Democrats on the Blue Oregon site are trying to stir up outrage over remarks by Chris Dudley that seem to indicate the affluent former pro basketball player thinks restaurant servers make too much money.
In a video clip, the Republican governor candidate says: "It takes time to explain so people understand why ... having the highest minimum wage in the country negatively impacts the state. ... When you talk to restaurants, restaurants will say, 'Listen, we've got less employees than we would otherwise because of this, and does it make sense that our waitresses are given tips plus the highest minimum wage in the country ... there's a disproportionate amount of compensation.' There's so many negative issues with it that I think need to be addressed."
Dudley got an important fact wrong - Oregon doesn't have the highest minimum wage, our neighbor Washington does - but Blue Oregon contributor Jesse Cornett aimed his most withering scorn at the irony of the former Trail Blazer saying waitresses are overpaid: "Really? I mean, c'mon, really? Mininum wage in Oregon is only going to be $8.50 per hour next year. $8.50. Yet a former NBA player thinks that waitresses (his term) earn too much money because they get tips also. Wow. Really."
Cornett went on to point out that the mandatory minimum salary for a rookie NBA player is $457,000 a year, "Yet Chris Dudley thinks servers are getting paid too much." (When Dudley entered the NBA back in 1987 salaries were lower, of course, but still well into six figures.)
More bothersome to me than what Dudley said about the minimum wage, though, was what he wasn't willing to say. "I'm not going to make a forefront campaign issue out of it," he said, "because I think it's a hot button that people don't really understand, but at some point I'm well aware of the issue."
In other words, Duds thinks the state's minimum wage is a problem, but he's not going to tell us what he wants to do about it because we're too dumb to understand it.
Dudley apparently is reluctant to say what he's going to do on environmental issues as well - or anyway, he was reluctant to talk to Oregonian political columnist Jeff Mapes about them.
"There was a notable absence in my story in The Oregonian Wednesday morning on environmental issues in the race for Oregon governor," Mapes wrote this morning. "I couldn't get Republican Chris Dudley to talk with me about this subject before my deadline."
"This is the first time I've had this happen on a major issue story in covering six consecutive races for governor," Mapes continued. "The Dudley campaign on Tuesday morning asked for written questions, which of course is not the same thing. Most importantly, you don't know how much the answers represent the candidate as opposed to the staff. And you don't have the opportunity to probe and ask follow-up questions."
Mapes said he e-mailed "a dozen questions" to Dudley's campaign office at 10:30 Tuesday morning but didn't get a reply until 7:30 p.m., well past his deadline. When the reply finally came, "For the most part, the answers reflected what Dudley has said elsewhere, in public forums or in his position papers."
Maybe Dudley thinks this campaign is a continuation of his NBA career, where he made his mark as a defensive player and shot blocker. Somebody should explain to him that politics is a whole different ballgame.
UPDATE: The Democrats apparently think they can get some mileage out of the minimum wage issue. On Thursday they distributed a mass e-mail from Anna St. Claire, who identified herself as a single mother of two young children who works in a restaurant in Milwaukie.
"I am one of thousands of Oregonians that makes minimum wage, which means I earn about $17,000 a year," St. Claire's e-mail says. "It's not a lot of money, but we can scrape by if I'm careful. Now Chris Dudley wants to roll back our minimum wage. He recently said that rolling back the voter-passed minimum wage would be one of his first priorities if he made it to the governor's office. And he has received nearly $90,000 from the Oregonian Restaurant Association, which has said that reducing the minimum wage for waiters and waitresses is their top priority." (Emphasis in original.)
The e-mail goes on to urge a vote for Democrat John Kitzhaber and says that Kitzhaber supporters have created a Facebook page "to keep track of Dudley's statements about the minimum wage."