But only one seems able to unite and inspire the nation to bring about the kind of fundamental change in our corrupt and dysfunctional political system that we urgently need. That is Sen. Barack Obama.
Hilary Clinton has touted her superior experience. It's true she's been around Washington longer than Obama - eight years as First Lady, seven as a senator. But in these times, is that really a plus?
Hilary and Bill Clinton have been in Washington so long they are woven into the fabric of its culture and politics. Our worry is that a Hilary Clinton presidency would mean more triangulation and temporizing, more sacrificing progressive principles to accommodate corporate contributors, more going along to get along.
Clinton charges that Obama is all style and no substance, just a pretty face spouting lofty rhetoric. That charge is untrue; Obama has staked out detailed positions on virtually all the important issues. (You can read them at barackobama.com.)
But it's true that Obama is far more exciting and charismatic than Clinton. Our question is: Why is that bad?
To bring about positive change a leader needs more than good ideas. She or he also must inspire the country to get behind those ideas and work for them. We believe Barack Obama can do that. Hilary Clinton can't.
Barack Obama will be a strong candidate and has the potential to be a great president. He deserves the support of Oregon's Democratic voters this month, and America's voters in November.
This spring, Oregon Democrats will try to choose the candidate who has the best shot at picking off the last remaining Republican senator on the West Coast. It's a tall order, but we think the short guy is the best choice to do it.
There are two main contenders for the Democratic Senate nomination. Both are well qualified, both have solid progressive credentials, and both come down on the same side of the major issues such as the Iraq war, health care, tax policy and the environment.
Jeff Merkley has taken the conventional campaign route, picking up endorsements from labor unions and prominent politicians. Steve Novick has taken a sharply unconventional route, attacking his rival head-on and making his own physical quirks - his 4-foot-9 stature and the hook he has for a left hand - into material for clever and catchy TV spots.
Merkley has been an outstanding speaker of the Oregon House, and he's indisputably a nice guy. But in a tough race against an entrenched opponent, it's going to take more than a nice guy to win. It's going to take somebody who's willing to hit Gordon Smith hard and often, especially on his record of siding with George Bush on Iraq, trickle-down tax cuts and other policies.
It's also going to take somebody who can generate excitement and passion - and, let's face it, those are not the first two words that spring to mind when you hear the name "Jeff Merkley."
In a year when voters in Oregon and nationwide are desperately hungry for change, Steve Novick offers a clear and refreshing alternative to status-quo politics. We enthusiastically support his nomination.
When someone rides from New York to Oregon, that's means that the rider must really want to live in our state. Such is the case with former federal prosecutor John Kroger, a Harvard Law grad best known for taking down New York mobsters and Enron executives. Kroger, who moved to Oregon in 2002, is currently a member of the faculty at Lewis and Clark Law School.
Kroger stopped into the paper a couple times during the past year and told us that the two most main objectives he would have as attorney general would be cleaning up the state's methamphetamine problem and enforcing environmental protection laws. While A.G. candidates usually wear down microphones chatting about being "tough on crime," Kroger is more of a walk-the-walk guy than a talk-the-talk candidate.
"People just want to sound tough on crime. I don't need to do that. I've put hundreds of people in jail - I come in with a very serious law enforcement background," he told us.
His opponent in the Democratic primary (there is no Republican candidate), Greg Macpherson, a longtime Oregon attorney, has run television ads recently that paint Kroger as a carpetbagging Johnny-come-lately without an invested interest in Oregon. Kroger may be new to the state, but we'll take our chances on this hard-ass mob buster.
You're probably wondering why we would endorse Chris Telfer, the Bend city councilor we've kicked around our editorial pages a few times over the years, in this Republican primary. Well, here's why: she is running against a guy named John P. Robbins, and holy crap does he make Telfer look good. Robbins, who retired at 48 after a career in lumber and property management, told us, among other things, that school administrators are overpaid and that the $1,000 per month in health insurance costs for public employees was wasteful.
But to give some credit to Telfer, she does have some worthwhile talking points, many of which aren't typical Republican fare. Known for her budgetary watchdog role on the city council, Telfer actually supports tackling the state's methamphetamine problem with treatment programs and also wants to look at health care on a local level to lower medical costs and increase the ranks of the insured.
Never heard of Robbins? We might know why. When asked why he hadn't debated issues with Telfer at forums with community groups, Robbins said, "It's foaling season." While responsible horse ownership is admirable, we think voters deserve a little more attention.
For conscientious Democratic voters, the secretary of state ticket offers one of the tougher decisions in this year's primary election. Three extremely qualified candidates have emerged - former State senator Kate Brown, and state Sens. Rick Metsger and Vicki Walker, as well as one less serious candidate, Paul Damian Wells.
