Monday, May 19, 2008

How I Voted (Because You're Dying to Know)

For those that don't know about Oregon's voting system...the state did away with the tradition where people head to polling places to cast a vote on election day. Instead, we are sent a voters guidebook in the mail (with each candidate having the opportunity to submit a half page write-up) and a ballot. We usually receive them two weeks in advance of the day its due (in this case, Tuesday, May 20th by 8 p.m.). Though I love going to a polling place and voting in a booth, I've voted a few times in Oregon's system and have come to appreciate the leisure I can take with voting as I read up on the candidates and issues. Once I marked up my ballot (I've never done it all at once; I usually take several days to completely fill it out), I can drop it off at my convenience, which I'm doing later on today. With that, here's how I voted...
For the Democratic Nomination for President

Barack Obama

I know I flirted with the possibility of voting for Hillary Clinton because it would be interesting to see not only a woman president, but also what role former President Bill Clinton would play in her administration. Her health care plan might be better than Obama's and her attempt in trying to bring Americans universal health care in 1993 provided a lot of necessary experience from which to work with in making it successful reality this time. Ultimately, though, I have to go with the candidate I had hoped would run for president in 2008 when he won the U.S. Senate seat in November 2004. His election was the rare bright spot in an otherwise demoralizing election. If Kerry did one thing right in his campaign, it was making Obama (merely a State Senator at the time, in a campaign for the Senate seat) a speaker during the primetime broadcast. He nailed it! It truly will be remembered as the speech that made Obama look presidential. He spoke of a new kind of politics, especially with his memorable line that "we worship an awesome God in the Blue States and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States." His point was clear...the media-created differences of Red States versus Blue States only helped to serve Bush's policies of divide and conquer.

His relative inexperience might make some people a bit cautious in supporting him, but I believe he is called by destiny to lead America in this time of divisiveness. Our greatest president Abraham Lincoln was also relatively inexperienced in politics. But Lincoln said it best in a quote: "a house divided against itself cannot stand." There are many challenges that America faces in the next four years and beyond. We cannot continue on the present course of having a president who disregards the majority of opinions while sticking to his tunnel vision of America in hopes that history will vindicate his presidency someday. We need a true leader who inspires people to their best, to challenge us to look beyond our racial prejudices, and to offer us hope for a better world. That person simply is Barack Obama. I am proud to cast my vote for him to become the next president of the United States. We might not see another politician of his gifts, vision, and calibre for awhile. If we truly are in "the fierce urgency of now", he is the best one to lead us back into the community of nations, to restore justice and human rights, and to be a president for ALL Americans.

For the Democratic Nomination for U.S. Senate

Jeff Merkley

He helped lead the Democrats back into the majority in the Oregon state legislature. He brings his state legislative leadership experience with him as the best candidate to defeat Senator Gordon Smith in November. While Steve Novick (his main opponent) is a witty guy and a character (short in stature and has a hook for a left hand), I don't think he has a chance to defeat Senator Smith. And you can suspect that Senator Smith thinks so as well, because his ads mostly attack Merkley. Why Senator Smith is running ads against Merkley already (when he has an opponent on the Republican side) indicates to me that he prefers to run against Novick. He's scared of losing his seat in the Senate and he ought to be. When I interned in D.C. in the OVP for Legislative Affairs eight years ago, I saw Senators up close and I can easily see Merkley among them. We have Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and I believe that having a fellow Democratic colleague will be good for Oregon...especially when renewable energy and environmental sustainability will become major issues in the next decades. Merkley knows what it takes to win and he does it without flash. Senator Smith has every reason to fear Jeff Merkley. His career as a Bush-policy voting politician has a serious chance of coming to an end.

For U.S. Representative for the First Congressional District

David Wu

Though he's not the most exciting politician and I kind of wished that I had moved into Congressman Blumenauer's district (east of the river), none of his opponents have the kind of stature to bring something new to the office and the district. What I like about Congressman Wu is that he was born in Taiwan (like me) and he has been consistently tough on China regarding human rights (even when he has Intel and Nike corporations in his district, which both want more trade with China). His main opponent is a computer engineer at Intel, fueling speculation that he might be an Intel plant to gain influence in Congress. Until we get another candidate with more interesting experiences, ideas, and personality, I'm sticking with Congressman Wu for another two years.

For Attorney General of Oregon

John Kroger

His opponent Greg Macpherson has run ads accusing Kroger of basically being a carpetbagger, but man...what a carpetbagger! Oregon is lucky to have enticed Kroger to move here. Here's a basic bio: He got his Bachelor's and Master's at Yale; a Juris Doctorate at Harvard Law; he served in the U.S. Marine Corps in a special operations unit; he worked in the Clinton Administration as a policy analyst in the Treasury Department; then he became a federal prosecutor who helped convict mafia killers, drug traffickers, corrupt government officials, and prosecuted Enron executives. With a resume like that, no wonder why his opponent has gone after his lack of Oregon roots. Kroger claims to have fallen in love with Oregon when he made a cross-country bike trip. He's currently a law professor at Lewis and Clark College.

