By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Local sunshine on tax-hike strategies

A mass of campaign finance numbers is available online for anyone caring to analyze the politics of Oregon. Meanwhile, even a cursory look at those figures reveals a fascinating story of tax increase efforts by the Democratic Party and its labor union supporters. It’s a story that played out locally in a very public way.

First, a short detour to mention Linfield College, a much-valued community institution with positive impacts on the McMinnville-area culture and economy. Linfield has a seat at the community table, where difficult issues are worked out by civic partners who have each other’s back.

Now, back to politics.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

In recent decades, government services throughout Oregon suffered from increasing diversion of funds to employee entitlement programs. Supporters of those programs nearly gained a legislative super-majority needed to adopt widespread tax increases without any bargaining with the opposition. But they fell one seat short in the House of Representatives.

Their solution was Measure 97, which proposed an unprecedented tax on gross revenues of large companies. The response was predictable — a war of business against labor, both representing state and national interests, with campaign spending skyrocketing to $50-plus million.

Business groups rounded up $27.5 million, and pro-97 forces pulled in $23 million. But well before the election, the Democratic Party and union pollsters realized Measure 97 was going down. The coalition decided to use some of those millions in a last-minute quest to buy that 36th seat in the House.

In several House races, hundreds of thousands of late-campaign dollars helped Democrats to narrow victories. Enter Ken Moore, Democratic candidate in District 24, which encompasses McMinnville, Dayton, Yamhill, Carlton, Lafayette and rural Newberg.

Moore, a likeable local figure who has been campaigning for three years, lost his way when the major money started to flow. He may have encouraged, and at least acquiesced, to a multi-media campaign tactic of innuendo and misrepresentation. The scheme, bought and paid for with diverted pro-97 funds, attacked the character and professional reputation of Moore’s opponent, Ron Noble. The campaign unfairly attacked the critically important integrity of Linfield College for protecting the safety of its local students.

The Democrats failed to win that 36th seat; Ken Moore, who doubled-down when offered the opportunity to rebuff those false charges, lost even more.

Local voters had Linfield’s back. Their votes for Ron Noble hopefully become a long-standing message to outsiders who would bring cynical political skulduggery into our community.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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