make sense because they are people with like-minded goals finding strength in numbers. Nothing could be more human.Report

    • The argument on this is stronger for legislators than executives, in my view. With legislators, views are most important and the party vote (for speaker or majority leader) is party line. So I can understand that.

      But if you would vote for Edwin Edwards over Buddy Roemer for governor, you are going to have a hard time convincing me you care about good government.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Give me a sinner who will pass single payer health care and repeal Taft vs Hartley over a saint who will destroy the EPA and pass anti-choice laws, every damn day.

        Good government is important, but it’s not the most important thing. Then again, one of my political heroes is LBJ, so your mileage may vary.Report

      • The thing is that in this case, we may well be talking about someone whose corruption basically ensured that the state’s health exchange would be an abysmal failure.

        It’s all well and good to overlook corruption and incompetence when you’re talking about a legislator, but when you’re talking about an executive, corruption and incompetence mean that having all the “right” positions on your litmus tests will approximately amount to diddly-squat.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        I have to agree with Jesse here.

        There are more important things than good government.

        YMMV because I am of the school that a little pork barrel politics does not hurt that much and makes bipartisanship more possible. “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.” I think the usual term for this is “honest graft.”

        I am also of the theory that good government is somewhere high up on Manslow’s heirarchy of needs. Look at the recent NY Primary for Governor. The good government candidate won easily in the wealthy Northern suburbs of NYC. She was absolutely crushed by Cuomo in NYC. So the minority and poorer voters in NYC had their own sense of agency and own needs and priorities for voting for Cuomo. You can care about good government when you are recession or economy proof more or less.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

        @mark-thompson At least Oregon has an exchange, as opposed to the various Republican states who don’t have any. Again, if there’s actual corruption, fine,.root it out.

        But after the election, so the Lt. Governor won’t turn over every good policy Kitzhaber has.Report

      • I’m not talking about a little pork barrell politics. I’m talking about stuff that is illegal and that you can (and in Edwards’ case, did) go to jail for. Different Louisiana politician, but I’m talking about $20,000 of cash in a freezer.

        If you would take that over a moderate Republican, that’s certainly your prerogative. It’s also another reason for me to be skeptical of all of the problems that government can solve if we just let it. Faith in government and good government are not actually unrelated things.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman @mark-thompson

        Can you think of actual and real world examples where you would have told Republicans to vote for the Democratic candidate instead of the allegedly very corrupt and/or incompetent Republican incumbent?Report

      • I can think of several, but that’s also missing the point. It’s incredibly hard to have much faith in government’s ability to solve problems (rather than just do stuff that purports to solve problems) if proven and persistent corruption (not pork barrel politics, actual corruption) isn’t going to be a disqualifying factor for executive branch candidates.

        Though I am a bit amused by the notion that actual bribery and corruption should be no big deal, but allowing outside groups to spend money on advertisements to express their opinion around election time signals the death knell for democratic government.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        This is a great question and i don’t find either sides answer completely satisfying. I want good gov so it is necessary to not vote for excessive corruption although that should really be dealt with in the justice system. But electing an honest guy who would do a number of things i think are bad that would harm people ( that could be fighting gay marriage or squelching HC as examples) isn’t all that easy to do. Going off of Saul’s comment it might be easy for a straight person for vote for the honest guy who is against gay marriage but what about gays who want to marry? Or someone w/o HC. It is nice to say they will have good honest gov but still lack HC. But Will and Mark’s points are well taken. If corruption goes unchecked it leads to a loss of trust but also good polices being poorly implemented which liberals need to care about.

        This requires a complex balancing of various priorities to figure out what matters most.Report

      • I quite agree with @greginak that there is a balancing act involved. Which is why I find the dismissal of good government to be way too one-dimensional (as much “I would never vote for a corrupt person”)

        I totally understand someone who would vote for Edwin Edwards over David Duke (I might have myself). I can understand looking at this situation and going with Kitzhaber. Or looking at a particular politician and arguing that despite his corruption he has done so much more good than harm. I have a lot more difficulty with the gravity of the offense(s) being secondary to the alternative being a Republican (any Republican).

