Oregon picks tough Democrat to battle GOP governor this fall
Oregon Republican Gov. Victor Atiyeh easily won his party's nomination for a second term in office in Tuesday's primary election. His four opponents offered no serious opposition.
But he will face a formidable Democratic nominee in the general election in state Sen. Ted Kulongoski of Junction City, who disposed of seven opponents, including Multnomah County executive Don Clark and Lane County commissioner Harry Rust.
Democrats have a strong majority in voter registration in the state and a majority in polling for governor in Tuesday's primary.
Governor Atiyeh surprised both supporters and opponents in announcing, when his nomination became clear Tuesday night, that he and Democratic nominee Kulongoski will engage in five debates in five different Oregon cities prior to the November election. Both appear to agree that the principle election issues in Oregon are the economy and employment, areas in which the state is lagging well behind the nation at large.
Oregon's four members of the US House of Representatives -- Democrats Les AuCoin, James Weaver, and Ron Wyden and Republican Denny Smith - also won renomination. Mr. Smith will run in the new Oregon Fifth District, the result of population gains recorded in the 1980 census.
In Smith's current Second District, the nominees as of early Wednesday were Democrat Larryann Willis, a Vale rancher, and GOP state Sen. Robert Smith of Burns.
Mr. AuCoin will face Republican nominee Bill Moshofsky, Portland industrialist, in the fall. Mr. Wyden is favored to win over Thomas Phelan, Republican nominee, in the East Portland Third District. Mr. Weaver out-polled the Republican nominee, Ross Anthony, in the Fourth District. Denny Smith was not opposed for the Republican nomination in the Fifth District and will face Democratic nominee state Sen. Ruth McFarland, an educator.
The depressed state of the Oregon economy is considered to be a factor in voters' rejection Tuesday of two major revenue measures -- a three-year increase in taxes on trucks and on gasoline to finance road repairs and an issue of up to facilities.
Voters did favor two money measures: one would permit issues of state bonds to finance small municipal water projects and the other would allow state loans for housing elderly and disabled persons.
In metropolitan Multnomah County, including Portland, voters took what the press and many officials believe to be a step backward in authorizing election instead of appointment for some local officials such as court clerks, assessor, and sherrif.
The Atiyeh-Kulongoski contest for the governorship is already shaping up as a close one. Atiyeh has the advantage of incumbency, but Kulongoski proved an effective campaigner in winning so handily in his primary campaign against Clark and Rust.
Kulongoski has accused Atiyeh of being too close to the national Reagan administration, but Atiyeh sent President Reagan a critical letter on Reaganomics in April.