No sooner did this year’s legislative session end than the state’s partisans launched into campaign attack mode. Thus did the Oregon Democratic Party issue a press release March 3 declaring Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, a failure.
“None of Buehler’s bills or priorities gained traction during the recent short session,” opined state Democratic Party Chair Jeanne Atkins. “For a guy who wants to lead the state and touts his bipartisan credentials, he is astoundingly ineffective. Buehler is good at making campaign speeches in committee hearings but clearly after three years as a legislator he still hasn’t figured out governing.”
The attack itself isn’t surprising, as Buehler seeks to unseat Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. Meanwhile, Oregonians can expect Buehler’s campaign and his fellow Republicans to take plenty of shots at Brown in the coming months. That’s politics.
What makes this accusation noteworthy, rather, are its absurdity and the apparent assumption of Atkins and others that voters are too dumb to recognize it.
Atkins’ party controls both legislative chambers, including the one in which Buehler serves. As a member of the minority party, Buehler can be only as effective as legislative leadership allows him to be. And how many signature victories do you suppose Democratic legislators, not being foolish, were going to allow a Republican seeking to unseat a Democratic governor?
Yes, that was a rhetorical question.
But Atkins does raise a good point. Effectiveness matters. And later this year, voters will decide how effectively Brown, whose party controls the House, Senate and governor’s office, has addressed the state’s most pressing problems, including its public pension crisis and its chronic inability to live within its means. So far, at least, the efforts have not been astoundingly impressive.