Editorial:Election may present difficult problems for voters

This year’s presidential election is, without doubt, one of the strangest in recent American history.

We say “recent” because there have been plenty of others that included boisterous characters and shady dealings, starting with the Thomas Jefferson-John Adams-Aaron Burr spectacle in 1800 (which resulted in the 12th Amendment) and continued through the Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan campaign in 1980.

That was when Carter’s debate prep notes disappeared and wound up in the possession of Reagan, who went on to slaughter Carter in their debate – and win the presidency in a landslide.

There was also Ulysses S. Grant’s victory over a dead opponent (Horace Greeley, who passed away before the vote count could be confirmed in 1872), and Socialist Eugene Debs’ presidential campaign in 1920 – from prison, where he’d been incarcerated due to his opposition to World War I.

So yeah, we’re not the first to experience weirdness in politics.

Fortunately, compared to the craziness on the national campaign trail, our state gubernatorial election has been relatively staid.

So let’s start with that one.

Despite – or maybe because of – the general good behavior of both major candidates, this race is shaping up to be close.

Gov. Kate Brown, who was appointed to the position last year after the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, faces Dr. Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist who has mounted a fairly focused campaign, focused primarily on the state’s economic and educational challenges.

Brown is clearly a product of the system dominated by urban Democrats, which controls the state. And frankly, she hasn’t done a lot in her 18 months-plus as governor, outside of jump-starting the state’s minimum wage debate and, earlier this year, signing into law the tiered minimum wage hikes that made Oregon’s the highest in the country.

Her platform, viewable at katebrownfororegon/issues, really doesn’t present a whole lot of new ideas.

She supports Measure 97, the initiative that would charge a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on most sales in Oregon by corporations with annual sales above $25 million. The non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office last spring estimated the tax would cost $600 a year per resident.

She’s been a champion of voter registration and participation in elections, but she’s demonstrated little real leadership in solving Ore-gon’s budget problems.

She’s loudly championed transparency in government, but she dodged her first opportunity to debate Pierce, in July (at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association annual convention, which traditionally has kicked off the gubernatorial debate season) though they have faced off several times since then and are scheduled for one more debate. Somehow, after that, all the talk about transparency didn’t resound as well.

Pierce’s campaign has focused primarily on a central tenet that jobs are key to individual and state health in Oregon, and good education produces workers prepared for the job market. Much of his platform stems from that principle, which we wholeheartedly agree with. Jobs – and people qualified to work them – would do a lot for Oregon.

Pierce has proposed addressing Oregon’s massive PERS budget problem by requiring PERS-eligible employees to contribute more to the retirement system, vowing to hire more teachers with savings once that is accomplished. His platform is viewable at http://www.budpierce.com/issues/.

Pierce’s one big stumble occurred in a debate before the City Club in Portland Oct. 1 when he suggested successful women are safer from sexual violence. This came after his opponent, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, admitted to being a victim of domestic violence.

Criticism has been hot and heavy, particularly from Democratic leadership.

Most news reports of the incident only quoted Pierce as stating that “A woman that has a great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone.” They did not add the rest of what he said: “OK, so, powerful women have access to lawyers and courts and go at it. But the women who are most vulnerable are poor women who don’t have a place to turn, because they don’t have shelter or family around them. So I would argue that in addition to strong laws and going after every sexual predator and every abuser, the way we can make every woman … less susceptible to being harmed is to make them powerful.”

Was this a simple case of very unfortunate choice of wording or is the guy calloused and cold toward victimized women? That’s what voters are going to have to decide.

Pierce apologized afterward to Brown, and told the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem that it was “the worst moment of my campaign.”

We’re devoting more space here to Pierce because he’s had more to say than we’ve heard from Brown.

It’s clear to us that job creation should be a major concern for Ore-gon’s leaders.

It’s true that Pierce’s career has not been in politics, though he has served on advisory panels at the state government level. Brown is a veteran, but that, we think, is the problem. She’s a product of a system that has, at least for rural Oregonians, gotten us very little understanding, concern or action.

Pierce is intelligent, motivated, goal-driven and warm, which are all positive attributes for a chief executive. He’s emphasized the point that he’s spent a lot of time traveling the state, focusing on issues important to rural communities. How much credence that deserves is also a decision for voters, but it’s more than we’ve heard or seen from Brown.

Certainly, in communities like Sweet Home, employment will be key to overcoming poverty and all the attending issues of crime, drug abuse, health issues, responsibility, and productivity in a community sense. Making the playing field more attractive to businesses of all sizes will facilitate job creation, and Pierce has made it pretty clear he’s put a lot of thought into this – a lot more than we see from Brown’s platform.

We think it comes down to whether Oregonians want more of the same state government we’ve had in recent years, or whether they want a different approach. Kate Brown is a veteran of the current political system, but to us that represents a continuation of the inertia and economic folly which has gotten us where we are – in big debt.

Dr. Bud Pierce is new blood – a successful entrepreneur whose intelligence and drive, when applied to the problems in Salem and with proper advisors and support, could go a long way toward bringing change. He’ll need some help, but that’s what qualified, competent staff is for. We think Oregon voters should give him a chance, since Brown hasn’t done much with hers.

So what do we suggest regarding the presidential race?

Well, it’s been frustrating – demoralizing, perhaps – to watch. It’s embarrassing.

With Republican leaders bailing off the Trump Train in droves after the late revelations of his purported lewd – or worse – behavior toward women, and Democrats openly stating that they aren’t fully confident in Clinton’s spotty record, the inevitable result is that we are left with a pick between two bad candidates – or someone else, who hasn’t really materialized.

We aren’t even going to comment on Donald and Hillary, in terms of their platforms. We’re not the first to say this, but we will because it’s the most logical answer: Which candidate will do the least harm to America?

This could have been the Year of the Third Party, but the also-rans seem as paralyzed as many of the rest of us.

Gary Johnson? If you haven’t heard of him, don’t blame yourself. Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who’s running as the Libertarian Party candidate for president, could have seized the golden opportunity handed him on a silver platter. He could have at least launched a social media campaign (which is relatively cheap and, as Barack Obama has demonstrated, can be quite effective) to get his name and ideas out there. He could have taken every opportunity to thrust himself onto a national stage in which desperate media and citizens have searched the far corners for a quality candidate.

Apparently, though, Johnson’s not the man of the hour, as too many Americans have barely heard of him.

To be brutally honest, we – like a lot of Americans right now, would prefer to be voting for the vice presidential candidates. To state the obvious, Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine both are in tough positions, since each finds himself having to stand behind a boss with a lot of baggage. Both are experienced enough in state and congressional leadership that they might actually prove to be good leaders if given the chance.

This is the best we can offer: Vote for the team, not the candidate, and pray for mercy.