Aside from two national midterm elections, Oregon conservatives haven’t had much to celebrate in the last eight years. They haven’t fielded a winning statewide candidate in fourteen years.
This year, at the Oregon Liberty Alliance’s fourth annual Freedom Rally, there was a new Republican president, a GOP majority in both houses, and new constitutional Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s likely confirmation to celebrate. The approximately 2000 in attendance February 25 at the Oregon Convention Center did just that.
Amazing crowd today! Thank you all for attending the 2017 Freedom Rally, we hope to see you again next year!
Not to mention Oregon’s new secretary of State, Dennis Richardson, one of the featured speakers and the first Republican elected to statewide office since 2002.
But the man of the hour was Governor Mike Huckabee, a keynote speaker who galvanized his audience with flourishes of humor and hard-won political wisdom.
After his introduction inspired a standing ovation, Huckabee joked, “I got a little worried when you all stood up, I was afraid you were leaving.”
Huckabee riffed about politics in Arkansas, and the shock waves he sent when, as lieutenant governor, he was elevated to the governorship after his predecessor was convicted in the Whitewater scandal.
“The staffers and partisans from the opposition in Little Rock nailed the door to the governor’s office shut,” Huckabee told the crowd, “and it stayed nailed shut for fifty-nine days.” Huckabee went on to win two terms as Arkansas governor.
Huckabee talked about his early support for President Donald Trump, revealing that the new commander-in-chief had offered him a cabinet position, which Huckabee respectfully declined, explaining that he’d made his run for president with his own financial resources and needed to get back into the private sector. Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, serves as deputy press secretary in the Trump administration.
Huckabee got one of the biggest cheers of the day when he excoriated the mainstream press and their obvious mission to delegitimize President Trump with openly biased and prevaricating coverage.
“I’m glad we finally have a president who has the guts to fight back against the media. The days when they could spread lies about us and not be challenged are over.”
Star Parker, founder and president of Washington, D.C.’s nonprofit Center for Urban Renewal and Education, kicked off the slate of speakers with her own brand of humor, quipping that, “When I told friends I was going to Portland to speak to some conservatives, my friends said, ‘there would probably be five people there.’”
“Well, you can see we have a lot more than five people.”
Parker’s focus was on problems created by “the assault on marriage,” a societal malady she blames for everything from rampant urban crime to our “culture of meaninglessness.” She referenced dire statistics on marriage rates and touched on the topic of her original misgivings about candidate Trump, and how she has come around to fully supporting him. She concluded by stressing the need for a “return to biblical principles” to rescue America from the march of progressivism.
Next up was Congressman Scott Taylor, R-Va., a former Navy Seal, who recounted some experiences from his hardscrabble upbringing and harrowing tour of duty as a sniper during Operation Iraqi Freedom. One key point made by the first term congressman from Virginia’s 2nd district was that he believes there is currently no reliable way to vet refugees coming from troubled, war-torn Middle Eastern countries.
“I’m not for a Muslim ban,” he said, “but I do support reasonable vetting.”
Taylor also voiced concerns about the budget sequestration, and how the automatic spending cuts in 2013 impacted the nation’s military. He ended his talk with a David and Goliath analogy in reference to Oregon conservatives’ challenges in a deep blue state.
“Be David,” Taylor said, and then, in a nice segue to Oregon’s new secretary of State, said, “Be Dennis.”
Dennis Richardson is the elected official who proved it can happen here. “I am so grateful to be standing here as your Secretary of State,” he said.
In his trademark egalitarian style, Richardson suggested that, upon leaving, attendees give a thumbs-up to protesters who’d converged at the convention center entrance, “for their demonstration of the freedoms we have in this country.”
The new state secretary, who in 2012 came up short (49.9-44.1) in the governor’s race against scandal-ridden John Kitzhaber, who resigned soon after the election, pointed to two of his key policy proposals: the creation of a task force to establish fair and nonpartisan redistricting in the state, and a proposal for a liaison office to smooth the interface between state government and small business.
“I could not have been elected with only conservative votes,” Richardson concluded. “It’s about leadership. I have been hired by you to be a citizen’s watchdog, to make sure your money is well-spent.”
There was a lot to celebrate at the rally, but the positive message that carried the day belonged to Governor Huckabee.
Speaking about how he and the Republican Party overcame the Democrats’ dominance in his home state, Huckabee said, “If it can happen in Arkansas, it can happen in Oregon.”