Four years after losing the Republican primary, gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton has made it past the primary and is in contention for governor of Oregon.
Saxton, a lifelong resident of Oregon and former chair of the Portland School Board, has shown significant momentum and controversy in the last few months. The incumbent Governor Ted Kulongoski leads the race with a 5-percent margin over Saxton, according to the Rasmussen Poll taken at the end of September. The same poll, taken in mid-August, showed Kulongoski with a 14-percent lead.
Saxton said at a fundraising event Monday that education is a major issue for his campaign. He said that the schools in Oregon are failing because of what he calls Kulongoski’s lack of leadership.
”[Saxton] will make a lot of changes to Oregon that will help keep tuition low,” said Mario Campbell, co-chair of the Oregon Federation of College Republicans and former president of Portland State Republicans, “Kulongoski keeps raising tuition, I don’t think Saxton will do that.”
Saxton is planning to focus on K-12 education, hoping that he can prevent the necessity for remedial teaching in higher education because poor of elementary and secondary education. He plans to invest in Oregon community colleges to help nursing and mechanics programs grow.
Saxton opposes the controversial state-spending limit, Measure 48, along with Kulongoski, but has refused an invitation to appear in a television ad with the governor.
Saxton said he endorses Measure 41, a tax break that could remove close to $400 million a year from the state budget and is often lumped together with Measure 48. Saxton said the measure would spur Oregon’s economic growth.
Saxton also supports Measure 43, which requires parental notification for minors having abortions, and said that it is very important for parents to know what is happening with their children who are minors.
The Oregon Federation of College Republicans supports Saxton. Campbell said that even though Saxton might not match up with a typical view of what a republican is, college Republicans will support him regardless. Campbell said that Saxton is pro-life, but his desire to decrease the size of government and lower taxes puts him in line with the party’s conservative fiscal stance.
Saxton plans to double the size of the Oregon State Police so that they can patrol roads 24 hours a day. Saxton is a supporter of the personal tax kicker, which gives Oregon citizens a tax refund each year. Saxton hopes to reduce governmental spending during his first term, planning to cut the cost of Oregon’s government by 10 percent.
Saxton ran for governor in 2002. He came in third in the Republican primary, behind Kevin Mannix and Jack Roberts. Last May, in the Republican primary, Saxton received 43 percent of the vote, ahead of Mannix’s 30 percent.
The Saxton campaign ran into controversy last week when they ran a television advertisement about illegal immigrants in Oregon. The ad questions the illegal immigrant policies of Kulongoski, and states that the number of illegal immigrants has increased so much that they now make up “Oregon’s second largest city.”
During the first debate of the general election on Sept. 28, Saxton clarified his stance on children of illegal immigrants attending public schools. In the primaries Saxton said they should not be allowed to attend. In the debate he explained, “Removing children from services is not the point,” as reported by the Associated Press. “I’m not out to pick a fight with the kids, I’m out to deal with the adult problem,” Saxton continued.
Twenty of the last 36 governors of Oregon have been Republican, but Oregon has not had a Republican governor in almost 20 years, since Victor G. Atiyeh left office in 1987.
Campbell said that he thinks Portland State students should vote for Saxton because his financial policies will help the economy by bringing new businesses to Oregon, and will lower tuition costs for college students.
Saxton was born and raised in Albany, Oregon, and graduated from Willamette University and the University of Virginia Law School. He is the founding president of the Portland Schools Foundation, a group that has raised over $30 million to improve student achievement and school performance.