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An open primary would hurt rural Oregonians

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The one-ballot primary [WHAT’S THE OPEN PRIMARY PAYOFF?, April] with no party affiliations would be a disastrous policy move for rural Oregon, where the bulk of our people are strongly conservative and therefore mostly Republican. I have been told under reasonably credible authority that one of the Democratic National Committee’s strategies to move into red states and counties is the movement away from partisan races in those red areas, leaving the majority of voters with less definition of the candidate’s beliefs/partisanship.

The one-ballot movement is the first step to creating a neutered, generic candidate list for rural communities. Most voters would not be as aware of the philosophy of the candidates and any group could slip people into positions that could seriously damage conservative rural issues and lifestyles.

John Lamoreau, Union County commissioner, makes another good argument. He proposes that, for the purpose of this example, statewide party registration is 50/50 Democratic and Republican. In a primary, the Democrats run two strong candidates for governor and the Republicans have three strong candidates. In an open primary election, the Democrats split their vote evenly between their two candidates and the Republicans split their vote evenly between their three. The top two vote-getters move on to the general election in November and in this case the Republicans are left out.

I am sure that the founders of our Constitution recognized this potential for imbalance when they created the primary to ensure disagreeing philosophies (partisanships) were recognized in the general election. They gave us the maximum chance for a choice. Partisanship is not a four-letter word, as most left-leaning pundits from the cities and many fence sitters would like to have you believe. Partisanship is a belief in a set of values shared by others working toward a common goal.

Rural Oregon has a difficult enough time just surviving and communicating across the vast space between its residents. Further erosion of our ability to choose people who will represent the entire state would spell disaster for our political voice.

Tim Smith
Harney County


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