Commentary: Ready to vote? This election counts (Oct. 19, 2022)

This is a big election year for Oregonians, an indicator of which is the frequency and viciousness of the attack commercials this time around.

Since 2012, both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office have been controlled by Democrats.

No matter what happens on Nov. 8, we’re getting a new governor, a new state Senate president, a new labor commissioner, three new members of Congress – one of which will represent the brand-new 6th Congressional District, and depending on what happens at the polls, potential massive turnover in the Legislature, where some experts project that 50% of the faces in January could be new.

So it’s time to think about voting, and, as is often the case, those commercials that we’re being showered with on TV, the internet and on our cellphones probably aren’t helping the undecided very much, with a typical blend of innuendo, hyperbole or even outright falsehoods.

We’re thinking abortion is the only issue Oregonians are concerned about, life should be really good right now (except for the unborn).

After all, the focus of the vast majority of attack ads seems to be almost entirely on that topic.

Really? Certainly, this is a significant social and ethical issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year overturning Roe v Wade has definitely brought it back to the forefront of public awareness.

But there are plenty of other issues that Oregon voters are hopefully thinking about as they get ready to fill out their ballots, which should be arriving in the next few days.

Campaign commercials, especially the “attack” variety, can be notoriously misleading, loaded with innuendo that sometimes can become outright falsehood. Unfortunately, that accusation can be applied to both sides of the aisle, so voters would be well-served to do a little research when they hear something.

The New Era does not have the resources to cover state races, but the Oregonian,, OPB, the all contain reporting that’s worth paying attention to on what’s going on in the campaigns for governor, the state Legislature and Congress.

One question we’ve heard from some commercials is really worth voters’ attention: Are things better now than they were five years ago?

Voters of all political stripes would be well-served to ponder that, because Oregon has gone through a topsy-turvy period, managed by a political majority that has aggressively pursued all manner of progressive goals: universal healthcare, free college education, fighting climate change with “scientifically sound” greenhouse gas limitations, restrictions on police activity, mass transit development, etc.

Along the way, legislators and the governor have approved near-elimination of power grid carbon emissions by 2040, Gov. Kate Brown’s cap-and-trade executive order (after legislative attempts to pass a law were stymied by Republican walk-outs), the gross receipts tax – approved by the legislature and signed by Brown in 2019, restrictions on police (no more pulling over vehicles with faulty lights), limitations on school board authority, just to name a few.

Depending which side of the aisle one is, those were great or abominable.

The COVID pandemic, obviously, created shockwaves for the state that are still being felt. Oregon finished the first couple of years as one of the top states per capita in suppressing infections. The masking and vaccination requirements sent waves of anger through some segments of the population, and the question now is whether voters will remember that when they fill out their ballots.

We watched downtown Portland burn on TV, leaving many voters with the perception – how real it is remains debatable – that the city is circling the drain. Certainly, the problems manifesting themselves are real – personal freedom vs. public safety, the hamstringing of many cops trying to do their jobs, the incidents that have spawned the anger we saw on our screens.

Those are things voters need to sort through as they consider candidates.

But there are many others. Our mental health care situation is abominable. Oregon’s public schools are ranked well into the lower half of the nation by multiple evaluators (whose analyses obviously reflect different values and political biases, but they are pretty consistently near the bottom, no matter who’s making the call).

There are lots of other issues – a lot of them overlapping: housing costs and availability, homelessness, stewardship of our natural resources, and the general dominance of metropolitan political views that often, at least in the perception of rural residents, ignore their needs and opinions.

Voters need to think deeply about these issues, how they feel about them.

Why this big focus on abortion? Because it’s a trigger issue, of course. As a voter, you’re pretty much on one side or the other. But why aren’t candidates, particularly those who have represented the supermajority in Oregon’s Legislature, hammering on some of the above? The only logical conclusion is that they aren’t proud of the state’s track record.

What rural residents want is a governor and state leaders who will listen to them. During a “listening session” hosted by various news organizations earlier this year, “several callers remarked that it would do wonders to have a governor get out of Salem more. They want genuine engagement, not just a whistlestop tour through a Rotary Club luncheon or a contrived ‘community meeting,’ the Oregon Capital Chronicle reported.

Politicians can’t realistically change everything that’s wrong with Oregon, at least not in the short term, but some of those new faces in the Legislature and the Governor’s Office might be able to steer a different course.

It starts with voters. In the last midterm election, in November of 2018, Oregon had a 67.8% voter turnout, the lowest since 1998. In Linn County, 64% of 87,392 registered voters actually cast ballots. Hmmm, wonder how much difference would have been made if those 31,461 other folks had weighed in? What might happen if 95% of rural voters cast a ballot?

Your vote does count, particularly in this election, in which candidates don’t win by state or district.

Fact is, almost every veteran journalist or political observer can remember races that have come down to a single vote. A Sweet Home City Council seat election in 2014 was decided by a coin flip, after two candidates tied.

And even if the side you’re on doesn’t win, politicians are watching those outcomes, and if enough people share your view, they’ll notice. Rural residents who complain that the people in power are ignoring them need to remember that.

Do your homework and vote intelligently. Our voter’s guide, in this issue, and the commissioner’s race comparison on page 12 should be helpful.

Also, it’s well worth watching the Sheriff’s Forum at

And our 2022 Sweet Home City Council candidates forum, held the evening of Oct. 18, will be posted as well, on Youtube under that name.

If you want something different, don’t forget: Your vote does count.