Anyone who goes after Enron executives is great in my book. I'd love to see what he'll do as the state's Attorney General. He wants to go after the meth problem, which should be an issue of major concern. He has the vast experience (military, great universities as student and professor, presidential administration, courtroom) necessary to handle the demands of being Oregon's top law officer.

Back in late January and early February, he was looking for campaign staff and I had thought of applying. The reason I didn't was because I had already committed to volunteering on the Sam Adams campaign and didn't want a job as a staff member on another campaign to limit my ability to volunteer on the Adams campaign. But, had I known more about Kroger's background back then, I most likely would've applied anyway (since my morale at work has consistently gone downhill each month so far this year). Like I said in yesterday's post...I've never lived in a place where I had so many choices on good candidates to work for. I hit the motherlode in Oregon!

For Oregon Secretary of State

Kate Brown

I haven't really paid much attention to this race. There are four candidates running, three of whom are State Senators looking for a promotion. Based on the write-up in the voter guidebooks, they all sound similar. It's hard to decide, so I went with Kate Brown because in her ads, she reminds us of the disasterous vote count in 2000 and advocates for clean and fair elections, which is an important issue for me. She won't be Oregon's Katharine Harris.

For Mayor of Portland

Sam Adams

You all saw this one coming, right? Out of all the campaigns out there, he's the one I'm most excited about winning because I think he's an all around great guy with the kind of visionary leadership and energy Portland needs right now. He has his share of critics who don't like his personal style. He can be a bit combative and not as diplomatic as people would like, but I think this is just part of his personality trait of being brutally honest. That's what I like about him. He knows what he wants and intends to get it, to make Portland an even better city. Leadership is not for the timid and visionary leadership often ruffles the feathers of those happy with the way things are. However, that's not to say that he gets his way all the time or that he's incapable of changing his mind. He's shown recently his ability to shelve personal projects like the bike bridge in the Pearl that many were critical of, or his plan for street maintenance fees to be put up for a vote at another time.

For me, the key issues for Portland are livable wage jobs, affordable housing, public transit, and environmental sustainability. When I first heard about him and learned about his political philosophy, I knew he was a candidate I would not only wholeheartedly endorse, but also that I wanted to volunteer on his campaign. I've never been interested in local races before in my life. But his passion for the issues that I care about reaffirms for me why I moved to Portland in the first place. This city needs to become the world leader in being environmentally friendly and sustainable, where green jobs are part of the economy, and even having businesses flock to our city to be a part of an innovative future.

Sam Adams is a policy wonk. That type of person is generally the best kind to have in government because they are passionate about governing and obsessed with the details. The last thing we need is another bland mayor without bold ideas to move Portland forward. I'm fully confident that Sam Adams will be a mayor that will get the important things done and leave us a better city when his term(s) end.

For Portland City Commissioner -- Position 1

Charles Lewis

I already wrote my endorsement of him last week. Now, I get to vote for him. I really like his background with having a bachelor's in Political Science and a Master's in Public Policy. This is something that the local press never mention when he has made the news. It's always his side business, the Portland Duck Tours, which was a weekend operation catering to the tourist crowds and became quite popular for the nearly two years it existed. His experience as a founder and executive of a non-profit organization devoted to making music education affordable for over 2,200 low income children in Portland is far more impressive. It shows his ability to put his personal finances on the line for a workable dream that improves the quality of children's lives and because he took that kind of risk, his organization currently employs 78 people and fills a necessary niche in Portland for those low income children who love music and want to learn how to play instruments.

When it comes to money, he seems to have a strong sense of ethics...even willing to use part of the public money he received for his campaign to fill in potholes on some city streets. He wants to see City Council use its tax dollars for what it was intended for, rather than pet projects of wealthy developers (often those who have no shame in getting government contracts and funds but not willing to pay back their fair share in taxes). Though I'm a streetcar guy and love it (I use it several times a week), I also agree that if it comes out of funds meant to repair streets and bridges or other basic services, the basic services are far more important.

Out of all the candidates running for Sam Adams' vacated seat, Charles Lewis will bring the right kind of priorities to City Council. I also hope that he will use his experience in business to help solve the perception problem Portland has with the business world. Our city needs more livable wage jobs. Desperately. None of the other candidates have the kind of experiences necessary to make this happen.

There are other races that I voted for, such as County Commissioner, but the above represents most of the people I voted for on my ballot.

My apologies for those who do not live in Portland and couldn't care less about our local politics.

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