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October 20, 2019




Oregon Democratic Straw Poll picks its favorites

2019 political barometer event is the 8th biennial since 2005


Late on Saturday evening and into Sunday morning, the Oregon Democratic Straw Poll group held its biennial contest to gauge the relative strength of various candidates at the national and state levels.


As it has since 2005, the event coincided with -- but was not affiliated with -- the Democratic Party of Oregon’s biennial Summit in Sunriver.  While attendance at the Summit was not a prerequisite for attendance, hundreds of party activists, volunteers, staff, and elected officials descended on the event once the official Summit program had ended for the evening.


Each attendee, after being checked in, was given a ballot on which they could vote for their favorite candidate for President and Oregon Secretary of State in the upcoming 2020 campaign cycle, and suggest whom they favored for Governor in 2022.  In addition, the contest also provided an opportunity to help select a “Rock Star Democrat” for the 2018-2019 cycle.


Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren was the runaway preference for President with 140 votes.  No other presidential candidate received more than twenty.


Attendees indicated their preference for State Representative Jennifer Williamson to become Oregon’s next Secretary of State in the upcoming election with 105 votes, with Jamie McLeod-Skinner earning 82 votes. 


The attendees also indicated their preference for Speaker of the House Tina Kotek to be elected Governor in 2022, with State Senator Shemia Fagan running a close second.  Candy Emmons, a Democratic Party staffer, was overwhelmingly selected to be the reigning “Rock Star Democrat.”  (The previous “Rock Star Democrat,” former State Representative Val Hoyle, later won election to Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.)


Straw Poll Party organizers acknowledge that the event is held very early in the election cycle, and doesn’t necessarily reflect a true snapshot of candidate standings.  “The straw poll is an opportunity for campaigns and candidates to showcase how well they can mobilize the party faithful,” said Ryan Tribbett, one of the event sponsors. “It’s far from a scientific poll, but it’s an excellent opportunity for small upstart campaigns to show off their organizing chops.”


Event organizers run a tight ship to ensure that the balloting and counting process is beyond reproach, including maintaining a list of registrants (although the actual voting is by secret ballot), checking ID to designate who may be drinking and who may not, and keeping a locked ballot box that is opened and counted in full view of the attendees.


“We began this tradition in 2005 with an emphasis on reputability,” said Michael Selvaggio, another event sponsor.  “We take great pains to ensure that our results are above reproach.”


The original event was held in 2005 and sponsored by then-Senator Ben Westlund, in an effort to have a fair shot at being considered as a gubernatorial candidate among Democratic voters.  Since then, the event has been sponsored by various different patrons, and is now organized and managed through Oregon Democratic Straw Poll PAC, a political action committee.


The 2019 event sponsors included Pac/West Communications, Ridgelark Strategies, Hilltop Public Solutions, C&E Systems, with drinks provided by Bendistillery and Willamette Valley Vineyards.



Photos are available in a shared Google Drive folder here.  Photos may be used solely in the context of reporting or describing the 2019 Democratic Straw Poll Party event.


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