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Capital Chatter: Election weirdness rolls along

Independent Party candidate Patrick Starnes abruptly dropped his gubernatorial bid - to the surprise and chagrin of his party leaders and after many Independents had voted.

Gov. Kate Brown likes to use the phrase, "We're rocking and rollin'."

This week, election weirdness kept rolling along.

Independent Party candidate Patrick Starnes abruptly dropped his gubernatorial bid – to the surprise and chagrin of his party leaders and after many Independents had voted – and endorsed Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.

I suspect intermediaries had been discussing the switch, but Brown told me Thursday that was not the case. Starnes' big issue is campaign finance reform, and she says she agrees with him. This will be the most expensive gubernatorial race in Oregon history … by far.

By the way, a new Gallup Poll says 57 percent of Americans believe the country needs a third major political party.

• Speaking of campaign finance: A technological glitch supposedly stopped Republican Knute Buehler's finance report from being accepted by the state Elections Division on time. Or so said the Secretary of State's Office, which includes elections.

Here is the full press release from the state: "On October 25, 2018, it was discovered that there had been a delay in processing transactions filed by the Knute for Governor committee. The committee filed their transactions timely.

"It was determined the ORESTAR application stopped processing transactions for the Knute for Governor committee that had been prescheduled by the committee to be processed on October 22, 23, and 24. The resulting delay caused the timely filed transactions to be posted on October 25. The Knute for Governor committee transactions were the only transactions affected.

"It is uncommon for the ORESTAR application to stop processing transactions. The Elections Division was able to rectify the matter shortly after being notified. All transactions are now posted and viewable on ORESTAR."

Really.

• Speaking of Buehler: The Buehler campaign sent a fundraising email that included this line about Brown: "She betrayed the trust of millions of Oregonians by ordering that reports on our schools' performance be withheld until after Election Day."

To my knowledge, no one has proved that she ordered the postponement. State schools chief Colt Gill said he did.

• Is your ballot counted?: The political fliers keep arriving in our mailbox even though our county elections office received my wife's and my ballots on Oct. 24 and 25.

The ballots were mailed at the same time. I'm perplexed why they arrived and/or were counted on separate days.

It's too late to mail your ballot. But you can deposit it by 8 p.m. Tuesday at any county elections office or official drop box in Oregon, regardless of where you live.

• National news: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are among publications that recently discovered Buehler has a legitimate chance of being elected in supposedly blue Oregon. Brown says Oregon actually is purple.

This is only a fundraising appeal: People are sick of the election. Even Mercy Corps recognizes this.

A fundraising appeal from the Portland-based international relief organization carried this subject line, "This is not an election email (and your $1 can = $4 of good in the world)."

Smart.

• Brown, Buehler and America: Here is more news from Gallup.

President Donald Trump's approval rating remains steady at 45 percent, just 1 percent below his high mark.

As political scientist Jim Moore of Pacific University observed in a recent conversation, Oregon candidates don't make a big deal of political affiliations … usually. Brown's latest campaign ads tie Buehler to Trump and make sure voters realize Buehler is a – in block letters – Republican.

In other polling news, the rest of the country is catching up with Oregon and pot places. Sixty-six percent of American approve of legalizing marijuana, a record "high." Support has blossomed from 12 percent in 1999. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tried to make life difficult for states with legalized marijuana, including Oregon. However, 53 percent of his fellow Republicans support legalization, as do 75 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents.

Fifty-six percent of Americans support capital punishment, but only 49 percent say it is applied fairly. If re-elected, Brown would continue her and predecessor John Kitzhaber's moratorium on the death penalty. Buehler would reinstate it.

Sixty-one percent of poll respondents favor increased gun control, but only 40 percent support a ban on the infantry-style rifles commonly (and inaccurately) referred to as "assault" weapons. Brown has signed several pieces of gun legislation, wants the Legislature to close the "Charleston loophole" on background checks, and favors an assault weapons ban. Buehler has opposed some gun legislation, backs the Second Amendment while calling for "commonsense" gun legislation, and supports a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. The candidates agree on banning bump stocks.

• In the bowels of the Oregon Capitol: Connor Radnovich, a fine reporter with the Statesman Journal, is the new president of the Capital Press Corps (officially called the Oregon Legislative Correspondents Association).

He is the person to contact when politicians or groups want to schedule press conferences. The press room, including a room set up for press conferences, is in a basement corner of the Capitol.

Radnovich follows three presidents who either left journalism completely or the Capitol beat. One of them is the venerable Peter Wong, who now covers part of Washington County for the Portland Tribune. One of the most-respected journalists in Oregon, Wong was greeted warmly by people who saw him at a Portland press conference on Thursday.

People who complain of "fake news" don't know Peter Wong, let alone most other reporters in Oregon.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or Twitter.com/DickHughes.