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Slouching toward Salem

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Sunday, October 01, 2006


Remembering my sole run for public office 43 years ago still makes my stomach lurch. It was a tough, dirty campaign, friend turned on friend, the authorities got involved. I turned my back on true love for a few grubby votes.

It was the second grade’s highest title — homeroom monitor. With it came a bell, a whistle, and the instant groveling of one’s peers. The monitor’s only responsibility was to sit in the classroom when the teacher was gone, bell in hand and whistle around the neck, ready to sound the alarm if things went bad. (My god, what kind of hard-core hellions were we? A whistle and a bell?) I ran on the platform of my mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies (a big fat lie; we bought them at the Piggly Wiggly). Boober (aka true love) handed out Bazooka bubble gum. His supporters talked trash about my cookie integrity and mine made fun of his buzz cut.

It’s a story as old as politics itself. Boober and I wanted to win at any cost and wound up losing everything. The teacher disqualified us both, Boober and I broke up, and a dark-horse, third-party candidate who hadn’t written checks she couldn’t cash got the job.

It was an early lesson about the democratic process, which brings me to this political season. The governor’s perch is in play, as are legislative seats across the state, and several measures on the ballot have the ability to seriously change the state’s revenue picture, how state Supreme Court justices are elected, how long legislators can serve and how much you can contribute to a political campaign. This issue is devoted to exploring some of these critical junctures.

It also comes at a time when we find some in the business community in a pessimistic mood. This interesting bit of insight is revealed in the Input survey (see p. 8), where we asked readers whether they think things are headed in the right direction. They’re gloomy, and cautious. Since we asked that same question last year, there’s been a big drop in optimism. This year, only 34% said they felt like things were on the right track; last year, 45% felt upbeat. Those who just couldn’t commit jumped from 19% to 26%.

What worries this group the most? The cost of health care was by far the biggest concern, which has been a familiar cry for a while. After that came the cost of oil and then funding for public education. Distress over these three issues far outweighs concern over terrorism, crime, the trade deficit and several other topics. Meth, however, still worries these business leaders. Tune in to November’s Input, where these concerns and others will be explored in more detail. Attention, candidates.

Also in this issue, we asked the two leading candidates for governor for their stands on a variety of business-related issues and managing editor Christina Williams takes a hard look at what the ballot measures have cost the state budget since 1991 and calculates an astonishing $41 billion price tag. Attention, voters.

Lastly, we launch a regular column by associate editor Oakley Brooks, who will be keeping watch on Salem and the 2007 legislative session. This month, Capitol Gains (p. 29) explores why the potentially powerful small-business voter is being ignored and what some savvy candidate could gain by paying attention. Consider Capitol Gains your homeroom monitor, ready with bell and whistle, as the political season unfolds.

— Robin Doussard
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