Brown, Metsger and Walker all bring loads of legislative experience and "inside-the-beltway" savvy to the office, which among other things oversees elections and audits of state agencies. The crusading Walker brings plenty of partisan fire to the position, but we're not sure that's what's needed in a job that requires a high degree of political impartiality. Brown is known as a collaborator and a strong leader who has helped push through campaign finance disclosure laws and promises to bring the same open-government accounting to the SOS office. Her experience has helped her pick up major endorsements from papers such as the Statesman Journal and The Oregonian. And we believe she would make a fine successor Bill Bradbury. However, we're throwing our support behind Rick Metsger, who among other things has promised to work to open Oregon's primary, which effectively shuts out independent candidates and preserves the two-party system - something that Ben Westlund ran up against in his bid for governor. In a state that is virtually defined by its non-affiliated and independent voters, that kind of approach doesn't make sense. It doesn't hurt that Metsger is a staunch supporter of fisheries and fish habitat conservation who was recently elected to the Northwest Steelheaders Hall of Fame for his work on those issue.
Most folks around Redmond know him as Mayor Alan Unger, or depending on how deep their roots go, Dr. Unger's son. Either way, Alan Unger brings a wealth of political and community experience to his bid for county commissioner. He's a Redmond native who has spent his entire life in and around public service in his community. For the last seven years he's served capably as the city's top elected official, quietly and competently leading the city through a period of rapid growth and social change.
During that time Unger has carved out a reputation as a political moderate who bases his decisions on the law and evidence rather than which way the political winds are blowing. His downfall is that he doesn't take a lot of political risks. For example, Unger told us that he wasn't really sure about what should happen with the Bandlands Wilderness proposal.
That's an okay for position for a Republican. But Unger is running as a Dem, for whom Badlands is a no-brainer. In fact, Judy Duncan, Unger's would-be Republican opponent for the seat - should they both make it through the primary - made a point to say that she supports Badlands Wilderness. While Unger acknowledged that he was leaning toward a Wilderness designation, we're hoping that he leans a little further that way on Badlands and other progressive issues.
Still, after more than a decade on the Redmond City Council and Planning Commission, Unger is intimately familiar with the issues facing Central Oregon cities and counties, and by his own account has forged the contacts to leverage state and regional resources to the benefit of Deschutes County.
His opponent, Robert Ray, on the other hand is a political neophyte energized to run by his experience in La Pine where residents have been embroiled in a fight with Deschutes County over septic system upgrades. We applaud Ray's enthusiasm, but encourage him to get some more experience with the rest of the county's issues before jumping into a top position.
If experience was the only criterion, Mike Daly would be the hands-down choice in this year's Republican primary for the Deschutes County Commission nomination.
Daly has been on the commission continuously since 2001.
Unfortunately, in his case experience has become more of a liability than an asset. Daly has been a commissioner for too long, and needs to make way for somebody with a fresh viewpoint that's more in tune with today's realities.
Mike Daly apparently has never met a destination resort development - or, as far as that goes, any development - that he didn't like. He's consistently willing to bend the rules to make life easier for developers, the most recent example being his vote to give Pronghorn yet another five-year extension to build the guest accommodations that the law requires. He's also opposed federal wilderness designation for the Badlands, apparently bending to pressure from ATV enthusiasts.
Daly's opponent in the primary, Judy Duncan, is a well-known local businesswoman who has never held elective office but has a long record of involvement in civic groups and commissions. While generally supportive of destination resorts she recognizes that they have their downside as well, and believes, as we do, that the commissioners in granting the Pronghorn delay set a bad precedent for letting resorts turn into "wilderness subdivisions."
Duncan also says she's "vehemently in favor" of a Badlands wilderness designation. She's sharp, well-spoken, personable and reasonably well-informed.
Mike Daly's all-growth-is-good approach might have made sense in bygone decades, but with the county's population cresting 150,000 it has become dangerously short-sighted. It's time - in fact, it's past time - for a change.
Yes on 911 Funding
The local 911 service stands at a crossroads and is currently operating out of its contingency fund. If voters - who last year approved a similar request but failed to muster the 50 percent turnout needed (in a mail-in election mind you...) - approve the measure it will allow the 911 District to modernize its record keeping, hire needed dispatchers and add office space to keep up with the demand for service. If not, they'll do the best they can. But you might want to have that cardiac arrest in another county.
Vote yes and keep us in the 21st Century.
Yes on Measure 51 and 52
This somewhat confusingly worded pair of measures shores up victim's rights to be heard in court, refuse to be interviewed by a defendant, and to seek restitution, among other things - even when those rights collide with the rights of defendants. These provisions are already outlined in the state Constitution but have no vehicle for implementation. These companion measures clear the way. We see no reason not to support that.
Yes on Measure 53
This measure would close loopholes in Oregon's already strict forfeiture laws. We were skeptical at first, believing that cops can find other ways to fund their undercover operations rather than seizures. And while we oppose anything that adds fuel to the morally bankrupt "drug war", this measure is supported by the ACLU and state criminal defense attorney's lobby. In a nutshell, it allows cops and prosecutors to enforce the spirit, as well as the letter, of Oregon's narrow seizure law. And that makes sense.