Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010: No incumbents, no exception!

In a WSJ article Rep DeFazio said he “is facing the fight of his political life.” Considering that this “professional politician” is seeking reelection for an ELEVENTH term, this might be a good time for him to consider returning to real life as a private citizen and give someone else a chance to work on behalf of Oregon’s 4th district. While I applaud DeFazio’s military service and charitable donation, like many politicians he has been in the business of politics far too long. Undoubtedly many will continue to vote for him simply because they have the impression that he “brings home the bacon” and has simply become a decades-long habit for voters. To this proponent of fiscal responsibility, smaller government with intense dislike for earmarks=pork, he just does not represent my views of representative government. Fortunately we finally have another option to consider with Art Robinson.

Robinson Art Robinson, Mr DeFazio’s challenger, seems earnestly interested in serving and impressed me with his common sense approach and straight (read non-politico) talk. Listening to him twice as he came through our little fishing village of 1,200 potential voters I was certainly intrigued enough to want to learn more. “Art Robinson has tried hard to paper the landscape with his campaign signs” one local letter writer derisively stated recently. Indeed, the number of property owners willing to display campaign signs for a conservative candidate, especially in this liberal area, has been a surprising new show of assertiveness, not to mention the many campaign signs he has on display throughout the district.

Far from striking me as extremist, as he has been described by many in the media, I actually find Robinson’s real life experience as a businessman, scientist, and educator encouraging. Not conforming to the public image molded by the professional politicians we have become so used to for decades is actually a plus for any candidate. Contrary to what that same letter writer describes as “extremist views”, quite a few enthusiastic local voters seem energized at the prospect of a fresh approach by a regular guy with apparent common sense and considerable life experience. The letter claims that Robinson’s website shows his extremist views, such as advocating the abolishing of public schools as a “communist plot.” What I found on was the following platform statement about education: “We need to restore the excellent locally-controlled public schools that Americans were once privileged to attend – instead of the failing union-controlled government schools promoted by the District 4 incumbent.”

A further claim was that Robinson holds that “oil companies should not be taxed or regulated.” What I actually found on the website was “The high taxation, invasive regulation, and budget-busting over-spending of taxed, borrowed, and printed dollars voted for by the incumbent have failed. We cannot expect the same people and policies that lost our jobs and depressed our economy to fix these problems. We must get government off our backs, out of our pockets, and out of the way, so that we can get our country going again” and “We need a low-tax, moderately regulated free industrial environment in which our industries can build needed new energy generation installations without tax subsidies and without government favors or impediments.” I could go on, but apparently we are not looking at the same website.

Incumbent DeFazio recently accused Robinson of undisclosed suspicious campaign contributions, so I compared both candidates’ FEC reports next: the graphs are illustrative of their general funding situation, with DeFazio listing a remarkable number of PACs (and unions) supporting him to the tune of nearly $390K, almost all of these special interest groups related to transportation and infrastructure, perhaps because DeFazio sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and chairs one of its subcommittees. While Robinson appears to have negligible PAC support, his FEC report shows nearly $370K from a long list of individual contributors (more on that later).

Robinson’s views on these and other issues are specifically addressed on his website, in his campaign ads, forum speeches and interviews, all available on his website. His now infamous interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is certainly anything but a typical slick politician fawning over conceited media personality nor is he using the usual trite politico-speak - but see it and decide for yourselves. It did not strike me as a professional journalistic interview, but more of a forum for the interviewer to argue and debate her own positions with cherry-picked tidbits disguised as earnest issue questions. Her thinly disguised "I just want to get to know you!" approach prevented bringing out a discussion of the candidate's actual positions on issues relevant to voters. It served voters poorly and added nothing to their understanding of this candidate's position on issues.

Meanwhile, if I can catch Robinson between campaign stops, I intend to ask a number of follow-up questions about his views on term limits, his intended legislative approach, individual contributors, etc.