MultCo Dems rebuff Kulongoski, back challengers
02:06 PM PST on Monday, February 20, 2006
By JIM PARKER, kgw.com Staff
The Multnomah County Democratic Party turned its' back on incumbent Oregon Gov.Ted Kulongoski over the weekend, instead issuing a dual-endorsement of his two challengers in the upcoming May 16 primary.
Governor Ted Kulongoski.
Members of the county party's Central Committee voted to support Jim Hill, who served two terms as state treasurer, and Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson, who, like Hill, has accused Kulongoski of failing to show leadership on issues such as education and health care.
During a gathering of committee members at Portland State University, Hill and Sorenson "spoke with passion about the future of our state, and each made a strong case that he would be an effective, committed and passionate leader for the platform and values of the Multnomah County Democratic Party," Susan Hagmeier, the local party's communications secretary, told kgw.com on Sunday.
Gavin White, the chairman of the comittee, added that Kulongoski failed to show up at all to the gathering; the governor's office said Kulongoski had a previously scheduled event that conflicted.
Sorenson's campaign was quick to trumpet the endorsements, while Kulongoski's downplayed them.
"It shows not only a growing interest in Sorenson's populist and progressive message among Portland Democrats, but also declining support for Governor Kulognoski," said Sorenson's campaign manager, Shane Cavanuagh.
However, Kulongoski campaign manager Cameron Johnson labeled the action by Oregon's largest county Democratic party as "unfortunate, but not surprising."
"This was a vote of about 27 people. They represent a small minority of Democratic activists who do not support the governor," Johnson told KGW. "The governor still enjoys strong Democratic support throughout the county and in 2002 he won the Democratic primary by a 2-1 margin - over 48,000 votes."
Hill, who entered the race just days ago, reportedly posted a reaction statement to the endorsement on his campaign's Web blog. However, when kgw.com checked the site, the item did not exist.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Independent gubernatorial candidate Ben Westlund launched an online petition effort aimed at collecting the more than 18,000 signatures he needs by the end of August to get on the November general election ballot. Independent candidates get to skip the May primaries.
Westlund, a state senator from Bend who defected from the Republican Party last week and threw his hat into the ring to become Oregon's chief executive, has blamed "extreme" partisan squabling for a failure to solve major issues facing the state.
He faces an uphill but not impossible battle, according to pollsters who think conditions are plausible for an Independent to win in a split, three-way race in November. Oregon's only Independent governor so far was Julius Meier, elected in 1930.
On the Republican front, three candidates are seeking their party's nomination in May -- including front runner Kevin Mannix, a former legislator and state GOP chairman who was defeated by Kulongoski in a very close 2002 general election.
The other Republican candidates are Ron Saxton, a former Portland School Board chairman who lost to Mannix in the 2002 GOP primary, and State Sen. Jason Atkinson of Jacksonville.