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January 27th, 2010 Ari Phillips | News Stories
 

Making Contact

TV ads, spadeas and tweets? Sure. What else the tax measures’ fans and foes did to win.

     
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KNOCK, KNOCK: Laura Becker (right) tries to drum up yes votes on Measures 66 and 67 in Northeast Portland.
IMAGE: Leslie Montgomery

In the run up to the Jan. 26 election, more than $11 million was spent on Measures 66 and 67, for everything from TV commercials to wrap-around ads, known as “spadeas,” in The Oregonian.

And, of course, there were the newer tools of tweets and Facebook updates by both sides, reminding people to vote.

Amid all those millions and lower-budget social media techniques were much more prosaic scenes featuring hundreds of volunteers doing a lot of old-school knocking on doors and phoning of Oregon voters.

The volunteers had more than 1 million people to contact in the election’s final days. As of Monday, Jan. 25, half of Oregon’s 2.1 million voters hadn’t yet turned in a ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

And Multnomah County, the largest of Oregon’s 36 counties and the liberal-tilting county backers of Measures 66 and 67 counted on, had the second-worst turnout.

I stopped by Vote Yes for Oregon’s Portland headquarters and spent a rainy Friday before ballots were due going door to door in the Hollywood neighborhood with volunteer Laura Becker, a 32-year-old employee of the Oregon Humanities nonprofit.

“I usually prefer phone banking because I had some soul-crushing experiences during the 2004 Bush-Kerry election where residents would answer the door only to tell me they were voting for Bush,” Becker said. “But this time [Vote Yes for Oregon] told me I’m not handicapped, so I should do some canvassing.”

Becker wasn’t exactly rewarded for her foray. No one answered the door at most of the 60 homes on her list. But she busied herself leaving personal reminders to vote as well as campaign literature.

“People seem to be pretty informed of the measures at this point, so I’m mostly just urging them to vote,” she said.

Measure 66 would increase state income taxes for the highest-income Oregonians. Measure 67 would increase the minimum tax paid by corporations from $10 to $150, among other changes.

Some opponents gathered Saturday at the Hillsboro phone bank for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes. Andrew Over, executive director of the Oregon Republican Party, headed a room of 15 mostly older volunteers, several of whom sported worn-out Oregon Republican Party “Victory Strikeforce” sweatshirts from past campaigns.

The room, which contained 20 phones, buzzed with enthusiasm. Over ascribed the positive vibe to the Jan. 19 upset victory by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate race, as well as general anger and frustration with Oregon’s Democratic-controlled Legislature and 11 percent unemployment rate.

Shawn Lindsay, a 37-year-old business lawyer and contender for state representative from Hillsboro, made calls on Saturday morning. And right-wing KPAM 860 AM talk-show host Victoria Taft visited to charge up volunteers, at one point parroting a signature line from the no campaign that quoted President Obama saying, “The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession.”

“The race is in a dead heat,” Over said, “so it’s all about who can get more voters at this point.”

 
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