Keizer Public Square

Public Square welcomes all points of view. Published submissions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Keizertimes

Money manager or a political state executive for treasurer?

By RANDY STAPILUS Of the Oregon Capital Chronicle

The central campaign issue in Oregon’s Democratic primary contest for state treasurer turns out to be the nature of the job itself. 

Maybe that shouldn’t be rare. Probably few voters consider the actual work a president, senator or school board member does when casting their ballots, though we should. In the case of the current Democratic treasurer primary in Oregon, quite a few voters likely will.

That’s partly because of the contrasting backgrounds of the two candidates on the ballot: state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, a 13-year legislator from Portland, and Jeff Gudman, whose filing describes him as a “financial analyst, controller, treasurer, investor.” You can make an argument that both have parts of the background needed for the job. 

The winner will face Republican Brian Boquist, a state senator who cannot serve another term because he participated in a six-week Republican Senate walkout. He’s running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

Treasurer may be the most technical of Oregon’s statewide elected posts, with core tasks that involve investment and bookkeeping. The treasurer oversees $100 billion in state investment, including in the Public Employee Retirement System, PERS. The job also includes smaller responsibilities, including serving on the state Land Board, managing unclaimed property and some estates. But the essence is in managing that bankroll and investing it. The more the investment yields, the less needed from taxpayers. 

That technical side to the job is candidate Gudman’s calling card. He was a city councilor for Lake Oswego for eight years. But his emphasis on qualification concerns his education and professional background, a finance and management MBA from the Wharton School of Business, and work as a financial analyst for Hyster Company, which makes forklifts and lift trucks, and treasurer for divisions of Northwest Natural Gas. He has also helped run several nonprofits and been an investor for about 30 years. 

He has a highly detailed platform relating to how the state invests money, calling for finding ways to invest to help local economic development and shift the entities where the state places money. The link between Gudman’s background and the treasurer’s work is clear.

At the same time, the treasurer’s office is not just money management: It also is political, and legally it is a partisan office. It is second in line of succession to the governor, after the secretary of state, a reasonable factor for voters to bear in mind. And questions of political philosophy do come into play even in finances. Gudman, for example, has said he would scale back the state’s policy of disinvesting in fossil fuel businesses, a shift from the current practice. 

Politics is a problem for Gudman. His run for treasurer this year is his third. He lost twice to Democrat Tobias Read, who’s retiring as treasurer, while running as a Republican. He has said that he left the Republican Party, or that it left him, because of philosophical differences. His political background still may make a difference with Democratic primary voters, and it might matter as well in dealings with other Democratic elected officials. 

The other candidate and apparent frontrunner, Elizabeth Steiner, doesn’t have that problem. She is well-established within the state’s Democratic Party, and her endorsement list offers an ample demonstration, with backing from many of the leading Democratic state officials, all the Democrats in the congressional delegation and Read, plus many of the usual Democratic support groups. 

She is not a finance professional: By occupation, Steiner is a physician. She does have experience as a legislative budget writer and co-chairs the legislative audits committee, but her statements on state money management and investment have been thinner—aside from a general view on smart investing—than Gudman’s. 

The counter would be that the treasurer’s office is extensively, and some would argue expensively as well, staffed, with officers who are professionals in finance and investment. The treasurer’s job is more in the area of policy direction and relations with outside organizations, including the Legislature.

In its editorial endorsing Gudman, The Oregonian/OregonLive argued, “We disagree on the importance of political experience for this position. In fact, deep political alliances can be problematic for a treasurer who has a legally binding responsibility to make decisions in the best financial interest of the beneficiaries whose funds are under management.”

Neither perspective should be absolute. Read is actually a mix of the two roles. He has an MBA from the University of Washington and worked as an assistant to the federal Department of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001, though his main private sector experience was mid-level corporate. He also served in the Oregon Legislature for years, developing close political relationships on the way. He’s now a candidate for secretary of state. 

Voters in this primary will be faced with an unusually straight-ahead choice: What set of qualifications is most important? That direct consideration of personal backgrounds makes this possibly the most unusual election on the ballot in Oregon this season

(Randy Stapilus has researched and written about Northwest politics and issues since 1976 for a long list of newspapers and other publications.)

Trump wants to turn clock back to 18th century


Some Americans reported themselves upset by what Donald J. Trump had to say for publication in Time magazine. He promised therein, as he has at his rallies, in a second term, to administer by authoritarian rule characterized by punishments to American women over abortions, hire only persons who agree with him, pursue trade wars, provide more tax relief to executives and the wealthy in return for $1 billion dollars to his campaign, reverse all previous federal actions protecting the environment, and deliver revenge to his rivals and enemies. He will prosecute Biden “for his Gestapo administration.”

Such statements and promises may very well establish a U.S. political world unlike what’s been common in recent years. Yet, it would be a stretch of U.S. history to believe some such proposed changes are different in type and kind from what’s popped up over our history. While Trump has already been unusual, such as his nearly successful effort to overthrow the 2020 election, what he proposes for 2025 and beyond, such proposals have been afoot before.

Should you seek awarenesses of differences you’re encouraged to study the American colonies which were mainly based on king-granted estates and forced labor while the Puritans of New England imposed strict practices of faith and harshly restricted, often punitively punished, any reform measures. The so-called back country areas of our early years were rigidly ethnic-exclusive where newcomers were viewed with suspicion and native peoples often exterminated. Enslavement or in-servitude ruled by master-servant laws. Activities of a political nature were beset by election day violence while those members with land and power harshly imposed their will on other settlers.

