Thanks, But No Thanks
asked recently on cable news whether he would take another stab at presidential
politics, Pat Buchanan replied, “No, I think the American people
have been pretty clear about that.” When you receive, as Buchanan
did, less than half the votes that Ralph Nadar got in his 2000 presidential
bid, the assessment that
the American people are tired of you as a candidate is on mark.
Apparently Bill Sizemore doesn’t feel the same way. In ’98
Sizemore ran for governor in Oregon against the Democratic incumbent John
Kitzhaber. When it was over, Sizemore received 31 percent of the vote
in Oregon. It was the lowest vote total by a candidate from a major party
in anyone’s memory. In the election, Sizemore carried about three-quarters
of the Republican base and got no support from Independents and Democrats.
Oregon voters sent Sizemore a clear message about his chances of being
governor in ’98. Zilch. Usually when politicians get messages like
that they take an election cycle or two off. Not Sizemore.
A January headline in The Oregonian read “Sizemore Pledges to oppose
“If the state labor chief gets the GOP nod, the tax foe will run
for governor as an independent.”
Bill Sizemore served this state well as an initiative leader in the 1990s
when the state was run by a monopoly political establishment—Democrats
controlled the state house, the congressional delegation, the vast majority
of statewide offices, and the media. Yes, it’s true that Republicans
during the 1990s controlled the legislature, but the margin was always
slight. And without the media, the governor’s office, or any other
kind of podium there was little Republicans could do to counter Oregon’s
prevailing liberal orthodoxy, especially when the high-tech Gold Rush
of the ’90s was able to almost pay for that orthodoxy. State government
grew by more than ten percent a year during the decade.
Into that political vacuum stepped Sizemore with his initiatives that
appealed to weary taxpayers. He scored more than once with budget-altering
wins, Measure 8—PERS reform, Measure 47—Property Tax Cap,
Measure 7—Property Rights/Compensation. The establishment angrily
challenged most of these wins, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
But most importantly, he provided taxpayers with an outlet.
As Sizemore’s stature grew, his behavior grew bolder…shakier.
In ’98 he sacrificed his own Measure 59, a prohibition on automatic
payroll deductions from union members for political (mostly Democratic
Party) purposes, by making his questionable run for governor.
A cycle later, Sizemore turned the heat up…well…about seven
notches, when he offered that number of ballot measures on the ’00
ballot. This time, the political establishment in Oregon freaked out—and
desperately worked to defeat the Sizemore Seven. On election night six
went down, but one survived—Measure 7, the property rights measure,
a measure which has since traveled a tortuous path through the Oregon
courts (and liberal political backrooms).
Now in 2002 Sizemore says he will run as an independent for governor if
Oregon’s Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts is the nominee. Sizemore
told The Oregonian that it was “treachery” that Roberts made
campaign commercials against his initiatives. Those commercials are one
of the reasons Sizemore seems ready to bolt the GOP.
The other reason is fantasy—pure fastasy—but it’s Bill’s
Sizemore believes that he can build on the 31 percent
that he got in ’98, and that in
a three-way race he, like Jesse Ventura, can pull off a stunning upset
and be Oregon’s next governor. Sizemore doesn’t think he’s
Pat Buchanan, he thinks he’s Governor Jesse, and his claims of “treachery”
against Robert are a convenient excuse to do what he really wants to do—run
for governor. Only this time not with the Republican Party, but against
Times change and Bill’s wrong.
Unlike the ’90s when Oregon was a politically non-competitive state
and initiatives were the best outlet to express taxpayer dissatisfaction,
this year’s election comes in a very, very different climate in
Oregon than during Sizemore’s heyday.
1) Oregon is now competitive statewide for Republicans: Bush lost to Gore
by only 6,000 votes.
hasn’t had a Republican governor for 20 years and voters and business
leaders are hungry for change.
3)Oregon’s unemployment rate is at 7.5 percent, the highest in the
nation; the era of Katz, Clinton and Kitzhaber is over.
4)The United States is at war and voters want executive leadership and
three candidates running for the Republican nomination, Kevin Mannix,
Ron Saxton and Jack Roberts, are three of the strongest statewide candidates
Republicans have fielded in years.
For Sizemore to argue that he needs to run as an independent because what
may come out of the primary in May (Jack Roberts) is not representative
of Oregon’s GOP is wrong. Dead wrong. All three candidates represent
the GOP—Kevin Mannix represents the conservative grassroots, Jack
Roberts represents the GOP political establishment, and Ron Saxton the
state’s boardrooms. The winner of that three-way race will be a
solid representative for the GOP. What’s more, if Sizemore runs
as an independent he won’t be a serious candidate (likely getting
less than five percent), because there isn’t a constituency in the
state that wants him to run. He could, however, do serious damage to a
party that hasn’t slept in Mahonia Hall for 20 years. If Sizemore
runs as an independent the best he can hope for is making the media coverage
negative and “about Bill.” Jeff Mapes and The Oregonian are
only too happy to report that story.
For Sizemore to use the remnants of his fading political power to carry
out a personal vendetta against Jack Roberts is also a scenario the Democrats
would love. They know their own field for governor is weak; they know
the Republican are hungry. The best way for the Democrats to keep Mahonia
Hall is to run against Bill Sizemore—one more time. But Sizemore
has been too important a public figure in the ‘90s to have his political
epitaph read: “He was another Al Mobley who helped deliver the governor’s
office to the Democrats.” Thanks, but no thanks.