Wednesday, November 03, 2010

the long count

The year was 1988.  After nine years of private law practice, I decided the time was right to start my political career.

If someone had dropped off their election crystal ball earlier that year, I would have saved myself the trouble.  I did not choose wisely.

I lived in a legislative district where the voter registration was about evenly divided.  The current state representative had served two terms.  And even though he was strongly disliked by most of his colleagues in Salem, he had managed to put together a local coalition of voters based on some groups that should have been my natural supporters.

I also knew I would have a strong primary election challenger -- the political director of a group in Oregon that was stirring up bad blood over some hot button issues.  And I was correct.  After a bruising primary campaign, I won -- just barely.  There was no reconciliation.

This was the year that President Bush the Elder ran for president.  Oregon was one of the swing states, and one party (not mine) sunk millions into getting their adherents to the polls.

Even with all of those hurdles, I almost won in the general election. 

But, "almost" counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.  It is worth nothing in politics.  And I had to wait almost a week to get the result.  The race was that tight.

I felt the echo of a knot in my stomach this morning as I read about yesterday's election. 

Three US Senate seats were still too close to declare a winner, as was the Oregon governor's race.  But the legislative races were the most interesting.  The Republicans and Democrats had 28 seats each in the House -- with four seats undecided.  In the Senate, the Democrats had 15 seats, the Republicans 13 -- with two seats undecided.

I felt for each of those hang-fire candidates.  Hearing that you have lost is a disappointment.  But being forced to watch final votes trickle in  -- and see-saw back and forth -- is pure torture.

It appears Oregon's voters (who have recently been reliable supporters of Democrat candidates) have been affected by the same malaise as the rest of the country.

As for me, I am taking my mood south of the border.  I am going to miss a lot of things here in Oregon.  But politics is not one of them.

Note:  The House races have now been decided.  The split is 30-30.  And one of the Senate races has been decided for a 15-14 split, with a good possibility of a 15-15 split.  No matter who wins the Governor's race, there is going to be a lot of horse-trading in the next two years.

I cannot let one disturbing development pass unnoticed.  Oregon elections are startling to take on the patina, if not the rust, of Illinois politics.  State-wide races always start with a big vote count from the Portland area.  Then the down-state votes are counted.  Only then are the remainder of the Portland votes tallied -- usually tipping the election to the same party in every close election.  Maybe we want to be known as the Louisiana of the Pacific Northwest.



Tancho said...

Well I for one am glad you didn't win. You probably would have been a changed person and not wound up being on the way back to Mexico!

I have a very good friend who ran for city council, win last night, and I shudder at the change that is going to take place in his personality and life.....

Too bad no one has figured out some knower of all history..tell us what other options could possibly be made not to suck people into the quagmire?

1st Mate said...

Ew, you a politician? I agree with Tancho, that career would have ruined you. Instead of this blog you'd be writing something entirely different. You'd have never got to Mexico and the soulful quality I've seen in you time and again would be carefully locked away behind a public persona.

Steve Cotton said...

Tancho -- I am happy nearly day that I lost the race. There is no worse fate than taking oneself too seriously. And, because I don't, I doubt I would have much to offer in what direction politics should be taking.

1st Mate -- You are correct that my writing would have an entirely different bent if I had been a successful politician. same life -- new location would not quite work as a constituent newsletter.

Leslie Harris said...

I agree with the others, your loss is our win!

So, how many more days until you are back in Mexico?

Steve Cotton said...

Leslie -- Thank you. A kind lady you are.