To succeed, Kotek must avoid the pitfalls of her predecessor

The decision of Democratic stalwart Betsy Johnson to become an unaffiliated intervener in this year’s Oregon gubernatorial campaign gave Republicans their best shot since Vic Atiyeh rode to re-election 40 years ago.

But it wasn’t to be. The Democratic standard-bearer, former House Speaker Tina Kotek, dashed their hopes by running up insurmountable margins on her home turf in metropolitan Portland.

The question now becomes, can Kotek avoid the fate of predecessor Kate Brown, who seemed to fall further out of sync with ordinary Oregonians every passing day of her troubled tenure? If so, how?

Well, as you might guess, we have some thoughts on that. As we see it, Oregonians want their governor to:

- Represent both sides of the state, not just the west side where the bulk of the population resides. In keeping with that, strike a fair balance when it comes to east vs. west, urban vs. rural, and environment vs. commercial and industrial enterprise. Genuinely understand and appreciate the way the other half lives — the rural half.

- Ease up, wherever possible, on the regulation and taxation. When that’s not possible, make the case to ordinary Oregonians, hoping to win them over, not just run them over. And be ever open to compromise, a sign of strength rather than weakness.

- Seek counsel from all quarters — high and low, inside and out, Republican and Democrat – before formulating new policies or pursuing new programs. Decisions made by conferring with closeted advisers, consulting favored interest groups and counting votes within party ranks rarely find broad favor with the electorate in the end.

- Limit executive orders to narrow, emergency situations of short duration. Don’t use them to bypass the legislative process just because, like the democratic process our republic is based on, it requires time and compromise to work its magic. Nor the judicial process, for that matter, as Brown did with her massive clemency campaign.

- Resist the urge to withhold records from the public just because they promise to prove unflattering. That’s a sure-fire way to turn one black eye into two — the first for the initial wrongdoing, the second for the coverup — as the records will inevitably surface anyway, either through leak or forced disclosure. Persist in transparency, even when it’s painful.

- Avoid the temptation to compromise the independence of agencies like the state Department of Justice, where public standing depends on the degree to which integrity is established and maintained. The attorney general’s office should not be co-opted into serving as just another tool of the executive branch.

- Don’t let entrenched agency bureaucracies lapse into incompetence, corruption or overly cozy relationships with the industries they regulate. Public trust is precious.

- Don’t be afraid to ride herd on sacred cows like Oregon’s disgracefully bloated Public Employee Retirement System or disgracefully lax campaign finance system. It takes backbone, but that’s something we look for in governors.

- Base appointments on true merit, not on inner circle relationships. Nothing destroys faith in government faster than unjust favoritism.

In her first inaugural address in 2015, Brown promised to promote transparency and trust. In fact, she trampled transparency and eroded trust.

We’re looking for a similar promise from Kotek come January, but we’re looking for a vastly more responsive follow-through.

Talk is cheap. Let’s see some action.


Don Dix

When one has followed the same path (governor) for years (with a complicit super majority), there is little incentive or talent to do anything different. Any thoughts of much changing are simply dreams.


Well said Don. Past results are an indicator of future performance. Or, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Or, holy crap, I thought Kate Brown was terrible.


Kotek is just Brown without the frumpy wig!

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