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Nation Should Hear Oregon’s Primary Concerns

January 18th, 2019 by dk

The Oregon Legislature convenes its 2019 legislative session on Tuesday. Legislators’ early attention naturally turns to small or simple ideas. We already have a state bird and a state nut and a state this and a state that. Some in the capital call this Salem’s “silly season.” I think of it like a body clearing its throat, hearing itself for the first time in months, finding its collective voice.

I believe our state’s collective voice will sound best in the current political climate as it joins the other Pacific coastline states’ voices. As our Senators and Representatives go looking for that low-hanging legislative fruit that ripens every odd-numbered winter, they should look at what our neighbors are pursuing.

I suggested that Oregon should follow California’s lead on clock-setting — either eliminating Daylight Saving Time or keeping it year-round. Joining California as a co-petitioner will strengthen the case for federal approval. Even better if Washington joins us. We move strongest when we move together. That’s just the beginning.

Oregon and Washington have earned reputations for innovative governance. California has followed us on a variety of cutting-edge issues — assisted suicide, recreational marijuana, voter registration reform, minimum wage increases.

Let’s ride California’s expansive coattails on other matters. Here’s one example: California is moving its presidential primary in 2020 from June to March. Oregon should follow, but at a safe distance.

The 2020 presidential election season is shaping up as an anti-Donald donnybrook. There may be two dozen Democrats vying for the nomination. President Trump may draw a challenger or two. Each candidate will be accompanied by reporters and film crews, eager to convey to the country what each successive state cares about. Why wouldn’t Oregon want some of that attention?

California will vote on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, though in truth, most California ballots will be cast in February. Absentee ballots are readily available and used by 60 to 70 percent of primary voters in California. That number in Oregon is a nice, round 100.

I checked the Oregon Constitution and it does not set a date for primary elections. It also doesn’t set a day of the week, which mattered to voters back when standing in line was required. Any Tuesday in early March will be crowded, leaving a small state like ours overlooked by candidates and the media covering them.

But if we moved our presidential primary election day to Thursday, March 5, 2020 — two days after Super Tuesday — we’d lead the national election coverage for the second half of that week. Wednesday: where next? Thursday: what now? Friday: who won? (Coverage will then quickly move on to Louisiana, where voters will line up to vote on Saturday, March 7.)

Two or three days of uninterrupted attention is about as much as Oregon could bear — or, frankly, deserves. I’d like to watch how film crews convey Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to the rest of the country on their national broadcasts. More importantly, we’d hear from candidates and they’d hear from us during what could be the most consequential campaign of our lifetimes.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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