Saturday, February 02, 2008

I miss Phil Keisling

The last Democrat I voted for was Phil Keisling.

It was before I was intensly involved in Oregon politics, although I definitely was very intensely focused on politics, even then. Just as an avocation rather than vocation.

But I met Phil the first time at my next door neighbor's house, a downtown lawyer, who had Phil over for an evening coffee/fundraiser during his first re-election. It must have been 1992. I listened to him speak, and wasn't particularly impressed. Obviously bright guy, doing the campaigning thing.

We chatted before I left, he didn't know me from Adam, and he asked me what I thought of vote by mail. (It was on the ballot at the time, as I recall.)

A while later I reached out to him because I wanted to invite him to speak to a group of educators I was involved with assembling, and he was making noises about perhaps running for Sup't of Public Instruction. His office arranged a time for us to meet, and he came by the office i worked in.

We spoke for over an hour, debated, shared views, argued. We had some common ground and we differed on a lot, but I could see that this was a guy who was not afraid of ideas.

He would prove that to me time and again over the next several years, as we would regularly meet and spar over our various positions on things. Here was a guy who held a statewide office as a Democrat, but who had an enjoyment of the intellectual jousting over ideas that can only come from the confidence that he has subjected those ideas to intense intellectual scrutiny. That's why he was willing to talk them through.

We'd have these 2 hour breakfasts where we debated various things. He was always ready to test what he thought against the best arguments anyone could bring.

Where the Hell is that today? There are only a couple of Democrats I know today who are confident enough in what they believe that they are willing test it against the opposing views. Steve Novick is one. Sam Adams is another.

But for the most part, what we get is hack Democrats who retreat into the comfort of our one-party state. Bill Bradbury knows that the fix is in, so does Ted Kulongoski. Why would they expose their intellectual shortcomings?

And that is why I respect and miss Phil Keisling. He could have gone the Kulongoski route, kissed the unions' asses and maybe been governor. But he cared too much about ideas (many of which I disagree with, and many of which the unions disagree with) so he was too dangerous for the people who really run the Democrat party.

But I miss Phil Keisling.


Anonymous said...

Me too.

Could we recruit him to run as a GOP?

I don't care what his political views are, I'd just settle for having someone honest in charge of elections.

Inactive voters who signed petitions were not invalidated under Keisling, that was an artifice of Bradbury. Once he got away with that, he turned up the anti-initiative volume every year with whatever new rules Novick, Nesbitt and Wentz could come up with.

Anonymous said...

When the history of Oregon and how it dissolved into anarchy and chaos is written, the tipping point will likely be identified as the election of Bradbury. He is a once-in-a-lifetime, incredible combination of mean, partisan and incompetent. It almost makes me sad he didn't beat Gordon Smith last time. He could hardly do more damage to our rights were he in the Senate.

Bill Sizemore said...

I first met Phil Keisling while he was a reporter at the Willamette Week back in 1980. Jump forward 14years. Keisling was secretary of state and I was becoming an initiative practitioner and his office's best "customer".

Several times, I sat in Phil's office for lengthy chats about the ways things were being run and how they could be improved. He asked for my input and seemed quite engaged. A few times we even did joint public appearances, debating how to improve the process. I liked Phil.

Sometimes we agreed and often we didn't, but I believe he was an honest liberal.

His deputy, Mike Greenfield and I had many, many such chats, talking about how to improve the process. However, there were always problems with activists on his office staff at the elections division. They were always scheming new ways to lower our validity rates and find new ways to throw out signatures, but it was nothing back then like it is under Bradbury.

I have come to the conclusion based on much experience that Bradbury may not be as corrupt as his actions portray. I think he is just plain not very bright. I doubt he knows or understands what is going on. When he testifies in committees, he has little to say and carefully follows a script that his staff has prepared for him.

It is certain higher ranking staff in his office who are coming up with this stuff. Bradbury is being handled, plain and simple, which is probably why he was chosen to replace Keisling when Phil retired early.

Bradbury's office may be the most partisan and corrupt Secretary of State office in America. There are a few good people working there, but by and large, everything is done with an eye to a specific political agenda. And Bill, if you are listening, I would be willing to debate you any time about where the real corruption lies in the initiative process.

You say it is with guys like me. The liberal media predictably agree with you. I say the seat of corruption is yours and you only get away with it because the liberal media cover for you.

As bad as you are, however, Kate Brown will be worse. Same agenda, but a large smarter.

Bill Sizemore said...

typo Make that a "lot" smarter.

Anonymous said...

"As bad as you are, however, Kate Brown will be worse. Same agenda, but a lot smarter."

And Sam isn't smarter than Bill and Ted? (Not the brightest bulbs, nor the sharpest tools...)

