Just Joshin’ Around: Turnover and Indecision in City Politics

. April 12, 2018.

Like the great baseball wag once said, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Well, kiddeez, it’s over.

The long embattled chair of the LC Dems has called it quits, effective at the end of the month. In an email, Chair Josh Hughes cited changing professional duties, plus the vagaries of April showers, as reasons for his sudden departure. It’s the culmination of a comedy of errors by Hughes.

Send in the clowns

Let’s be honest. Josh has been a lame duck for years. Under his leadership, the local Dems have endorsed certain sure losers, allowing insurgents to expose the weakness of the Hughes-led party. Witness the way-too-early endorsement of PHH last year, pushed by the state party on a compliant Hughes, when everyone knew PHH was vulnerable and likely would not be re-elected. Sure enough, long-time party stalwart Wade K. took a leap into the breach and is now Mayor Kapszukiewicz, proving how little the endorsement of PHH meant.

Fast forward to this January, when the Dems voted to install Lindsay Webb as county treasurer without properly vetting her sordid financial past. Another endorsement, another black eye.

Cap it off with the recent endorsement of long shot for County Commish, Gary Byers, and Hughes has run out of eyes to blacken. He had long ago lost the support of major donors to the party, amid frequent calls for his resignation. The only thing that has protected him until now was the lack of an heir apparent.

Looking for a hero

The Dems have three weeks to fill that void. Current LC Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter has been floated in the past as the leader of an ouster. Now that a coup is no longer needed, will Bernie become chair?

Here’s the rub. It’s the party Central Committee that makes the choice. The same Central Committee that elected Junk-bond Lindsay to be County Treasurer. That doesn’t inspire us with confidence.

The Dems need someone who can win the support of the many party factions and improve fund-raising. And they need someone, like, right now. The clock is winding down fast toward Hughes’ imminent departure, in an important electoral year. Dems are eyeing a Blue Wave come November, hoping to take key state-wide races now held by the GOP. As the state’s fourth-largest county, the esteemed County of Lucas will be essential to that goal.

The LC Dems need a leader, one ready to take the helm without a learning curve. Will a former party chair like City Councilman Peter Ujvagi or Oregon Administrator Mike Beazley come back to right the ship? Or will someone new emerge, from the resurgent Young Democrats club, perhaps? Maybe a coalition of the former and the new can be built, to sweep out current leadership and start anew?

The state primary election is in a few weeks. It’s one helluva time to start a mad scramble to captain a rudderless ship. And the local GOP may rise from its current ash heap to become a formidable foe, if former state elected Mark Wagoner takes the chair.

Hughes probably couldn’t pick a worse time to resign. His lack of decisiveness has risen to bite the Dems one last time on his way out the door.

The Dems need a champion. Is one waiting in the wings?