By editorial board • 

Buck the big dogs and back top-two primary

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Don Dix

Unless we can believe the political B.S. that will be forthcoming to defeat M90, It appears all these 'organizations' have a similar objective -- to make sure tax dollars keep flowing -- directly into their respective coffers!


You state that the "Koch brothers" are joining others in opposing Measure 90 and then state that voting yes on Measure 90 is a way "to thumb our noses . . . at the Koch brothers."

I can find nothing anywhere that supports the statement that the Koch brothers are opposing Measure 90.

The only political committee registered as opposing Measure 90 (Protect Our Vote) shows no contribution from any individual or organization connected in any way with the Koch brothers.

I wonder where you are getting that information.


The Koch brothers are not necessarily entering the Measure 90 fray, at least not at this point. However, they have been big-money backers of open primary and top-two primary opposition campaigns over the years. They were major funders of the opposition in California and Arizona, for example.
The intent, not made entirely clear, was to tie them to opposition to the concept, not necessarily to the measure currently before voters in Oregon. Hope that helps clarify.
Steve Bagwell, Managing Editor


Your answer indicates no evidence that the Koch brothers are opposing Measure 90 or spending money to do so. Your statement that the Democratic Party of Oregon is "being joined not only by the Oregon Republican Party, but also by . . . the Koch brothers" is unsupported by any evidence. It should be retracted.

You now say that the Koch brothers "were major funders of the opposition in California and Arizona, for example." That is not true for California. There is no evidence of spending by any Koch-related group against California's 2010 top two primary measure, and I am told by those active in the California campaign that no Koch organization got involved.

Even if your statement about Arizona were true, that does not support your statement that the Koch brothers have joined the Democratic Party of Oregon in opposition to Measure 90.

A group thought to be "Koch linked" spent $1.6 million against two Arizona ballot measures in 2012, one of them the top two primary. The supporters of the top two primary measure there outspent opponents by more than 2-1. The biggest donors supporting the measure were real estate companies and public sector unions. Using your logic, that means that the public employee unions support the top two primary, which they do not. If spending against a somewhat similar measure in Arizona means that the Koch brothers have "joined" the Democratic Party of Oregon in opposition to Measure 90, it is equally "true" that the public employee unions have "joined" the the supporters of Measure 90. Neither statement is actually true.

In any event, there is no evidence supporting your statement that the Koch brothers have joined the Democratic Party of Oregon in opposing Measure 90. It should be retracted.


Regarding your new statement that the Koch brothers are "opposed to the concept" of top two primaries, there is also no evidence for that. Their opposition to top two in Arizona was probably because top two is perceived (incorrectly) as diminishing the power of the dominant political party in the state (in Arizona, the Republican Party), so the Koch brothers would naturally oppose adoption of a new system that would the power of the party they support.

In California, conversely, the Koch brothers did not oppose the top two primary measure, probably because they thought (incorrectly) it would diminish the power of California's dominant party, the Democrats. Instead, under top two, Californians have elected all Democrat statewide officials and have given the Democrats a 2/3 majority in both houses of the California Legislature.

If the Koch brothers get involved in Oregon at all, I would expect them to support Measure 90 (the top two primary), because they would perceive it as reducing the power of Oregon's dominant party, the Democrats.

In any event, your statement that the Koch brothers have joined the Democratic Party of Oregon in opposing Measure 90 is supported by no evidence.


Hi Steve Bagwell,

Dan Meek has made a compelling case based on facts that you should retract and correct your assertion that the Koch brothers are involved in Oregon elections regarding Measure 90, the move-the-general-election-to-May-and-repeal-democratic-partisan-primaries-and-force-a-runoff-when-people-are-typically-paying-attention-and-add-backroom-party-endorsements-on-the-ballot-directly proposal.

Your claims to the contrary are actually stating a different point, something not stated in the article. Why don't you make that point, instead of leaving the false claim in your paper?

As a journalism professor you know it's the right thing to do. It's easy to make a mistake. It's also simple to correct one. ORS 260.532 also requires it by law.

