SEASIDE - Oregon Republicans attending the Dorchester Conference this weekend at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center will search for ways to reconnect to their political roots and gather momentum to move forward from their defeat in the November election.
The 45th annual conference will run from 8 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday. Speakers will include Michael Zak, author of "Back to the Basics of the Republican Party"; Tucker Bounds, former press aide to former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith and spokesman during U.S. Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign; U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.; former Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh; and Dorchester Conference founder and former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood.
Agenda items include debates on issues including "buying American," energy and the environment, age limits for drinking, transportation in Oregon and driving with cell phones. The results of a straw poll on the likely Democratic and Republican Oregon gubernatorial candidates also will be announced.
Dorchester board member Tom Simpson admitted some of the 400 to 500 Republicans expecting to attend the conference will spend some time asking what could have been done differently to bring about success in the November election.
"But what I'm really looking forward to hearing from some of the other speakers ... is not what we should have done but what we can do," Simpson said. "It's one thing when you're beat down so far that you just have to say, 'I'm not going to look backwards anymore, I'm going to look forward and see where the opportunities lay.' I think there are great opportunities because in Oregon and in the nation, you have one party in control.
"To some extent, watching and waiting could be a legitimate way to go. Just providing that opposition voice," he added. "Yeah, we were in there for a long time, and I think there are people in the party who think, 'Boy did we squander that.' But I think there are other people who say, 'Maybe it was time for a shift, and we've shifted, and we're on the outside looking in. We've had to get reacquainted with our roots.'
"I think that's where Gov. Atiyeh and Congressman Walden can help us reconnect. Even Zak - he's got our party's historic connection with civil rights. I think that's a good reconnection."
Simpson said he expects Atiyeh, who was governor during Oregon's recession in the early 1980s, to give an "amazing historical perspective on what the state is facing and what he might do if he were in the shoes of the governor. It will be a great reminder of how things could get."
Bounds, on the other hand, will be a "fresh voice of what the party could be, what might be ahead for Oregon as well as the nation," Simpson said.
Zak, who will deliver the keynote speech, will discuss the Republican Party's connection to civil rights.
"You don't hear many people talking about that, but there's a connection there," Simpson said.
"I think I'm going to be surprised at the different voices I hear," he added. "Each of them will have so much I want to hear I'll want to stew on it for awhile."
Registration for the conference will be accepted at the door. Cost is $100 and $60 for students.