Twilight Zone: the OR2 edition

Sep 26 update: A debate among the three candidates for the Oregon 2nd Congressional District will take place in Bend on Oct 5 at 7PM. KTVZ will  broadcast live, with live stream at The public will be able to submit questions at

Today’s politics resemble the 1956-64 TV series Twilight Zone, where the weird and unexpected were the norm. Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District race fits right in.

Preamble: A long-time incumbent, congressman Greg Walden (R-OR2) faces challenges from Jamie McLeod-Skinner (Democrat) and Mark Roberts (Independent Party of Oregon). In their respective primaries, Walden got 77.3 percent of the vote, in a mellow three-way race. McLeod-Skinner got 48.8 percent in a highly competitive seven-way race. Roberts got 66.0 percent as sole candidate. OR2 has been safely Republican. But is the district in play this year? It is up to the voters, but the District is changing. Since October 2016, there are 38,000 more registered voters, with non-affiliated voters (179,977) now a close second to Republicans (187,643) and ahead of Democrats (142,211). The Democratic candidate is running a very strong, grassroots campaign that crosses partisan lines, while the incumbent candidate is largely absent from the District, and Roberts is mostly invisible.

Episode 1: The challenge. In late July, McLeod-Skinner issues a challenge to Walden for three debates. He accepts, in an exchange that is videotaped. He then proceeds to ignore his promise. His staff is irresponsive to her staff and potential debate organizers.

Episode 2: The debate that wasn’t. A “debate” takes place in late August, attended by McLeod-Skinner and a Walden impersonator. Fair? No, certainly not. But, political stunt aside, McLeod-Skinner comes across as a candidate running on a beyond partisan, compassionate, thoughtful platform. And the impersonator cleverly uses Walden’s own public comments and voting record to make a case that it is time for the incumbent to be replaced.

Episode 3: The debate that might be. Walden announces in mid-September that he has accepted the invitation of KTVZ-TV for a two-candidate debate in Bend on Oct 5 at 7PM. The catch? Only one debate, lasting just 30 minutes, no public. The extra catch: None of the terms of the debate were previously discussed with McLeod-Skinner’s campaign.

Episode 4: Will she? McLeod-Skinner counter-proposes a 90-minute debate, open to the public, and organized by the City Club of Central Oregon. She also proposes two additional debates, in Eastern and Southern Oregon respectively. The Bend Bulletin reports that the KTVZ-TV debate is to be expanded to one hour, and also include Roberts. It further quotes the general manager of KTVZ-TV as saying “We’ve given the McLeod-Skinner campaign until tomorrow to decide if they are going to take part.” Will she take it?

Episode 5: Polls? What polls? If the Bend Bulletin is correct, Roberts will appear in a debate that he did nothing to deserve. Polls might have shown that he is an irrelevant distraction. Polls might also have shown that Democrats are running their most compelling candidate in decades, that she is closing in on Walden, and that multiple debates are warranted. But there are no polls. Why are national and state Democrats not procuring them? Is that not tantamount to say that OR2 is not in play?

Episode 6: Crystal ball to October 5, 2016. There is only one debate. It is just one hour. But that is enough. Roberts flounders. McLeod-Skinner makes a compelling impression. Walden comes across outdated and defensive. Winner? The people of the 2nd District, who emerge with a more complete view of the candidates

Episode 7: November 6, 2018. A large number of non-affiliated voters, breaking with tradition, vote in the District. They are joined by many Democrats and a few Republicans in electing McLeod-Skinner. A clear mandate for change.

Episode 8: Across the nation? Democratic majorities are elected for both House and Senate. Trump becomes uninterested in the presidency. He quits, retreats to Mar-a-Lago and cancels his Twitter account. Pence accepts the vice-presidency of the Trump organization. A newly sworn-in US President supports deep changes in the electoral system. A multi-party system emerges. The US regains its civility, and resumes its responsibilities as a world leader. Twilight Zone, dream edition.

Epilogue: I wake up abruptly. It is November 7. I did not vote. I check the news. Wait! Walden is still OR2 congressman? Republicans are still in control of Congress? Trump is still president, and his Twitter account still alive? Bummer. Why didn’t others vote on my behalf? Didn’t they learn from 2016? Am I on Twilight Zone, nightmare edition?

Take-home message: Get informed. Watch the debate(s). Read the campaign materials. Participate. Get others to register to vote. Vote wisely. There is a bright future ahead, if only we choose to work for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s