Capital Chatter: Why did Dems dump Nathan Boddie?
One of the weirdest episodes in Oregon politics is unfolding in Bend.
The Oregon House Democrats, through their political action committee, have pulled their support for their candidate to replace Rep. Knute Buehler in the Legislature. Buehler, R-Bend, is challenging Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.
Why did the Democrats' FuturePAC turn against Dr. Nathan Boddie in House District 54? Good question. I'm glad I asked. But no one would detail the allegations that supposedly caused FuturePAC to act.
"Based on FuturePAC's investigation, I believe these allegations are credible, and we are very disappointed in Dr. Boddie," House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said in Monday's press release. "Elected leaders and candidates should be held to the highest standards, regardless of the political cost."
Kotek canceled the Tuesday interview I had with her, which had been scheduled to talk about an unrelated issue. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Williamson was unavailable for comment. The Democratic Party of Oregon apparently was caught off-guard by FuturePac's announcement, but party spokeswoman Molly Woon also was unavailable for comment.
On March 6, Williamson issued a press release that said of Boddie, "Nathan is a physician and Bend city councilor who, since September 2017, has been working hard to mount a campaign with strong community support." On May 16, the day after Oregon's primary election, FuturePAC listed Boddie among the Democrats' outstanding candidates. On June 26, the PAC issued the press release pulling its support for Boddie, saying, "The decision comes in response to serious allegations of inappropriate behavior."
No specifics were given.
Boddie says he doesn't know the specifics. Media reports suggest they relate to sexist behavior and use of a homophobic slur. Boddie denies any wrongdoing and suggests FuturePAC turned on him because of disagreements over campaign finances and fundraising techniques.
In search of answers, I went to see Oregon political scientist Jim Moore, a veteran political observer who teaches at Pacific University.
The key players appear to have lawyered up, "so it'll be a long time before we figure out what it is unless somebody gets a great scoop," he said.
"Unless we know what it is, it's basically caught up in the Me Too movement."
Moore said this apparently is the first time an Oregon party has basically told a candidate, "We in effect did opposition research on you and we found stuff that says that you ought to get out of this race."
Such research and vetting of candidates is common in states with much stronger political party systems than Oregon's.
Moore ranks the race between Boddie and Republican Cheri Helt among the four hottest legislative contests this year. Democrats need to pick up only one seat in the House and in the Senate to gain a supermajority in each chamber — if they don't lose any seats to Republicans.
A supermajority would enable Democrats to pass tax increases regardless of Republican opposition.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in House District 54. But can Boddie still win?
Moore notes that voters often know little about legislative candidates, so national trends could be influential.
Giddy about the Trump administration's supposed missteps, Democrats nationally had expected a "blue wave" of voter support for Democrats at every level in the 2018 elections. Now it's not clear that "blue wave" will take hold.
So, we're left with more questions, including:
• What are the specific allegations, and should they be disclosed? Our political instinct is that they should be disclosed, but we also must weigh the personal harm to those involved on all sides.
• Was Boddie given the chance to rebut the allegations before FuturePAC acted?
• Has his public response been credible?
Democrats currently have a 35-25 majority in the Oregon House and 17-13 in the Senate. Here are the other three competitive races highlighted by Moore:
Senate District 3 in Southern Oregon — Democrat Jeff Golden and Republican Jessica Gomez are vying to succeed Sen. Alan DeBoer, R-Ashland, who is leaving the Legislature. The district includes Jackson County and a small part of Klamath County.
Senate District 15 in Washington County — Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, is being challenged by Republican Alexander Flores.
House District 52 in the Columba Gorge — State Rep. Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River, was appointed to fill the position when Mark Johnson resigned. Democrat Anna Williams is challenging him in the district, which includes voters from Hood River, Clackamas and Multnomah counties.
Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Hughesisms.com/Facebook, YouTube.com/c/DickHughes or @DickHughes on Twitter.