The proponents have already quoted you on it as a source.

Here's how to do it:

Delete three words: "the Koch brothers."

Add to the bottom:

"An earlier version of this piece erroneously implied that the Koch brothers are involved in the current Oregon election. The article has been updated. The Koch brothers opposed a different measure in Arizona, but didn't get involved in other similar proposals in other states. We regret the error and pride ourselves on publishing only fact-based editorials."

You also imply that Pacific Greens would appear on the ballot in a top two state. That's not how it works actually. If two major party candidates run, there are no third parties in the general election in such states. So you mislead people to think third parties will actually participate. Furthermore, the recent initiative review committee voted to oppose Measure 90 based on the fact that it would prevent minor parties from being able to qualify for the ballot based on significant drafting errors. Did you invite multiple viewpoints to participate in your editorial process?

Seth Woolley


Dan Meek and Seth Woolley both make strong points here. It should be clear from the facts, and even from Steve Bagwell’s response, that the Koch brothers are not involved in Oregon’s Measure 90. And yet your editorial states otherwise--something that is plainly untrue and unsupported by evidence.

A correction of the record would be important for readers to understand because anybody reading this editorial uncorrected would walk away believing that the Kochs were involved with or funding the No on 90 campaign. Not only is that not true, but Meek points out that they would likely support Measure 90, if they even know it exists.

A clarification for readers is important - Mr. Bagwell, will the paper print a retraction?


We accept your contention that we owe readers a correction on that point. We will be running one in Friday's edition.



Again, there is utterly no evidence that "the Koch brothers may well be next" in opposing Measure 90.


The Koch brothers did not oppose top two primary ballot measures in Washington or California or Oregon in 2008. Your claim that they "may well be next" in opposing Measure 90 is entirely made up.



Your insistence on attaching the Koch Brothers to the campaign opposing Measure 90, despite even a shred of evidence to support the claim, remains disappointing.

Dan Meek and Seth Woolley have both made solid points disproving your claims and the speculation in your correction. A real correction would have given your readers the ability to weigh the facts and make up their own minds. It's unfortunate that you're instead clinging to this false claim, only slightly reworded.

It would be easy to have a real discussion about who's actually on either side of the issue. Here's the full list of organizations who have joined the Protect Our Vote Coalition to oppose Measure 90 (

Oregon State Fire Fighters Council
Oregon Nurses Association
Oregon Education Association
The Free and Equal Elections Foundation
Democratic Party of Oregon
Oregon Republican Party
Pacific Green Party
Oregon Progressive Party
Ballot Access News
PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste)
SEIU Local 503
SEIU Local 49
UFCW Local 555
Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters
AFSCME Council 75
Our Oregon
Economic Fairness Oregon
Joint Council of Teamsters #37
Oregon School Employees Association
Eugene / Springfield Solidarity Network / Jobs With Justice
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon
Alliance for Democracy
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, & Grain Millers Union Local 114
Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals
Tualatin Valley Firefighters IAFF Local 1660
American Federation of Teachers-Oregon
Oregon AFL-CIO
Main Street Alliance of Oregon
Oregon State Building Trades Council
Working America
Oregon Action
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

Don Dix

Nice catch, both of you!

....a list of organizations ( loosely termed ) which stand to lose the political influence they now possess if M90 passes. That prospect alone should be enough to convince voters 90 needs to pass. Wouldn't that twist some partisan panties?


I know I will be voting no on this, and I hope everyone else does the same. I have seen reports of the effect that similar laws have had in Washington and California, and I can't imagine a worse idea. It doesn't take much effort to imagine huge amounts of money being spent to influence primaries, and push a single party as the only option on the ballot. I can also see media outlets, such as this paper, enjoying the ad revenue that would come from entities on both sides exploiting our broken campaign finance laws to try and force that result every time. It's not hard to see why the News Register, and so many other newspapers would like this idea considering the windfall they stand to see from it. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the end result will always be that people who choose not to endorse either major party are left without a reasonable candidate to vote for in elections.

