By Nancy McCarthy
The Daily Astorian
SEASIDE — If those attending the Dorchester Conference in Seaside this weekend had a chance to vote for a Republican presidential candidate, 30 percent would cast their vote for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Daniels was praised for being fiscally conservative, running a state government with a budget surplus and having "core moral values."
Another 23 percent would vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 18 percent would put a check next to the name of Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate.
Others capturing the spotlight during speeches during the last day of the three-day conference in Seaside's Civic and Convention center included Chris Dudley, who was narrowly defeated in last year's Oregon gubernatorial election, and former Gov. Vic Atiyeh, Oregon's last Republican governor.
Participants in the annual presidential straw poll said Palin had a "clear moral compass we can all share" and, even if she couldn't win, she would "make other candidates run harder."
One delegate noted that Palin was the only female on the list of 10 candidates, which also included President Barack Obama. Conference Chairwoman Becky Tymchuk noted that the presidential straw wasn't limited to Republican candidates, but any candidate who might run for president.
Others nominated for consideration included former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who garnered 10 percent of the vote; former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, 6 percent; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, (R-Texas), 5 percent; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 4 percent; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, 2 percent; and American business magnate Donald Trump, 2 percent.
Obama didn't collect any votes.
Although the 46th annual conference, begun by Republican Bob Packwood, was touted as a conference for all political affiliations, not just Republicans, those who spoke throughout the weekend were Republican. Most participants speaking from the floor also referred to themselves as Republicans.
Both Dudley and Atiyeh received standing ovations from Sunday's audience, which numbered about 300.
Dudley said he had learned that "losing an election doesn't lessen my desire to make Oregon a better place." However, Dudley didn't indicate if he would run again for office.
"It was my hope that Vic Atiyeh would no longer be known as Oregon's last GOP governor," Dudley said. Atiyeh, who served as governor for eight years, left office in 1987.
Atiyeh, 88, said that, over the years, he has seen a "terrible slide backwards of our party."
"We were once the big tent. Now the tent is empty, and we've got a whole flock of pup tents out there. We all used to be Republicans, then we began judging what flavor of pup tent you were."
Atiyeh attributed the breakdown of the Republican Party to the election of conservative minister Walter Huss as chairman of the state Republican Party in the 1970s.
"We wallowed and muddled, and in successive years, I was not acceptable in any of the pup tents," Atiyeh said.
He praised the election of Allen Alley as chairman of the Oregon Republican Party in January.
"I hope the pup tents will go down and those in the pup tents will join us in the big tent," Atiyeh said.
"If you're Republican, you're Republican. We don't care if you're conservative or liberal; you're a Republican," he said, adding, "We have to work together."
A final vote on Sunday came following a debate over the proposition that the Tea Party movement would have a lasting effect on American politics.
Matt Evans, spokesman for the Oregon chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which is affiliated with the Tea Party movement, spoke in favor of the movement.
The Tea Party, Evans said, is about "freedom and opportunity."
"We have the intrinsic right to have freedom and opportunity, and that's what we're fighting for," he said. The movement's objectives date back to before the Declaration of Independence and will never go away, Evans said.
However, Portland attorney James Westwood spoke against the proposition that the movement would have a lasting effect. To have such an effect, he said, it would have to become an enduring movement, like the Republican Party became when it was founded in 1854.
"It needs to have a thoughtful platform and not be bowling over voters," Westwood said.
Among those participating in Sunday's session was Portland resident Cleon Cox, who has been attending Dorchester Conferences for 10 years.
"I always find it invigorating," Cox said. "It's a time to greet old friends and meet new friends. I always learn something in a fun way."
Indiana governor wins Oregon straw poll
By Nancy McCarthy