Ah, it was just what the doctor ordered, a fitting phrase since John Kitzhaber is a physician. Yesterday afternoon I learned that he'd earned a late-breaking victory and will become Oregon's governor...again (he served two terms from 1995-2003).
As I predicted a few days ago before the national election returns started to come in, by midnight Tuesday my state of mind was hovering in the "depressed" zone. My wife wasn't helping with her the country is doomed mutterings.
When we went to bed Kitzhaber was about 13,000 votes behind. Waking up on Wednesday, I rushed to my laptop to see the Oregonian's current totals. Kitzhaber was still trailing Dudley, but a click on the nifty map showed that Dem-friendly Multnomah County had only counted 72% of its votes.
[Note to the KGW election news team: The Oregonian is your news partner, as your 11 pm news tells me every evening. It took me about thirty seconds to go to the newspaper's web site and find the above-mentioned map where the percentage of ballots counted was clearly shown. So your election anchors embarassed themselves late Tuesday evening when a commentator pointed out that Dudley's lead almost certainly would disappear given where the outstanding ballots were going to come from, and they said (in so many words) "Gosh, who knew? We had no idea..."]
I fired up my iPhone's TweetDeck app and added a search for "ORelection." The rest of the day I enjoyed following the many tweets posted by people who, like me, were obsessively tracking the Oregon governor's race results.
Sometime in the morning when Kitzhaber was down about 18,000 votes I dealt with my anxiety by getting out a calculator, doing some basic math, and putting up my own prescient tweet.
I see 10-12,000 vote Kitz victory: 59000 to count in Mult Co; Kitz gains 25000 from these; he's behind 13000, so wins by 12000. #ORelection
I sort of figured that outstanding votes in Kitzhaber-leaning Lane County would be balanced by votes still to be counted in the generally Dudley-favoring rest of the state (other than Multnomah county).
Currently Kitzhaber is up by about 13,000 votes, so kudos to me, from me. Of course, quite a few others were making similar predictions. Multnomah County often determines close Oregon elections, so it wasn't a major act of genius to focus on what was happening with the vote count there.
Around 4:30 pm yesterday, as I was heading to my Tai Chi class, I took another look at what the #ORelection tweets were saying. My spirits lifted a lot when I saw that a TV station (Channel 12) had called Kitzhaber the victor.
We live our lives locally, not nationally.
My body isn't spread out over the entire United States, which went Republican to a disturbing degree Tuesday. I live and breathe right here in Oregon almost all of the time, so the political status of this state means more to my mental health than what happens in Congress or elsewhere outside of Oregon's borders.
So thanks to everyone who worked so hard to pull out a narrow Kitzhaber victory. This includes my wife, Laurel, who spent quite a few hours before election day down at the Marion County Demoratic Party headquarters, phoning people who hadn't returned their ballots.
(Me, I did my part in the weeks before the election by sitting at my laptop and sending off regular donations to the Kitzhaber campaign, along with putting a Kitzhaber lawn sign back up every time the wind blew it over.)
It'll be interesting to see how Kitzhaber and the Democrats deal with a state legislature which is almost as evenly divided as the gubernatorial vote was. It looks like the House will be 30-30 and the Senate 16-14 in favor of the Dems.
Kitzhaber said the right things today in his first televised remarks after being declared the victor. He noted, hopefully correctly, that it could be easier to deal with a legislature almost equally divided between R's and D's than if one party or the other was in firm control.
Compromising and center-finding will be essential. Fortunately, the state legislature has a larger proportion of moderate Republicans than Congress does. Some of them should be able to get behind Kitzhaber's plans to juice Oregon's economy and our already strong green energy sector.
Chris Dudley was courteous and magnaminous in defeat. He ran a fairly decent campaign, as did Kitzhaber. I got tired of seeing their ads on Portland TV, but at least they weren't bat-shit crazy like so many campaign spots elsewhere in the country were.
A final anecdote:
Before heading to my Tai Chi class yesterday I stopped into a downtown bread store for some snacks. The girl behind the counter asked how my day was going. I said that I'd been kind of down after the election, but was feeling good after hearing that Kitzhaber had won.
She and her equally youthful male worker, who could hear our conversation, looked blank for a moment. Then she said, "Oh, right, the election..." I could tell that it was pretty much the last thing on their minds, whereas it was dominating my psyche. I suspect they were part of the many who voted in 2008, but sat out this election.
Sad. And difficult to understand in a state where all you have to do to vote is sit down at your kitchen table, mark a ballot, put a stamp on it, and stick it in the mail.
Another customer, a man, was standing behind me. He was dressed in a green cap and work clothes. Didn't look like the Prius-driving, Kitzhaber-voting, low-fat muffin type (in other words, not like me).
After I said that Kitzhaber had won, he said gruffly, "Remember what Stalin said: it's not the people who vote that count, but the people who count the votes." I felt it wouldn't be smart to tell him how stupid that comment was, especially here in virtually fraud-free Oregon, so walked out without another word.
Such as Portland's right-wing talk show host, Lars Larson. Yesterday I heard him talking about the remaining votes to be counted in Multnomah County. He said that the process was going slowly, because it takes a while to manufacture votes.
How the guy keeps his job is beyond me. That comment was beyond irresponsible. If Larson has evidence of vote fraud in the Multnomah County elections division he should come forward with it. If not, he should shut his idiotic mouth.
There's already enough crazies out there, of the Tea Party variety and otherwise, who believe all sorts of unfounded conspiracy theories. People like Lars Larson, who gets to use the public airwaves, have a responsibility to clearly distinguish between opinion and fact.
Spreading a rumor that John Kitzhaber stole the election should be unacceptable to KXL management, who pay Larson's salary. I hope he gets called on the carpet for that remark. But I bet he won't.