Republican Tax-Hikers Lose In Oregon

Republican Tax-Hikers Lose In Oregon
July 1, 2004

The curse against Republicans who hike taxes has struck again, this time in Oregon's fifth congressional district, where State Sen. Jackie Winters lost her Republican primary bid to attorney Jim Zupancic. Zupancic scored a decisive victory, 57 to 43 percent, over Winters in the May 18 primary.

According to reporters Steve Law and Peter Wong at the Salem Statesman Journal, "It's the taxes, stupid. Oregon voters pummeled any candidate or proposal associated with higher taxes. State Sen. Jackie Winters and Rep. Vic Backlund (R-Keizer) were punished for supporting a budget-balancing tax increase in 2003 that was trounced by voters when placed on the Feb. 3 ballot as Measure 30."

Measure 30 was an up-or-down vote by the citizens of Oregon on the legislated tax hike. Oregonians firmly rejected the higher taxes. (See "Oregon Voters Soundly Reject Tax Hike," Budget & Tax News, March 2004.) Winters was one of few Republican legislators who voted with Democrat Governor Ted Kulongoski to raise taxes in 2003.

"Tax and spend politicians in Oregon, regardless of political affiliation, are slowly learning their lessons," said Rob Jordan, a spokesperson for Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). "When the results of the Oregon primary election came in, the impact of these efforts was readily apparent. Every candidate that supported CSE and our issue agenda won."

According to the Statesman Journal, Zupancic, a former Lake Oswego School Board member, "hammered Winters" for supporting the tax package voters rejected in Measure 30.

"I think we had a very clear message," a jubilant Zupancic said after his victory. "I think Measure 30 helped frame a very critical issue, and that was the size of government and taxes."

"Jim Zupancic ran some real negative ads on Jackie, calling her a liberal--the dreaded L word--and that's had an effect," said David Buchanan, a Salem resident and coauthor of the Almanac of Oregon Politics.

Not Only in Oregon

Winters' loss comes on the heels of a Republican primary in Nebraska's first congressional district, where the speaker of the state legislature, Curt Bromm, refused to pledge against tax hikes and lost. Bromm, who had received the endorsement of outgoing Rep. Doug Bereuter (R), was heavily favored to win.

"Republicans who vote to raise taxes have pointed a 12 gauge shotgun at the heads of their careers and pulled the trigger," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington, DC. "Republicans even thinking about raising taxes should look at how Sen. Jackie Winters and Speaker Bromm in Nebraska have destroyed their political futures."

Many states faced what policymakers referred to as "budget shortfalls" in 2001-2003, pressuring legislative bodies to raise taxes. The political fallout of doing so, especially for Republicans, is palpable.

Republican governors who presided over tax increases--most notably Nevada's Kenny Guinn and Alabama's Bob Riley--are not expected to run for higher office. But those who addressed their budget shortfalls without tax increases are widely speculated to be in the running for President in 2008. Govs. Bill Owens (Colorado), Jeb Bush (Florida), Mitt Romney (Massachusetts), Rick Perry (Texas), Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota), and Craig Benson (New Hampshire) are all thought to have ambitions for higher office.

"The fastest way to end a Republican's career is to vote for a tax hike," said Norquist. "And redemption in this business doesn't come easy."

Russ Walker of Oregon CSE commented, "The trend is encouraging, but there is much work to be done. Tax and spend politicians need to get the message we don't need you in Salem."

The Oregon primary sets up a Fall race between Zupancic and four-term congressional incumbent Darlene Hooley (D-West Linn). "I think it'll be an interesting race and contrast," Hooley said from her Washington, DC apartment. "I think it'll be a bigger contrast with Mr. Zupancic" than with Winters.


Jonathan Collegio is communications director for Americans for Tax Reform. His email address is jcollegio@atr.org.