By Jeff Mapes | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Some 1,500 social conservatives gathered at a “Freedom Rally” in Portland Saturday to hear from such figures as retired Marine officer Oliver North and the president of the nation’s main anti-abortion group — and to send the message that they are still an important force in the Oregon Republican Party.
For the second year in a row, a coalition of groups concerned with such issues as abortion, gay marriage, taxes and crime offered a more conservative alternative to the Dorchester Conference, the annual Republican issues-and-networking event being held this weekend in Seaside.
Sponsors of the Freedom Rally, who also formed a political committee called the Oregon Liberty Alliance, have expressed their unhappiness with the Dorchester Conference’s support of gay marriage and abortion rights.
Saturday’s rally at the Oregon Convention Center had the air of an event that might become a regular part of the state’s political calendar. Rep. Greg Walden, the state’s only Republican congressman, gave a toughly worded speech bashing President Barack Obama before traveling to Dorchester for an evening address. And 10 Republican legislators, including House Minority Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte, were introduced to applause.