Don Dix


You are concerned that non-alliliated voters would not have a 'reasonable candidate to vote for' in an election.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I would offer that the present system seldom, if ever, produces a worthy choice. At present, if a candidate isn't somewhat partisan, he/she never get to the ballot!


I would add to that, there is no reason on earth to believe more money would be poured into a non-partisan primary than a traditional partisan primary, or that the News-Register would ever see any of it.
Virtually 100 percent of political revenue currently goes into television advertising at the upper levels and a combination of direct mail, lawn signs and such at the lower levels. We get barely a dollop under the current system, and there is nothing about a top-two primary system that could conceivably change that. Thus, our self-interest is zero, nada, zilch.
Further, how could one of the major parties possibly work to see two of its candidates through in a open primary process. Contributing to one of them would inevitably hurt the chances of the other, and vice versa. The very thought of uncontrolled intra-party competition is one of the factors that drives both major parties to ardently oppose the idea.
Two candidates of the same party are only likely to emerge in districts that are utterly dominated by that party. In those cases, voters would at least get a real choice in a top-two system — a choice between two candidates having a realistic chance of prevailing. They certainly don't get that under the current system, where many candidate either run unopposed or face only token opposition.
A Republican has no chance whatsoever in many districts in Lane, Benton and Multnomah counties, whereas a Democrat has no chance whatsoever in many counties on Oregon's dry, sagebrush side. A top-two primary would be much more likely give voters a real race in the general election — one featuring two viable candidates.
More than one-third of the electorate is either unaffiliated or affiliated with a so-called minor party. It is therefore entirely shut out of Oregon primaries and often effectively shut out of Oregon general elections, as they are a foregone conclusion.
The top-two primary would solve that.


Don Dix, I understand that unaffiliated and third party voters are seldom offered the opportunity to vote for a viable candidate, but I like having the option that I currently have to vote for a reasonable one like I said. Currently any election can produce a wide variety of options from several parties, giving me the chance to vote for whoever best fits with my values. If this goes through, and the primary results in only two candidates that I cannot in good conscience vote for, then I am left out of the process. If you want to further entrench the two major parties that will almost certainly dominate every election, thereby pushing out any other voices, then I guess you can go ahead and vote that way. Personally, I refuse to further restrict my options.

Don Dix

Steve's response put an exclamation point on the many reasons to pass this measure. And all those listed by meghanmoyer might have to endure a life without the favors that have been fostered for them until now, such a tragedy!

Oh, expect to hear and read all sorts of arguments in opposition to M90. But keep in mind, it's mostly B.S., disguised as concern and care to protect 'your vote'.


sbagwell, I know that if the Democratic and Republican parties thought they had the chance to buy both positions on a ballot, they would flood that market with money. We are a small market, so the effect locally might be limited, but this is a statewide measure. We have already seen these effects happening in Washington and California.

All that this measure will do is force independent and third party voters to pick between two choices that are without exception going to come from the two major parties, sometimes both from only one, effectively pushing out any dissenting voices. You say that this will open up the choices during the primary, and that may be true, but once the field has been narrowed for the general election, I know that my party of choice will not be represented locally anymore. I, and thousands of others like me, will be left without a candidate we can vote for without compromising our values. My vote is important to me, and I know it will be damaged and restricted by this measure. If any of you value the integrity of the act of voting I encourage you to vote no on this and preserve what little voice you still have.


Minor party candidates attract a scattering of protest votes in general elections. At most, they might swing a close race between two major party candidates — and, ironically, in the direction most objectionable to their supporters.
Under a top-two primary system, you still have the option of casting your protest vote. You can do it as a write-in. And you won't risk electing the worst of the two major party alternatives.


Mine is never a protest vote, it is a values vote, and picking the lesser of two evils, or writing in a vote that will be ignored are not good enough options for me. I honestly don't know if you mean well in your support of this, but I do know how it will hurt a lot of people that want to see change instead of further dominance by the major parties.

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