Southern state slavers resorted to secession and civil war rather than surrender their wealth, power and privileges. After their defeat, the federal government soon allowed former Confederates and their supporters to return to power, destroying Black political activism, accompanied by lynchings and the imposition of a Jim Crow culture: segregation, political disfranchisement and harsh labor regimes. The Ku Klux Klan was the intermittent master of all political events for years while anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon, antisemitic and anti-immigrant attacks regularly arrived and imposed their will. 

Recent expressions of dissatisfaction with order and peace got renewed energy when Trump questioned Barack Obama’s right to serve as president, called “birtherism.” Trump made use of Reconstruction-era racist trope, rejecting the legitimacy of Black political rights and power. This effort revitalized aggrieved white voters who’ve pushed back hard against any and all forms of cultural diversity. After all, what’s been noticed from our founding are surges and resurges of tyranny to establish despotic rule, thereby surrendering U.S. government to one-man rule with aim to satisfy those perceiving themselves most aggrieved.

Any study of U.S. history discloses the glorious ups and raggedy downs by our 200 plus years of existence. While the British tried first to prevent our independence and tried again by the War of 1812, it would appear only somewhat unique now that the U.S. Constitution and rule by law has been seriously threatened. We have among us quite a large number of those who want to jettison what’s been practiced, replacing it with a totalitarian form of government. 

The 2024 vote in November looks to decide our governmental design, one with which the average American has not had personal experience. Every American is encouraged to study the subject to decide on their voting preference. 

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion frequently in the Keizertimes.

The 2024 electorate is more interesting than either candidate


Like the Gorgons in Greek mythology whose glances could turn people to stone, today’s sour candidates have calcified our presidential politics with their glowering contest. “Rancor,” said José Ortega y Gasset, “is an outpouring of a feeling of inferiority.” Both men have much about which to feel inferior. The electorate, however, is at least interesting.

Until recently, presidential politics was significantly shaped by regional differences that were Civil War residues. In 1968, the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” (following 25 years of steady gains in the South) facilitated victory in four of the next five, and five of the next seven, presidential elections. But in 2008, Barack Obama received a larger percentage of the nation’s White vote than Democratic nominees Michael S. Dukakis, Al Gore and John F. Kerry won in 1988, 2000 and 2004, respectively. In 2020, Donald Trump won at least 56 percent in 18 states but not in Florida (51.2), Texas (52.1) or South Carolina (55.1).

Today, the nation has newer class-based and culture-fueled divisions, but is not happier for having somewhat transcended regionalism: There are battleground states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada) in the North, South, East and West.

When George W. Bush was reelected in 2004, Ohio was the only large state he carried outside the South. (His next most populous non-Southern victory was in Indiana.) Regional differences have not lost their salience, but Obama won Florida and Virginia twice, North Carolina once, and in 2012 received 44 percent of both Mississippi’s and South Carolina’s votes.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton became a harbinger—and casualty—of today’s ongoing class-based realignment. If her White working-class turnout and percentages of support had matched those of Obama in 2012, she would have won Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida and the presidency. She would have won Wisconsin and Michigan if she had matched Obama’s 2012 turnout in Milwaukee and Detroit.

Because so many Democratic voters are in California (13.7 percent of the party’s national popular vote total in 2020) and a few other noncompetitive states (e.g., Illinois, New York), the party probably must win the national popular vote by more than 3 percentage points to win 270 electoral votes. Oddities abound. Gerald Ford came closer to defeating Jimmy Carter in the 1976 popular vote than Mitt Romney came to defeating Obama in 2012. Clinton, losing to Trump in 2016, won the popular vote by a larger margin (2.1 points) than John F. Kennedy did defeating Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

In 56 of the 70 years prior to tumultuous 1968 (marked by assassinations, urban riots and a polarizing ground war of attrition on the Asian mainland with a conscript army), the federal government was united: One party or the other held the presidency and both houses of Congress. In the subsequent 56 years, there has been unified government for only 17 years.

In the 62 years from 1932 to 1994, there were Democratic House majorities for all but four years (and Senate majorities for 10 years). After Democrats controlled the House of Representatives for 40 years (1954-1994), control changed three times in 24 years. Now, for the first time, control has changed under five consecutive presidents (under Bill Clinton in 1994, Bush in 2006, Obama in 2010, Trump in 2018, Joe Biden in 2022). Before ticket-splitting became unusual, Nixon trounced George McGovern in 1972 by 23.2 points, and Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in 1984 by 18.2 points, yet in both cases Democrats retained control of the House.

It is asserted that independents will decide the 2024 election. Romney might be skeptical. In 2012, he won independents by 5 points but lost the popular vote by 4 points. Stasis is, however, notable: 36 states and the District of Columbia have voted for the same party in this century’s six presidential elections.

If Biden loses, he will be the fifth incumbent defeated in the past 100 years (Herbert Hoover, Ford, Carter, George H.W. Bush). If Biden wins, he might be the first incumbent since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to win reelection while losing control of both houses of Congress. (Although Republicans seem to be trying to lose the House.)

Finally, for 50 years, the percentage of Americans calling themselves moderate has remained constant, around 40. Yet, remarkably, the ascent of glowering Gorgons has turned moderates away from politics.

(Washington Post)

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

SUBSCRIBE TO GET KEIZER NEWS — We report on your community with care, depth, fairness, and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more.