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Mud Slinging, Inc.

All Is Fair in Love, War, and Elections

Will Erik Sten have to sleep in the bed he shit in? Two weeks before Election Day, an anonymous letter was sent to the Portland Tribune reporting that city council candidate Randy Leonard may have mishandled vacation time and a shoulder-injury report while working at the fire bureau. The letter intoned that Leonard had overstated his injury in order to take time off and campaign for city council.

His opponent, Serena Cruz, seized the opportunity to criticize Leonard. Moreover, Sten, who has served as Cruz's boss at city hall, as well as mentor and cheerleader, also used the opportunity to impugn Leonard's credibility, calling practices at the fire bureau "sloppy." Now that criticism may return to haunt him. At press time, Leonard is poised to win the empty city council seat. After hurling mud, Sten will now need to work side by side with Leonard. (Leonard has threatened to sue Cruz for libel.)

"Do I think that the way the race went will make [working with Leonard] more difficult?" an aide to Sten asked. "Definitely." But the aide also wanted to further needle Leonard, saying that the newest council member is more about his quick-temper than being a quality politician. "If he does win, we're going to see more of this," added the aide. "It's going to make for good copy, but I don't know how good it will be for policy."

In ballot measures, it appears that money played a decisive role. With a shoestring $200,000 campaign run mostly by word of mouth and occasional rallies, a grassroots coalition tried to persuade voters about the health threats from genetically modified foods. But opponents of Measure 27, which would have required labeling for so-called Frankenfoods sold in Oregon, raised a whopping $5.1 million and blew the measure out of the water. Before the opposition group--a gang of corporate farmers and biotech tycoons--began their media blitz, voters were split on the measure. But by Election Day, polls showed that a majority of voters were against the proposed labeling.

Measure 23, which would have provided comprehensive health coverage for Oregonians, was also hamstrung by a spending deficient. Supporters raised a paltry $40,000 while opponents received approximately $1 million in donations from big-name insurance companies. At press time, that measure also was failing.

by Phil Busse


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