Oregon Political Field Guide. By Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman. 300 pages. Softcover. ISBN 978-0-945648-00-0 List price $15.95.
The reference book for Oregon politics from the statewide level down toward the precinct, with stops at the counties and legislative districts – who won, who lost, and why, and much more.
The Oregon Blue Book is an enduring classic. For decades it has been one of the finest state references anywhere in the county, one of the most information-packed as well as slickly produced. It’s on my bookshelf (actually, most of the editions from the last few decades crowd my bookshelves), and it (they) get regularly used.
But no book can or should try to be all things. As a state publication (and despite its source in the Secretary of State’s office), it goes a little light on election results, probably an appropriate decision. Anyone who wants the details, especially as they move toward the microscopic, has to look elsewhere. And that may mean looking in a bunch of places and reorganizing a lot of data, not to mention putting it into some context (definitely an area where a public publication ought not to go).
The Oregon Historical Society did, in 1973, publish a now hard to find book (one I’m fortunate to have found for my collection) called Oregon Votes: 18581972, by Burton W. Onstine (with Krista Adkins, Robert Drake, Marvin Price and Rick Paulson, foreword by John Swarthout). It’s a wonderful compendium of results to the county level for major office races (president, governor, members of Congress) through those years. I’ve found no updates since, though, and apart from a short introductory section, the material is strictly statistical – no context. And no submajor office context.
In 1989 two close observers of Oregon politics, David Buchanan and Pam Ferrara, produced The Almanac of Oregon Politics: The history of state legislative elections 1972-88 (published independently at Corvallis; Elaine Cull was noted as editor). As the title indicates, the book focused tightly on legislative elections, not something any book (so far as I can tell) had done before, and providing some contextual analysis as well as statistical background. A second edition of the book came out in 1994, but none since. (Both editions, as with Oregon Votes, were highly useful in putting together this new volume, and my thanks go to all the people involved with them).
This book, as you can tell from quickly leafing through the pages, is heavily numbers driven. I don’t lack for opinions on politics, policy and politicians, and I write about them in various other places, but this book is about wins, losses and numbers, and direct extrapolations from those.
Party membership is critical, and party identification has become ever more important. The numbers bear this out.