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Whither the GOP'

Editorials

The response of moderates to last week's gala reveals a continuing rift

The flap that erupted last week over a Republican Party fund-raiser honoring Oregon's Republican heritage illustrates the gulf that still separates the moderate politicians who once held sway in the GOP and the conservative forces who have controlled the party in recent years.

Oregon Republicans need to decide who they are. And if the moderates stay away, that decision will be a foregone conclusion.

The gulf recently widened when a group of moderate Republican state lawmakers, including Medford Rep. Rob Patridge, joined forces with Democrats to push through a package of tax increases to balance the state budget. State GOP chairman Kevin Mannix, who lost to Gov. Ted Kulongoski last fall, immediately pledged the party's support to a campaign to overturn the measure at the polls.

Mannix himself was a compromise choice for party chairman early this year. U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith backed former Oregon House Speaker Lynn Snodgrass to replace Perry Atkinson, a Medford conservative. Atkinson vowed to fight for the job until Mannix stepped forward. At that point Snodgrass and Atkinson both withdrew.

Mannix, who sounds like a conservative when it suits him and like a moderate when it doesn't, makes all the right noises about including all comers under the Republican banner. But apparently that inclusiveness doesn't extend to those who buck the conservative wing's line of unconditional opposition to tax increases.

— Some moderate Republicans from the party's storied past declined to attend the fund-raising gala despite being invited as honored guests. Clay Myers, who was secretary of state when Tom McCall was governor, recently dropped his Republican affiliation. He told the Oregonian that the party has abandoned traditional Republican principles, including supporting equal rights, opposing discrimination and advocating a balanced budget.

Other notable names who decided they had better things to do on a Friday night included University of Oregon President former Dave Frohnmayer, a former state attorney general, and Former Secretary of State Norma Paulus. Another no-show, state Rep. Max Williams, R-Tigard, who with Patridge helped engineer the tax increase, wondered aloud how some of the moderates being honored might be treated if they were still in office.

It's easy to dismiss infighting in a state party organization. After all, party officials don't hold public office and make laws. But they are the public face of the party that currently controls the state Legislature.

Moderates have chafed for some time now over the control wielded by their conservative colleagues. Either they need to take back the party, or the conservatives need to do as good a job of being inclusive as they do of talking about it.

Barring either of those outcomes, moderate Oregon Republicans may need to decide whether they are better off inside the party or, like Myers, outside it.

Drying out the frats

University of Oregon officials are to be complimented for banning alcohol from all fraternity houses affiliated with the university, even if the rule ' in effect since January ' hasn't entirely done away with booze in frat houses.

This will be the first full year under the rule, a major test of the university's attempt to change the Animal House image that still marks some fraternities 25 years after the famous movie was filmed on campus.

University officials hope that closing down in-house drinking will help the houses get back to their roots and make them attractive to a broader group of young men. Other new rules include new grade-point standards and requiring all fraternity houses to have sprinklers by next year and live-in adult managers the year after that.

Until these actions, the primary recreation of many of the fraternities had been drinking as much as possible. Let's hope these changes return the fraternities to a more responsible image in years to come.