– Before you vote for Monica Wehby ask yourself: What is Chris Dudley’s Political Legacy? –
First, of all, I have a great deal of respect for both Chris Dudley and Monica Wehby. Both are extremely successful people doing good work in the community. And they genuinely seem nice and caring. My analysis has
nothing to do with their character. The comparison between the two is not meant to be disparaging. It’s meant to be elucidating.
Here is an excerpt from wikipedia that succinctly covers Chris Dudley’s political career in Oregon.
On October 11, 2009, The Oregonian reported that Dudley was considering entering the Republican primary for Oregon governor in 2010. In November 2009 he formed a campaign committee and raised roughly $340,000 by early December of the same year. Dudley formally announced his entry into the race on December 16. On March 6, 2010, The Oregonian reported Dudley had raised over $1 million, aided by a $50,000 donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
In May 2010, Dudley won 39% of the vote in a crowded Republican primary to win the GOP nomination, and prepared to face former governor John Kitzhaber in the November general election. On September 29, 2010, The Register-Guard reported that Chris Dudley’s campaign had received $5.6 million, more than twice what was raised by the Kitzhaber campaign. His primary sponsors included in-state timber companies, industry trade groups, and Portland area business executives, including Nike chairman and co-founder Phil Knight. The election was extremely close as polls had indicated, but Kitzhaber prevailed 49%–48%
Dudley out raised Kitzhaber two to one. He lost to a then popular former Governor by just 1.1% of the vote, the closest statewide race between a Democrat and a Republican in some time. Yet eighteen months after his loss, Chris Dudley moved to San Diego California and has largely disappeared from any active role in Oregon Republican politics. He not only isn’t here to challenge Kitzhaber in 2014, he left no legacy to build on for the Oregon GOP. And today, in spite of the Cover Oregon debacle, Kitzhaber is thought of as unbeatable and the announced Republican candidates are not getting traction.
Can Conger beat Sen. Merkley? Most experts say no. But they also say no Republican will beat him. So while an argument can be made that while Wehby is more likely to beat Merkley than Conger, the reality is most experts say that Merkley is unbeatable anyway and nominating Wehby doesn’t change that.
So the sub rosa question for the Oregon GOP voter is, what is best for the Oregon GOP if Merkley wins, as expected.
In order for the Oregon GOP to start to win elections, it needs to develop a bench of somewhat conservative (See analysis of types of Republican voters) leaders and followers willing to build field operations, make phone calls, walk, and attract active and committed membership within their campaigns who will volunteer for subsequent elections. Conger has done that in his 4 years in elected office, and his Senatorial campaign is building an infrastructure of moderate/conservative activists. Whether Conger beats Merkley or not, he will leave a legacy to build on. For himself and for the Oregon GOP. And has given every indication that he will stick around and run for office again. should he lose in 2014.
Compare that to Wehby and her campaign. No prior political campaign experience as a candidate. Fueled by large donors, many from out of state. The campaign is a well paid, well financed, well oiled machine. But how many new party activists ready to continue their commitment after her campaign has she attracted? And while I have no doubt Wehby herself is committed to Oregon and doing the right thing at the US Senate, I do doubt whether the beltway crowd has any motivation other than to keep Merkley as occupied as possible with a well financed attractive Republican candidate. Keeping him and his war chest too busy to help the embattled Democratic US Senators up for re-election. A good national strategy. But It does nothing for the Oregon GOP.
Politics is elbows and knees, and may not be for professionals who are more used to being deferred to by – for instance – coworkers, business associates, sports writers, team mates or patients. After losing an election such a candidate is just as likely to withdraw from Oregon politics as they are to continue the political work and endure the slings and arrow. And at age 50+ with a successful professional career, who would blame them. While it would be great if Dr. Wehby, should she lose, would consider running for elective office again, maybe this time at the State legislative level, the Chris Dudley experience should not be forgotten.