Turning Purple to Red
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…Oregonlive.com – November 20, 2014 – Opinion by Julie Parrish…
On November 4, when every other state in the nation got a bit redder, Oregon appears to have gotten bluer. While that certainly may be true for partisan races, ballot measures and nonpartisan races tell another story. Media speculation about what Oregon Republicans must do to remain viable might seem insurmountable, but I think we’re closer than most think.
Let’s look at the 2014 election overall.
Based on ballot measure results, Oregon isn’t as blue as people think. If we were a stronghold of liberal ideology, voters would have passed the ballot measure to affirm SB 833, giving driver’s cards to undocumented immigrants. They would have passed GMO labeling and supported state Treasurer Ted Wheeler’s college plan, which failed dramatically. Results of those three measures tell me fiscal conservatism, national security, and concern for one’s personal checkbook trump the liberal ideology of a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
One would also think equal rights for women, Measure 89, would have passed by landslide in a blue state. It did not. Passage of Measure 91, marijuana legalization, with about 40,000 more votes than the number cast for governor, speaks to how much Oregonians value their freedom and personal liberty.
A fact that might surprise most people is, at my last count, there were more elected Republicans in Oregon than Democrats. They just don’t run with an “R” after their name on the ballot. While Republicans have trouble winning Washington County for legislative and congressional seats, the mayors of almost every major city in the county are Republican. Two of the three counties in the tri-county area have Republican-controlled county commissions. School boards, community college boards, county clerks and even Metro all have elected Republicans serving in office.
Clearly, having an “N” (for non-partisan) is a big factor for Republicans winning local races, given that the Republican brand seemingly is a hurdle for Oregon voters. But as one of the only Republicans elected as a Republican in a Democratic-registered district, I can say the answer doesn’t lie in rebranding the Republican Party. It’s simpler than that.
In the last year, I’ve received numerous texts and emails from political insiders advising me to switch parties. It’s not easy to be in a legislature with seemingly little balance, but even in the minority, I’ve managed to get laws I care about passed because I spend more time focusing on what I am “for” rather than what I am “against.” In a state where Republicans haven’t had a governorship in 30 years, it’s easy to shake a fist and rail against the other side; it takes more work to be solution-oriented and communicate a positive message — but that’s what the Oregon GOP needs to do.
My family has been in the Oregon Republican Party for more than 140 years. I’m the third legislator in my family to serve in the Oregon Legislature as a Republican. People forget that many of the things that made Oregon great came from Republican governors and legislators. It can be that way again.
In 2015, I’m committed to focusing on issues that affect every-day Oregonians. I am “for” creating an urban forest economy and dedicating funds for veterans’ services. I join Democrats like congressmen Cory Booker and Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York Public Schools, in supporting school choice that lifts low-income and minority students out of poverty. We must focus on closing the skills-trade gap and connecting people to family wage jobs. I believe we must end hunger in Oregon. We should spend money on preventative health care that ultimately reduces costs to our healthcare system. I believe we must stop taxing our lowest-income citizens at one of the highest income tax rates in the nation. And housing should be affordable for all Oregonians.
If Oregon Republicans want to win more elected offices as Republicans, and not just win in nonpartisan elections, then we must do a better job communicating what we’re “for” and give voters real choices in 2016.
This election showed the true color of our state is purple, not red or blue. It’s time for Oregon Republicans to get back to our roots, when our solutions worked for all Oregonians.
Julie Parrish represents House District 37, which includes parts of Tualatin and West Linn.