Thursday morning was a rough one for Bob Tiernan. Just before Democrat John Kitzhaber accepted the governorship, the chairman of Oregon’s Republican Party had to bat away suggestions that the state GOP was in need of a major makeover.
Tiernan was a guest on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud Thursday morning, and host Emily Harris asked him what was next for the party. "If Chris Dudley had won, there was a lot of talk that he would be the leader of rebuilding the Oregon Republican Party," she said. She then went on to mention the fact that all statewide offices belong to Democrats and that Republicans had been having a difficult time finding candidates for some races.
How, Harris asked, would Dudley’s loss affect all that?
"First off, the Republican Party is quite strong in this state. I think you can look at our statistics from this last election," Tiernan said. "We outperformed Democrats. ... Six percent more Republicans across the state voted than Democrats."
We wondered whether he had that right.
If you take the statement at face value, it sounds as though you had more Republicans than Democrats voting.
Thankfully, the Oregon Secretary of State tracks all these numbers.
As of 8:30 Thursday morning, the Secretary of State was reporting that roughly 644,000 Democrats and 526,000 Republicans voted out of a total of 1,479,188 for all ballots returned. That means Democrats accounted for about 44 percent of returned ballots and Republicans for about 36 percent. That gives the edge to Democrats.
But there’s another way to look at these numbers. While more Democrats than Republicans voted, there are far more Oregon voters registered as Democrats than as Republicans. If you take that into account, the numbers show that 79 percent of all Republicans had turned out to vote while 74.5 of all Democrats had. That is indeed a difference of 6 percent.
We spoke with Greg Leo, the spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party, and he told us that Tiernan was referring to the return rates within each party, not overall.
So, back to the ruling. Tiernan is right, the Republicans did have a stronger turnout if you’re talking party proportions. But he didn’t make it exactly clear what he meant in his guest spot on "Think Out Loud," and certainly listeners could have come away a bit confused, thinking more Republicans had voted than Democrats. So, we’ll split the difference and call this one Half True.