        This is especially true if there was not even an attempt to unseat them in the primary.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Because @will-truman I believe the long-term consequences of a completely non-corrupt (even though let’s be honest here, the type of deals Kitzhaber are in trouble over sound like the same type of deals both parties get in trouble for) Republican government are far worse than the consequences of a corrupt Democratic government, in my view.

        Maybe if it was the GOP of the 70’s or 80’s, I could see the reason for voting for them. Hell, even if there was real corruption like what seems endemic to both parties in New York or the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, I could see the reasoning, especially if in Massachusetts, you have a veto-proof Democratic legislature.

        But in Oregon? With frankly, what seems like the normal amount of “giving your friends access to government contracts” bs that happens with both parties? When both the State House and Senate isn’t as Democratic-dominated as you may think? Nah, not worth the risk.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Jesse, i don’t disagree about R gov being worse. It would in the long term work well for the D’s, and R’s actually, to proactively squelch excessive corruption. When one party has power for to long they get so used to being corrupt they end up bringing about their own fall. The D’s in Oregon would have been smart to either find someone else or have some Serious People have a talk with the gov about how he is leading them to an eventual hard fall if the corruption gets to bad.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

        Give me a sinner who will pass single payer health care and repeal Taft vs Hartley over a saint who will destroy the EPA and pass anti-choice laws, every damn day.
        Good government is important, but it’s not the most important thing. Then again, one of my political heroes is LBJ, so your mileage may vary.

        This is revealing, Jesse. It means either you conveniently ignore the 800,000+ deaths from the Vietnam war because it’s too uncomfortable for your model of the sinful-but-great statesman, or you think that 800,000+ deaths are merely a peccadillo, and a price well worth paying to pay to get the Civil Rights Act (not that anyone’s asking the victims how they feel about that).

        Your approach looks to me like a variant of the benevolent dictator fantasy, which is an essentially juvenile fantasy.

        LBJ is a complex figure. He was a vile person who undermined democracy by stealing elections and blatantly lying to Congress about the Gulf if Tonkin. He reveled in personally humiliating people, from making his aides stand beside him while he was shitting and wiping his ass to falsely pretending they had to call the Attorney General to get the oath of office, just to rub salt in RFK’s wounds moments after his brother was killed. But he made more effort to help the kids of the shithole south Texas town where he taught for a year than did anyone else he did their obligatory one year tour there, and of course he pushed the CRA through with all his might. But then he also resisted the Voting Rights Act, until pressured by Civil Rights Leaders.

        Adults don’t give hero worship to anyone, really, but especially not to such a man. You appreciate the good things he did, condemn the bad, and struggle to understand the intense contradictions in his personality. But to call such a person a hero is to either ignore his viciously nasty side or to heroize it.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

        @james-hanley , I’ll be honest. We were going to kill a whole lot of people in foreign countries no matter what during the 60’s and 70’s simply due to the consensus on foreign policy between both parties and frankly, the vast majority of the populace, so in my view, foreign policy’s a wash either way. I don’t believe the myth JFK was going to get us out of Vietnam or that RFK would if he somehow managed to win in ’68.

        It was terrible, it was awful, but it was what any President was going to do at that point, so I gotta’ look at the positive that was done. Yeah, I’m privileged, because as an America, I can think like that.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

        That’s funny, Jesse. I seem to remember that a Republican got us out of Korea instead of increasing the kill rate.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      There’s an odd naïveté in thinking you’ll get good government programs if you don’t have good government. At best you’ll get programs that have the superficial appearance of programs you like, but that are themselves corrupt and not really serving the people you want to serve in the way you want to serve them.

      Look around the world–corrupt governments are not serving their populations as well as good government governments.Report

  7. Avatar j r says:

    I say vote for a third party candidate or just don’t vote at all.

    Considering the mathematical reality of what a single vote means, I cannot understand the idea that you should vote for someone you don’t like just to vote against someone else.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to j r says:


      Indeed. You won’t change the outcome of the election, so if you’re going to vote, only vote for a candidate you don’t mind associating yourself with.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James K says:

        only vote for a candidate you don’t mind associating yourself with.

