For a minority-party congressman from a rural backwater, Greg Walden is getting a lot of ink these days.
The six-term representative from our own 2nd Congressional District is leading the charge against possible restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, a federal rule - scrapped in 1985 - that used to require broadcasters to give airtime to opposing political views.
He also has been promoted to the Number Two leadership spot on the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. That move prompted Democrats to again bring up the fact that while Walden was chairman of the NRCC's audit subcommittee when $725,000 somehow disappeared from the committee's coffers. (NRCC Treasurer Christopher Ward is under investigation by the FBI.) Nobody has accused Walden of having his own hand in the cookie jar, but Democrats charge that he was lax in his oversight.
And yesterday, Walden was named the top-ranking Republican member of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, a high-visibility panel that's charged with making sure federal agencies behave themselves.
Walden has a reason for seeking the spotlight: He reportedly is a leading contender for the Republican nomination for governor when Democrat Ted Kulongoski is term-limited out in 2010.
Former Sen. Gordon Smith also has been talked about for the gubernatorial spot, but the right wing of the Oregon GOP - which is pretty much the only wing the party has these days - doesn't take kindly to him because he's "too liberal." (Ted Piccolo aka "Coyote" on the NW Republican blog won't even refer to him as a Republican.)
The odds against the Republicans putting anybody in the governor's office in this increasingly blue state look rather dismal. Currently not one Republican holds a statewide office, Democrats have majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and Oregon hasn't had a Republican governor since Vic Atiyeh stepped down in 1987. Still, Smith likely would have a better shot than Walden because as a comparative moderate he'd have somewhat more appeal west of the Cascades, where the votes are.
Democrats will paint Walden as a radical right-winger, and they'll have plenty of paint to do it with: Walden has voted with George Bush pretty much right down the line for the past eight years on matters both foreign and domestic.
Just yesterday, for example, Walden was one of 139 members of the House (137 Republicans, two Democrats) who voted against expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, which helps provide health insurance coverage for low-income kids.
The hard-core conservatives in Walden's home district will applaud that vote, as will The Bulletin's editorial page, which this morning expressed alarm that expansion of SCHIP might be "a big step in the creation of" - horrors! - "universal health care." (Gosh, wouldn't it be tragic if everybody in America had decent health care?)
But a vote against health care for kids is not going to play very well in the parts of Oregon where most of the people - as opposed to the cows and coyotes - live.