By Dave Mazza
While Republicans and Democrats have been vying for the chance to run for governor, a smaller, more quiet campaign has slowly been coming together in preparation for a big push this summer and fall. Joe Keating's run to be the state's top executive under the Pacific Green Party banner may not have the the money and staffs found in the two big parties, but there's no shortage of ideas and enthusiasm.
Keating's primary message is that the government run by the same old crowd clearly isn't working. Worse yet, it is becoming a corrupt machine that only serves corporate interests. In response, Keating has organized "broom brigades" that will clean up the messes left behind by the likes of the current governor and his Republican opponent. As this issue is going to press, Keating plans on mobilizing the brigade to sweep up around PGE headquarters. The state's largest utility, according to Keating, has left a terrible mess as it fleeced Oregonians with the highest rates in the state while charging ratepayers for income taxes it doesn't pay.
But as Keating is quick to point out, this is not a single issue campaign since, unfortunately, there are more than enough problems to keep his campaign busy. In fact, Keating is organizing campaign efforts around a different issue each month. In April the campaign focused on peace and the call for bringing the Oregon National Guard back home. During May the focus was on cannabis legalization. June will see the campaign address energy independence.
Another unique element to the campaign is COOL, a bus that keeps Keating moving on the campaign trail along with a cadre of followers. The old school bus has been converted into an alternative style of Air Force One, allowing Keating to organize and carry out actions around the state on short notice. It fits in with the overall guerrilla style of his campaign strategy.
That strategy is built around the notion that this election cycle will not be business as usual. The emptiness of the Kulongoski and Saxton campaigns has already left thousands of voters cold, as evidenced by the low voter turnout. Keating believes that aside from the small cores of true believers, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can continue to hold the interest of most voters. These are people who know something is wrong and that the current crops of men in suits can't fix it Keating believes these people will be open to the kind of alternatives he will be offering, especially since he is talking about changes he believes will revitalize the economy and address the financial fears so many Oregonians are feeling.
"We are rigorously identifying those areas that can generate new revenues for the state. We call them 'che-chings' and the 'che-chings' are mounting," states Keating. "Right now we are looking at plans that can produce between $750 million and $1 billion of environmentally friendly new revenue sources for Oregon's education, health care, and the environment needs. We will unveil our 'Che-Ching Report' in September."
A big question mark for all those in the race is how well Ben Westlund will do. The former Republican legislator, now running an independent, offers choices to a variety of voters. He has the potential to hurt both candidates from the major parties. Keating sees that as an advantage for the Pacific Green Party. Rather than picking up independent voters — the fastest growing group of voters in the state — Westlund's support will come at the expense of Kulongoski and Saxton instead. That leaves the independents ready for picking by Keating. He believes his campaign messages will resonate with those voters as well as with his progressive base.
Keating, of course, has been around long enough to realize that nothing is certain in politics and victory often goes to the most flexible. As someone who has gone from Army captain to entrepreneur to Greenpeace director to his present role as candidate, flexibility is a watchword. It is also the key to having fun while doing important work — a keystone of the Keating way of doing things.
Whether he wins or loses comes November, Keating is sure that those working with him will have had both an enriching and fun experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Perhaps that is this candidate's most important contribution, building a new generation of people willing to take on the world in a subversive but fun way. Perhaps it is also the way to pull off a surprise win.
For more information, visit Keating's web site at www.keatingforgovernor.org