Kate Brown suddenly returns to Oregon

Secretary of State Kate Brown

Secretary of State Kate Brown

The Gathering Storm

UPDATED FEB. 12th, 2015  @ 10:10 AM

With Secretary of State Brown suddenly returning to Oregon cutting short her trip to Washington DC,  the speculation is growing that Kitzhaber may be announcing a resignation sooner rather than later.

And while It could be that Secretary Brown has been informed by the Governor’s office that she needs to be in Oregon at the same time as a forthcoming resignation, it seems  more likely the Democrats in power have determined that Kitzhaber will soon be forced to resign.  So Democratic contenders for Governor are starting to collect chits, financial promises and endorsements. Secretary Brown can’t be stuck across the country while that process is occurring.

We now know why. The Willamette Week reported that Tuesday Governor Kitzhaber had decided to resign and had so informed Sec. Brown. Then, he consulted with Cylvia Hayes and his attorney about his decision and they changed his mind. Regardless, that doesn’t mean his resignation is no longer an option. It simply means that his attorney advised that resignation without some arrangement to also deal with the civil and criminal investigation was unwise.

So what happens if the Governor resigns?

If a vacancy occurs in the Governor’s office, the Secretary of State becomes Governor until the next general election.  The person elected at that election shall fill out the remainder of the Governor’s term.

That means Secretary of State Kate Brown would become Governor and there would be a special election for Governor in 2016. The winner would serve until 2018. Which is the end of the current Governor’s term. Then there would be a General election for Governor in 2018 for a new 4 year term.

An Opportunity for the Bold

The Democratic Party is besieged by scandal and accusations of mismanagement of State government. The Republican Party is out of step with the majority of Oregonians on too many issues. And the Independent Party of Oregon has just been certified as Oregon’s Third major political Party. It is a mainstream populist organization that will have a line on the 2016 May primary ballot, when there will be no real incumbent.

A Bold Democrat

There are more ambitious Democrats, than there are top political elected positions. Ted Wheeler, Tina Kotek, Kate Brown seem to be the top contenders and even if they don’t win the Democratic primary election for Governor in 2016, they can afford to wait for another top spot to open. If it’s not Governor, maybe it can be Congress or another top State position in a few years.

But there are a cadre of ambitious less known or experienced Democrats who may not want to wait their turn. Some may see themselves as slightly too conservative for the Democratic Party and don’t know that they’ll even get a turn at a top spot.

For these candidates, running as an Independent may be attractive.  The main agenda items of the IPO platform are – consumer protection, campaign finance reform, Transparency, and economic development that returns more for the taxpayer than it costs. This platform is consistent with moderate left of center Democrat and most independent positions.  And for a Democrat who has butted heads with the Public Employee unions about state spending priorities, the fact that the public employee unions have absolutely no power within the IPO could also be attractive to some Democratic candidates who hold some main street – not wall street –  business positions.

A Bold Republican

Republicans can’t seem to find the right formula for winning statewide. They run outsider moderate Chris Dudley and lose. They run conservative Dennis Richardson and lose. The brand is tarnished by the social conservatives who make up the majority of its grass roots.

The IPO specifically treats social issues as matters of conscience. It doesn’t ignore them as some claim. It treats them as personal matters. Some may find that offensive, but the reality is, the people of Oregon have made it clear where the majority stand on issues of choice and equality. Where an individual stands on those issues is no longer dispositive for many voters.

So a modern Republican, one who has libertarian tendencies in matters of choice equality and economics may feel  frustrated by the current Oregon GOP platform and hierarchy. Choosing between speaking ones mind and climbing the GOP ladder may be distasteful.  A run as an eclectic right of center candidate, or in the  Hatfield or McCall mold,  may be attractive.

The 2016 Primary will be one for the Books

There are several  factors that could make the 2016 election unique.

  • The IPO is a major party so it’s Gubernatorial candidate would get significant free media starting from the 2016 primary season through the general election as the first  Major Independent Party candidate for statewide office.
  • The IPO will open it’s primary to non affiliated voters.  Another first.
  • The election would be a special election to replace a scandalized Governor. Another First.
  • After this political tumult one of the top issues should be moral clarity and the ability to work across party lines. A candidate that stands on an anti corruption platform should have an advantage over the Republican or Democratic candidates who are stuck with low approval ratings that go along with their party’s brands.
  • Kate Brown herself would have some political issues  (Comcast) and is considered far left and won’t have the benefit of an elected incumbent.  And, if A more moderate Democrat such as Ted Wheeler challenges her in the primary, which is likely, she would be weakened and may lose some of those moderate Democrats.

There are some drawbacks for a Democrat or Republican who ran as an Independent. They better win or be prepared to be a retired politician, or resign themselves to work with the Independent Party going forward. It’s also possible that a wealthy Independent who is not now an elected official may decide to run for the IPO nomination for Governor. An Oregon Michael Bloomberg.

But there is an opportunity here for an independent eclectic Democrat or Repblican who is ambitious but currently lacks the support necessary to reach the top of their party heap. The person needs to have decided that they are prepared to return to the private sector should they fail. But they also probably are tired of their Party insider nepotism and the need to pander to their special  interests to the detriment of good policy. So maybe they’re perhaps ready to walk away or retire from politics anyway.

If there is such a person, they also need to know that they will have to change their voter registration  to Independent Party by the end of August  2015 if they want to qualify for the May 2016 IPO primary election.

Happy planning!

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