The first public polling for 2018 Oregon Governor has been released, and it shows a dead heat between Governor Kate Brown and Republican candidate Knute Buehler
Brown in Trouble:
While we’re still in the summer political doldrums, and Trump has taken up a lot of the political media bandwidth, this poll isn’t good for Brown. But it is consistent with what I’ve heard from insiders where internal polling shows Browns support in the mid 40’s. This Gravis poll supports those reports.
It’s clear that Governor Brown is not widely popular. While she is strong among the Democratic partisan base she is weak among independents. The widely held perception among independents is that the State’s fiscal house is a mess and that at least part of the problem is that she is too beholden to public employee union leaders who demand more revenue and oppose any cost controls that harm their membership.
Many independents understand that the Oregon Legislature will remain firmly Democratic, and they fear that the Democrats may reach super majority in both Houses. If that were to occur, Democrats could pass tax increases on a strictly partisan basis. With the House Democratic caucus firmly controlled by the Portland area Democrats it’s not unreasonable for independents and moderate voters to want a moderate Republican in the Governors office who can veto a Democratic only tax bill that doesn’t include cost savings, including PERS reforms.
The Independent Wild Card:
The Gravis Poll isn’t as informative as it could be because it leaves out the third major party candidate, Patrick Starnes who won the nomination of the Independent Party of Oregon in the May primary. Starnes is running on a platform centered around campaign finance reform and consensus building.
The Gravis poll is a nudge poll in that it asks responders to either select the Democrat, the Republican or “uncertain”. When offered those choices it will nudge responders to select their favorite among the Democrat and Republican. It’s fair to conclude that at least some of those “uncertain” voters likely support Starnes, or a minor party candidate. However, it’s also reasonable to acknowledge that in November, the two viable choices will most likely be Brown or Buehler, so nudging responders to select one of them is not an unreasonable tactic.
If the race is as tight as the Gravis poll indicates, the level and commitment of Starnes’s support becomes more crucial than ever. So including him would give us a clearer idea of the race today.
Two party system supporters argue that the purpose of third parties is that when an important issue exists that the two major parties ignore, a third party will rise until one of the two major parties adopts the policy or policies. Today, 77% of American support campaign finance reform to limit the influence of money in elections. Oregon is one of 4 state that have no limits on political contributions and in Oregon both Democratic and Republican politicians refuse to even vote for laws that require political ads to disclose who truly paid for them. Both Democrats and Republicans use dark money organizations to hide their true donors.
Should the race for Governor remain neck and neck it provides an excellent opportunity for Ms. Brown or Mr. Buehler to put political theory into practice by supporting reforms that could attract Starnes supporters. If Brown and Buehler reject the basic theory of the role of third parties in a two party system by continuing to ignore campaign finance reform and the corruption of government by monied special interests, Starnes could see his support grow to a level that would threaten to disrupt this election.