Will Starnes withdrawal/endorsement of Brown backfire?

When IPO nominee Patrick Starnes withdrew from the Oregon governors race and endorsed Brown, it appeared at first blush to be a big coup for Brown. But based on the feedback we’ve received from IPO members and NAV’s who’ve supported the goals of the Independent Party, I’m not so sure.

  • The most common comment I’ve received from i/Independents was that they were upset because they already voted for Mr. Starnes, and if they knew he was going to withdraw, they would have voted for Buehler.
  • If you look at the KGW poll from early October IPO members believe Oregon is on the wrong track by 65% to 35%. While Non affilaited voters believe Oregon is on the wrong track by a lesser margin of 56% to 44%. A reasonable inference is that if you believe the State is on the wrong track, you’re less likely to vote for an incumbent Governor. With Starnes now out of the race, how will those voters react?
  • Based on estimated turnout for IPO voters, and the number of returned votes at the time of the Starnes announcement, there were as many as 50,000 IPO voters who will, but had not yet, returned ballots. And many more non affilaited independent voters.
  • We know based on our interactions with our members, that IPO members as a group have grown slightly more centrist  as former Republicans have abandoned their party and the Oregon Democratic Party becomes more stridently hostile to dissent from it’s members.
  • IPO members seem to be much less tribal. Which has been a problem in building a cohesive election team. An endorsement by an IPO candidate, particularly one that has withdrawn, may not have a lot of impact on i/Independent voters. In fact, there may be backlash as voters who intended to vote for Starnes to “shake up the system” feel betrayed.

The IPO candidate and voters will have an impact on the outcome if – as it appears – the race is decided by less than three percent. Whether it favors Brown or Buehler though has yet to be determined.


Rob Harris is a Co-Chair of the Independent Party of Oregon.


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