SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Sen. Charlie Ringo is sponsoring a bill that would erase Ds and Rs from lawmakers’ titles in an effort to make Salem a more productive, less divisive place.
The Beaverton Democrat introduced bills that would model Oregon’s Legislature and other elected state offices after those in Nebraska – where legislators are not elected based on party.
Ringo, who visited Nebraska in April to observe their one-of-a-kind system, hopes establishing nonpartisan state offices would lessen the partisan politics he says have crippled the Legislature and could help political moderates get elected.
But while some politicians have applauded the idea, others say the two-party system is a long-standing tradition that has served the country and state well.
"I see this as an exercise in asking Oregonians to think about the system," Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said during a public hearing in the Senate Rules Committee, but not, he said, a reason to scrap it altogether.
Ringo, however, said the current system allows hard-lines to take office because they get support from their parties over more moderate candidates. The result, he said, is political division that doesn’t allow for much flexibility or cooperation.
"I respectfully submit that our two-party system is not working well," Ringo said to fellow committee members.
He said Monday’s school rally, where an estimated 2,000 students, parents and teachers congregated on the Capitol steps to call for more school funding, is an example.
Ringo said Republicans and Democrats have been pressured to tow the party lines, and have failed to compromise enough to provide schools proper funding.
Elaine Franklin, an elections consultant to Republican candidates for more than 20 years, said she doesn’t like what partisan politics have done in Oregon.
The parties have been "hijacked by fanatics, ideologues and zealots" at the expense of moderates, Franklin said.
Franklin, wife of former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, testified in support of the bill with former Secretary of State Phil Keisling.