Tales of Electoral Hijinks, Part 2: Ore-gone in Sixty Seconds

Congressional Elections, US Elections

This is a cautionary tale that demonstrates the truth of the old adage: love is fleeting, but paying for your girlfriend’s abortion is something you’ll be able to cherish for the rest of your life.

pro-life, but not fanatical about it

Mike Erickson: pro-life, but not fanatical about it

OR-5, in northwestern Oregon, stretches from the suburbs of Portland to Corvallis and includes the state capital of Salem.  It’s a true swing district, where Bush the Younger barely defeated both Gore and Kerry in the last two presidential elections but with a Democratic representative in congress.  Congresswoman Darlene Hooley was first elected to this district in 1996, and would have been a heavy favorite for re-election this year.  In February, however, she unexpectedly announced that she would retire at the end of her current term, creating a rare open seat that Republicans were eager to pick up.  If the GOP was going to grab a Democratic district north of the Mason-Dixon line, it would have been OR-5.

For the GOP, this unique opportunity demanded that it unite quickly behind a candidate with impeccable moderate-conservative credentials who could appeal to the centrist tilt of this district.  And that’s exactly what didn’t happen. Two candidates, Kevin Mannix and Mike Erickson, contested the Republican primary by trying to out-conservative each other.  Mannix, formerly a Democratic state legislator who switched parties in a snit after the party backed his opponent in the 1996 primary for attorney general, is best known in the Beaver State for his hard-right positions and for consistently losing statewide elections, most notably the gubernatorial election in 2002.  Erickson, a millionaire business owner who has never held elective office, was the GOP nominee for the congressional race in 2006, which he lost to Hooley by eleven points.

The Republican primary turned nasty fairly quickly.  Mannix had the well-deserved reputation of being a bare knuckle brawler when it came to campaigning, which might explain his dependable lack of success in statewide elections.  Erickson countered by pouring over $1 million of his own money into advertising, which gave him the advantage in the polls.  As the primary election date neared, Mannix dropped a bombshell:according to a second-hand report, his “pro-life” opponent had impregnated a former girlfriend and paid for her abortion. Erickson denied the accusation, dismissing it as a “smear tactics,” although his history as a serial fabricator perhaps should have raised some suspicions about the veracity of his denials.

Despite the charge that Erickson had materially contributed to the death of a Fetal American, the Republican voters of OR-5 gave him a narrow primary win, probably because most of them had already mailed in their ballots when the incriminating information appeared.  It was only after Erickson’s election victory that the former girlfriend, Tawnya “Last Name Withheld,” came forward and substantiated the heretofore hearsay allegations against Erickson.  According to the report in The Oregonian:

Tawnya, now 34, recalled sitting with Erickson in his new Mercedes that January, parked across from the abortion clinic.

“I was bawling so hard I couldn’t speak. He looked so sad. He looked like he cared,” she said.

“I asked him, ‘Are you sure you don’t want a baby?’ ” she said. “He shook his head. I opened the door, got out bawling and crossed the street and walked up to the clinic.”

“Oh, you meant that girlfriend,” was Erickson’s response.  OK, that wasn’t Erickson’s actual response, but it was pretty close.  Erickson admitted that he had dated the woman for a brief time and had given her money, but that he didn’t know the money would be used to pay for her abortion.  In any event, Erickson claimed that the story wouldn’t hurt him, because voters already suspected that he had paid for his girlfriend’s abortion and still elected him as the GOP nominee. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Oregon Right To Life, which had backed Erickson as the pro-life candidate in the 2006 election, has now refused to endorse him in the general election, as did primary opponent Mannix, who had previously called Erickson a “political sociopath” (as opposed to a “social sociopath” I suppose, or something like that).  Republican Senator Gordon Smith, in a tough reelection fight of his own, has also pointedly declined to endorse Erickson.  Meanwhile, the press continues to publish stories detailing Erickson’s casual acquaintance with the “truth.”  This time, it’s a 2004 excursion to Cuba that Erickson has called a “humanitarian trip” to help AIDS orphans but which was billed as “Comandante Fidel Castro’s Annual Gala Cigar Dinner and Auction,” and which involved quite a bit more cock-fighting than is to be found on the itineraries of most humanitarian missions.  Expect a press release from the Erickson campaign soon which will, in effect, say: “Oh, you meant that trip to Cuba.”

The Democrats, for their part, quietly nominated state senator Kurt Schrader, a state legislator who, so far, does not appear to have a vindictive former girlfriend lurking in the shadows.   OR-5, which started out as a toss-up, is now a safe bet to remain in the D column as the Republicans gnash their teeth and rend their garments in despair at the opportunity that has slipped through their fingers.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nimh  •  Oct 10, 2008 @6:43 am

    OK, I want writing classes from you… Witty, pithy and to the point. Very enjoyable reading, again. And some unbelievable shit going on, of course … but it’s hard to be surprised at this point.

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