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Friday, May 23, 2008

The race for Senate District 23 is still unsettled

Portland, Oregon—

I have received several email communications in the past few days suggesting that my write-in campaign is about being a sore loser, but that’s not the case at all.

I stated from the beginning that my campaign to win the Senate District 23 seat representing NE and SE Portland neighborhoods and the City of Maywood Park would be unconventional and web-based.

I didn’t get much more specific about my plans than that, even with my campaign steering committee, but I was thinking about ways in which technology was evolving, moving opportunity in ways the party structure and other traditional gatekeepers could not control.

I disclosed the post-primary write-in phase of the campaign to just a few people, and to them only a couple of weeks before May 20.

My premise is that, in the wired world, citizens can overcome the advantages career politicians have at every point in the process, and reach directly to the “Write in” blank that is printed in every race on every ballot.

One of the chief factors causing undervoting and voter lethargy (both of which help keep incumbents in power) is single-candidate “races.”

They have ballots like that in Cuba and North Korea, too, and in the old Soviet Union.

“Totalitarian systems depend on a monopoly of information and force (and political opportunity—sc).” –Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat

The gatekeepers want to limit the voters’ choices in Senate District 23 to a single name, and I say that is no choice at all.

The cost of getting a name out there has been the single most important barrier to effective write-in campaigns, but that obstacle is falling like the Berlin Wall.

Oregon is possibly the best place in the nation to test out my theory, with its mail-in ballots that are like an open book test, and an electorate largely unaffiliated with any political party, increasingly computer literate and comfortable with searching out information individually.

This is really scary to the party functionaries, the special interests and the lobbyists, bent on promoting from within.

As a resident of Senate District 23 and House District 45, which are both getting a new legislator in 2009, I am offended that there was no public debate or forum throughout the entire primary period that addressed the voters’ choices.

The fact is, incumbents don’t want debates or forums with challengers. The more they can ride out the election with name familiarity alone, the less likely an upset will ensue.

Here we are, four days after the election, and there has still been nothing in the media, no analysis at all, about any of the contested East side legislative races.

We had months of buffoonery in the Portland City races, much of it fueled by public dollars, but no thoughtful discourse on the election of two state senators and two state representatives on the East side.

I styled the Primary stage of my campaign after Muhammed Ali’s famous Rope-a-Dope strategy, which won him the Heavyweight championship over a heavily-favored George Foreman in his prime.

I took a fearful beating from the Dingfelder-Gainer machine, an opponent with the relentless determination of the Terminator's nemesis, but I knew it was coming, and I knew it would end. Eventually, we would get to the issues that matter to the voters in Senate District 23.

Technology makes this possible, its low cost and its infinite reach.

Phase II, post-Primary, is also styled after Muhammed Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” all the way to the November General Election.

I have a great deal of information to share with the voters over the coming months, lots to talk about, lots of light to shed.

None of the several people who wrote in complaining about Phase II is a resident of Senate District 23, which brings us to an interesting point for further discussion: most of the Dingfelder supporters and endorsers in the primary weren’t residents of the district either.

What unfolded was a by-the-book machine-politics campaign led by a small group of insiders, some with motives that have nothing to do with the district, most of whom live elsewhere. Plenty to talk about here, too.

I intend to demonstrate that a write-in campaign is feasible in Oregon. I may or may not be successful in my race for Senate District 23. We won’t have the answer to that until November, but if my race inspires other citizens to step up and take on the machine, then it will have been worth the effort.

--Sean Cruz, May 23, 2008


The Oregonian Editorial Board on Senate District 23:

“Cruz…knows the issues well…”

“Sean Cruz, who has served as (Senator) Gordly's legislative aide and chief of staff for the past five years…is qualified for the job. He knows the issues that are important in the district, and he certainly knows how things get done in the Legislature. Most notably, he persuaded Gordly to push legislation, called ‘Aaron's Law,’ that gives families tools to punish parents for the crime of child abduction. “

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