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Lawmaker disputes Saxton's leadership role in 1970s effort.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

A Democratic congressman on Wednesday accused Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton of inaccurately claiming a leadership role in the early 1970s push to lower the voting age.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., wrote in a post to the Democratic blog that he was "frankly shocked" by Saxton's claim he was one of the leaders of a state effort to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

"The claim that he was one of the leaders just struck me as bizarre and probably not what most of us who were running the campaign would have said," said Blumenauer, who was a key organizer and the chairman of the state voting-age campaign. He also worked on the national effort to amend the U.S. Constitution with a lower age requirement for voting.

Blumenauer said he wrote the blog entry to set the record straight after someone showed him a newspaper account of Saxton's statement about his role in the voting-age campaign.

The Sept. 28 story in the Salem Statesman Journal reported that Saxton, at a candidates forum, said, "When I was in high school in Albany and ultimately at Willamette (University), I was one of the leaders of the state effort in Oregon to lower the voting age to 18."

Saxton campaign manager Felix Schein on Wednesday defended his candidate's claim, although he played down the notion that Saxton led the effort or was involved while in college.

"Ron was involved in the effort. He certainly played a role in Albany where he grew up. But never has he said he was the only one involved and never has he tried to take credit away from Congressman Blumen- auer," Schein said.

Blumenauer said that with more than 1,000 young baby boomers involved statewide in the Vietnam War era push to let draft-age citizens vote, it was conceivable that Saxton could have been among those who buttonholed political leaders or spoke at public events.

"Is it possible that ... he did something or showed up in Salem? I'm not saying it's not possible," Blumenauer said. "I'm just saying that if he were one of the leaders, I would have known about it."

The Democratic congressman also labeled as "curious" Saxton's claim that he was one of the leaders of the movement while at Willamette, given that the voting age amendment had been ratified by the Oregon Legislature in 1971, which predated Saxton's 1972 enrollment at Willamette University.

Schein explained that Saxton wasn't able to recall during the candidates forum whether the Legislature finished its work on the voting age in 1971 - when he was in high school - or in 1973, by which time he was a college student.

Schein said the issue was being brought up now, in the final week of the election and more than a month after the candidates forum, because of the strategy by Saxton's opponent, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and his Democratic supporters to try and discredit Saxton.

"This is just Earl trying to take a poke at Ron," he said.
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Title Annotation:Elections
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 2, 2006
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