Sam is very bright. But politically honest? Not much. Sam will do whatever he can get away with to further his agenda. Whatever he can get away with. And he will find many more creative pathways to exploit. Sam is no honest liberal. He will push his agenda with legals means as well as illegal means. Ethical or unethical means.

It is outcome based politics. And since the Portland metro area (and therefore the whole state) wants liberal policies, regardless of how they get them.

Witness Meas 49. And Gay Marriage in MultCo with the Mean Girls. And Bill B. and the SOS office with any and all conservative initiatives. All examples of doing whatever (legal or illegal) it takes to move Oregon further and further leftward towards the Socialist Utopia of liberal Democrats.

Victoria Taft said...

I've been thinking that I miss Phil, too. But he made a huge negative dent in Oregon policy when he introduced vote by mail. This was a huge mistake from which Oregon electoral integrity may never recover.

bailie said...

Very good comments. This is being touched upon right now on the OregonLive education forum.

Phil Jones said...

I love Vote By Mail.

It's the best way to encourage complacent voters to submit their votes. With gasoline at $3 a gallon and most people's spare time dwindling, it makes perfect sense to vote by mail.

rural resident said...

Vote by mail wasn't imposed upon the Oregon electorate by some sinister outside force. It was a reasonable response to what Oregonians all over the state were doing in increasingly large numbers: voting by absentee ballot. We had a ridiculous situation where hundreds of thousands of people were voting as much as several weeks ahead of time, yet the ballots couldn't be counted until after the polls closed. It clogged the machinery of running elections and delayed reporting of results.

When the majority of people want to vote in a certain way, that sounds like the market making its wishes known. The vote by mail law is just a concession to citizens' reasonable use of an already existing mechanisms.

While vote by mail may have some minor flaws, there are many more advantages. It eliminates much of the "last minute surprise" mud-slinging/off-the-wall charges thrown up by those desperately trying to catch up. Once you vote early, you generally stop getting the flood of campaign-related mail (saves trees!) and computer-generated phone calls. Voters can take their time completing their ballots without having to feel like they're holding up someone in a long line at a polling place. The only thing that surprises me is that so many campaigns don't seem to understand the vote by mail calendar very well. Strategic moves often seem to be planned as though everyone were still going to the polls on election day.

Given the huge number of absentee ballots in other states, vote by mail is more likely to spread than go away in Oregon. I wonder how much different the results in the 2000 and 2004 races for President would have been had vote by mail been the rule nationwide?

Jack Roberts said...

Some history on vote-by-mail:

It wasn't on the ballot in 1992. Instead Keisling, having been appointed by Barbara Roberts to fill out her term as secretary of state after she was elected governor, was running against Republican legislator Randy Miller for the secretary of state's position.

At that time, Randy Miller supported vote-by-mail, Keisling opposed it.

After the 1994 election, in which huge numbers of Oregonians voted absentee, creating a costly and time-consuming dual election system, Keisling switched to supporting vote-by-mail.

After the Republican legislature approved vote-by-mail in the 1995 session, Kitzhaber vetoed it. He took so much heat for that, the next session he and Keisling introduced a new vote-by-mail bill in the 1997 session (making Kitzhaber the first governor in Oregon history to introduce a bill he had previously vetoed), but by then Republicans had soured on vote-by-mail and wouldn't pass it.

Consequently, in 1998, Keisling worked with a coalition of folks to put vote-by-mail on the ballot, where it passed by a wide margin.

So it is unfair to blame Keisling for vote-by-mail. We got vote-by-mail because people wanted it. As many as 40% of the votes were already being cast by a defacto vote-by-mail absentee ballot system.

Vote-by-mail remains extremely popular with voters and isn't going away any time soon. We would better spend out time trying to find ways to protect against abuses of the system than trying to overturn the will of the majority.

RINO WATCH said...

A little more history on vote by mail...

Vote by Mail should have never reached the ballot in 1998.

Do you Remember?

Keisling ran a sham ballot initiative and was caught red handed, but when a lawsuit was filed against him,he was bailed out by none other than Judge Germond in Marion Co. Circus court.

That's a fact!

VBM has been a fraud since its inception...

Scott McLean said...

Rob, you are exactly right, Phil Keisling was a great elected official here in Oregon.

I got to know Phil as a writer and interviewed him, and generally just followed along to redistricting meetings at various locations in Oregon and in Salem. I also supported him later on his campaigns and think he would be a marvelous governor of Oregon.

In the redistricting work, I feel he put Oregonians first and did his best to remain neutral and very professional in redrawing the legislative boundaries.

What we need in Oregon now, like we did when Tom McCall was governor, is a leader like Keisling who can bring Oregonians together to work to achieve common goals.

Thanks Rob! Take care.