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Campaign Watch: The week in Oregon politics

August 9, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s Senate race heats up with attack ads targeting Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley. Republican Dennis Richardson previewed his case against Gov. John Kitzhaber in a web video. And the campaign organization forms to back driver’s licenses for people who can’t prove they are legally in the United States. Here’s a look at some of the week’s more interesting developments in Oregon politics.

KOCH AD

Political insiders have spent the past few weeks guessing what would be in the first television ads by Freedom Partners, the conservative nonprofit group that is part of the Koch brothers’ political network.

This week, we found out it was an attack on Merkley over government spending and the federal budget. Specifically, they went after Merkley’s votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling and against a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

Merkley has been unflappable in his opposition to a balanced-budget amendment, which he says would force drastic cuts to public services that people need. Debt-ceiling votes were largely routine until Republicans aligned with the tea party began using them to try to extract budget cuts or repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

RICHARDSON WEB VIDEO

Dennis Richardson previews his line of attack against Gov. John Kitzhaber in a web video he blasted to supporters this week.

The video lists projects that have struggled: Cover Oregon, the failed health insurance exchange; the related Department of Human Services information technology modernization project; and the Columbia River Crossing, an Interstate 5 bridge that was never built because Washington couldn’t come up with its share of the funding.

“Can Oregon taxpayers afford to re-elect Governor Kitzhaber?” the video asks.

It’s been a while since Richardson updated his campaign finance reports, so it’s hard to know whether he’ll have enough money in the bank to put that message on television where it could reach many, many more voters.

DRIVER’S LICENSE CAMPAIGN

An eclectic group of churches, community groups, politicians, unions, immigration advocates and others came out in favor of a ballot measure that would the grant driving privileges to people who can’t prove they are legally in the United States.

The issue will appear on the November ballot as Measure 88. It was first passed by state lawmakers and signed with fanfare by Kitzhaber. But critics collected enough signatures to put it before voters.

Proponents in the Legislature then tried to rewrite the official ballot description to remove references to legal presence, but there wasn’t enough support before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

The supporters say it would reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road. Critics contend that it rewards illegal behavior.

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