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Oregon’s Biggest Political ‘Turkeys’ of the Year

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Photo Credit: iStock

This Thanksgiving holiday, GoLocalPDX brings you this year’s biggest political turkeys.

Monica Wehby 

Perhaps the GOP’s most viable candidate going into the U.S. Senate race in Oregon, Portland neurosurgeon Monica Wehby ran a campaign that went from bad to worse. Weaknesses in Wehby’s candidacy emerged early on when reports surfaced that she had allegedly stalked her former boyfriend and ex husband. Shortly thereafter Freedom Partners—the Koch brothers’ fundraising PAC—pulled their funding from Wehby’s campaign. 

Wehby showed a glimpse of tact when she courted the endorsement of one of the plaintiff couples in the same-sex marriage court case, and thereby increased her appeal to independents and “socially progressive, fiscally conservative” voters. 

Nevertheless Wehby never seemed to fully recover from her initial missteps. It didn’t help that she was regularly (and mysteriously) absent from interviews. She repeatedly declined invitations to debate her opponent and she missed a scheduled interview with the Willamette Week (all her opponents showed up on time).  

Will Wehby ever have a second shot at Oregon politics? Seems unlikely. 

Terry Bean 

Once beloved in many Oregon progressive circles, people aren’t sure what to make of Terry Bean anymore. Referred to as “a pioneer of the LGBT movement,” Bean developed a national reputation for giving generously to the same-sex marriage movement. He also donated thousands of dollars to local and national political candidates, including to President Obama’s reelection campaign. Bean now finds himself facing serious allegations and legal charges that have tarnished his reputation. 

Terry Bean after his arrest

John Kitzhaber

Oregon’s incumbent gubernatorial candidate weathered the election storm and came out on top, earning an unprecedented fourth term. But that doesn’t mean he’ll stay on top.

The Governor’s woes began with the failures of Oregon’s online health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon. Things got worse closer to the election when the Willamette Week inquired into possible ethics violations regarding Cylvia Hayes’s role in the Governor’s office, followed by revelations of Hayes’ green card marriage and weed growing operation in Washington. 

Kitzhaber now has to wait for an investigation from the Oregon Ethics Commission that in February will yield insight into further possible indictments. The Governor also faces the ongoing Cover Oregon foes, which led to three separate investigations by the FBI, the U.S. Government Office of Accountability and the Health and Human Services Inspector General. 

How the Governor weathers the next several months may determine the rest of his political career—and his legacy. 

Gov. John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes

Cylvia Hayes

Oregon’s first lady turned out to be the real shaker-upper in the political scene this year. Sparked by the Willamette Week’s initial inquiries about Hayes’ role in the governor’s office, Oregonians got curious, and perhaps learned more than they wanted to about her past,

Now that the election is over (phew!) and Kitz is safe (for now), the next question Oregonians have for Hayes is: what role will she play in Oregon’s most prestigious office? Or, rather, what role should she play, if any, in Kitzhaber’s inner circle?

Dennis Richardson 

The Republican gubernatorial candidate ran a fairly close race against Democratic incumbent John Kitzhaber, but that can hardly be attributed to his appeal to voters. Rather, the many missteps of Kitzhaber’s scandal-plagued campaign provided a perfect window of opportunity for Richardson. However, he was unable to seize the moment. 

Richardson was unable to inspire voters beyond his base. His entrenched views on social issues led many to vote for Kitzhaber despite the many controversies he faced. Unlike Monica Wehby, who brought no recorded political baggage, Richardson joined the election with a distinguished conservative voting record and a plethora of controversial statements

Josh Marquis

The marijuana legalization initiative in Oregon—Measure 91—passed with flying colors. The few politicians who dared come out in opposition of the measure did so with little support and a quiet voice. Not Josh Marquis. Clatsop County’s District Attorney was perhaps the loudest opponent of legalizing marijuana in Oregon, often leveling claims about juvenile drug use and increases in drugged driving. 

It got especially embarrassing for Marquis when the Huffington Post debunked several of his statements about the measure, including his claim that Measure 91 would take away any criminal penalties for smuggling any amount of weed into prison facilities. 

Measure 88, #Ferguson

Oregonians have some self-reflecting to do this holiday season. Regardless of whether you call yourself a progressive or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Independent, Libertarian, I-don’t-give-a-***, or whatever, we all have some thinking (and do-ing) to do when it comes to race and how Oregon is dealing with it. 

Let’s start with Measure 88. If passed this last election cycle, Measure 88 would have allowed limited driver cards for qualified applicants living and working in Oregon. Oregonians voted down the measure 2 to 1. What does this mean? It means that Oregon has a racism problem. 

Then, in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to charge Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown, twenty-three Oregon law enforcement employees liked the “I am Darren Wilson” Facebook photo posted by three Portland police officers. 23! Again, what does this mean? It means that Oregon has a racism problem.  

Oregonians like to think of themselves as a fair-minded and welcoming people, but when it comes down to the truth of what’s happening around us on a day-to-day basis, it becomes abundantly clear that Oregonians have a lot more work to do.

Gus Wendel is a writer, organizer, and musician. Originally from Eastern Oregon, he now resides in Portland.


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