An editor admonished me years ago, "You don’t have to trim your conservative sails for a particular state." He said, "As long as the messenger is pleasant and articulate, like Ronald Reagan, the message doesn’t have to be watered down." At the time, I was pointing out to him how Connecticut Republican John Rowland had accepted the advice that he had to be more moderate than he was in Congress to win the governorship and that he therefore changed from pro-life to pro-abortion and was elected on his second try for the statehouse in 1990. Although my editor had nothing against converts, he wasn’t buying that Rowland had to alter his views on such a fundamental issue in order to be elected statewide.
There is considerable evidence that staying the conservative course can spell political success in states considered unfriendly territory for the right. Republican Tim Pawlenty, for example, won the governorship of Minnesota in ’02 on an unabashed platform of opposition to higher taxes and abortion and support for smaller government. In ’04, Republican Dino Rossi, who never backed down from his economic and cultural conservative stands, won the initial count and first recount for the governorship of Washington State. It took a third recount to make Rossi the loser by 129 votes out of more than 2.8 million.
This year, the argument for raising a banner of "bold colors, and no pale pastels," as Ronald Reagan put it in a Conservative Political Action Conference speech before he became President, could be made in Oregon. In the May 3 Republican primary for governor, there are increasing signs that the momentum belongs to the youngest and most conservative of the three candidates: 35-year-old State Sen. Jason Atkinson from Southern Oregon.
In a state where talk-radio packs particular political wallop, Atkinson (who worked in radio before his election to the state house and senate) has the most backing from talk-radio hosts. Moreover, conservatives who have been politically energized by such statewide initiatives as Measure 30 (in which a tax increase enacted by the legislature was rejected by a vote of 59% to 41%) and Measure 28 (a three-year income-tax increase in the top income taxpayers, which went down 54% to 46%) have become many of the volunteer infantrymen in the campaign of Atkinson, who was in the forefront of the "no" forces on the referenda.
Like Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), Human Events’ "Man of the Year" for ’05, Atkinson wears his conservative stands on issues across-the-board like an Olympic Gold Medal.
He is pro-life ("I’m hard-pressed to come up with any exceptions but the life of the mother"), pro-property rights, pro-2nd Amendment, and for less government.
"And I’m the only candidate for governor in either party who is neither a lawyer nor someone who would have difficulty going back to a life outside of running for and serving in office," Atkinson told me. He contrasted his background in his family’s radio business with that of liberal Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, whose stints in the state legislature, the state Supreme Court, and the governorship give him the unique distinction of having served in all three branches of state government.