        But I’d like to vote at least once in my life, just to see what it’s like.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James K says:

        As in many things, there are elections, and then there are the elections folks pay attention to. Voter participation rate effects a whole hell of a lot of local governance (city officials show up to our block party, ready to listen to our concerns, for god’s sake!), including police protection and your basic “good governance” duties (repainting the crosswalks).Report

  8. Avatar Mr. Blue says:

    For those singing the virtues of party loyalty, would you vote for Neil Goldschmidt if he was the Democratic nominee and you knew what he did? Would you defend him against calls for his resignation if the lieutenant governor were a Republican?

    This isn’t a case of professional corruption, but I doubt I could ever vote for him whether a Republican or a Democrat. I’m curious if the partisans see it differently and why or why not.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Mr. Blue says:

      I think if those allegations come out during office, the candidate is usually forced to resign by pressure from the media, his or her party, the public and both.

      However if an allegation like that were to come out and the politician did not resign and somehow survived a primary. I would not vote for him or her.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mr. Blue says:

      Apparently you don’t understand how important a health care exchange is. If a few 13 year old eggs have to be broken to make the health care omelette, that’s just a price “we” will have to pay.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:


        Completely irrelevant because Goldschmidt was governor of Oregon long before the healthcare exchanges. If you are going to be angry at people supporting Kitzhaber, you should at least give the examples of what he did. Did Kitzhaber sleep with 13 year old girls? No. Did I say I would vote for Goldscmidt? No.

        Goldschimdt’s crime was revealed after he was out of politics. If the revelation happened while he was in politics, he almost certainly would have been thrown out of office.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        thanks for the clarification.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        Bit @saul-degraw , what do we do with the people who enabled Goldscmidt and allowed him to keep doing what he was doing? They run the party that runs the state right now.

        To just say, “well, Neil isn’t in office anymore so what can you do” kind of does exactly what James says.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:


        The only answer is to go to local party meetings and become the new power. I also don’t know the extent of the coverup.

        This is not easy but not all problems have easy solutions.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        1. ” If you are going to be angry at people supporting Kitzhaber,”
        What stimulated the word choice “angry”?

        2. If your defense of breaking eggs comes down to “that particular egg wasn’t broken for that particular omelet, it’s other eggs that are getting broken, so it’s all ok,” then you missed my point completely.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        @saul-degraw Well of course there are no “easy” answers in life, but in this case there actually is a far easier one than the only one that occurs to you.

        If you have a deeply corrupt political party, you *could* go to party meetings and try to wrestle away control — or you could not vote for them at the ballot box. Which I believe is the essence of the point @james-hanley is making here.

        FTR, the people who appear to have known about Goldscmidt’s crimes and continued to cover and hire him before Willamette Week broke the story include the current and past governor, the past few AGs, and the state’s highest ranking state police officers over the past few decades.

        When you shrug your hands and say, “what are ya gonna do, it’s the party that is for the Affordable Care Act, I can’t vote for the other guys,” then James is right. You’re absolutely, positively saying that if you can get what you want now, you’re OK those broken eggs — which, when you think about it, is pretty much t what the Dems here in Oregon did for Goldscmidt when they covered for him.

        I mean, sure, it’s may be choice out of a series of bad choices, but it’s still a choice you’re making.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        “I can’t hold my people accountable because the other guys are sooooo bad” makes sense when the other side are likely to cancel future elections if they win one. Short of that, it’s just excuse-making.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        Or assassinate the president in order to “win the election.”

        I’d also put down “create the need for martial law for most of our population…”Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Mr. Blue says:

      My working hypothesis these days has two parts. The first is that the National Republican Party has lost its collective mind and can’t be trusted with the reins of power. The second is that state and local Republicans are enablers, unless proven otherwise. I’m not all that thrilled with the Democrats either, but they’re the only other group in town with a realistic probability of defeating the Republican candidates. What do you call party anti-loyalty?

      In this case, for the office of governor in a solidly blue state, I’d probably vote for a third-party candidate if there were one that I could live with.Report

  9. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I would need to know more about the two candidates.

    Is the corrupt one derelict in his duties as he lines his pockets? Or does he more-or-less do a good job but still looks out for numero uno?

    Is the incompetent one a crazy person? Or just a bit daft?

    I’d probably lean toward the latter because the former seems to have demonstrated that he won’t do his job well while the latter has only given a strong indication that he won’t.Report